This exhibition about life and mortality is a one-time collaboration between Oude Kerk
and Humanistisch Verbond. Curator Nina Folkersma selected new and existing works of eight nationally and internationally renowned artists: Danielle van Ark (NL, 1974), Michaël Borremans (BE, 1963), Stan Brakhage (US, 1933-2003), Amie Dicke (NL, 1978) Folkert de Jong (NL, 1972), Job Koelewijn (NL, 1962), Muntean / Rosenblum (AT & S, 1962) and Yehudit Sasportas (IS 1969). Four of them made new work especially for this exhibition.
Strength and fragility
Once in a Lifetime enables the visitor to think about life. Dealing with our own mortality is not at all easy but the awareness of this finitude is also a privilege and a source of strength. Our existence becomes meaningful precisely because it is fleeting. Which traces do you leave behind? How do you deal with the time that has been given? Flemish writer David Reybrouck states: "It is about that moment, the realization that this fragile beauty is created, utterly vulnerable and unrepeatable (...)". This idea functions as the core of the exhibition.
The exhibition consists of a carefully selected combination of existing and new works, ranging from paintings, sculptures and spatial installations to film and video works. As a whole, the exhibition offers a range of perspectives and reflections on the mystery of life and death. For instance, the American filmmaker Stan Brakhage shows us the birth of his first child in an equally raw and intimate film. Yehudit Sasportas immerses the viewer in a video installation of an apocalyptic landscape that evokes unconscious feelings of loss and anxiety. The space of Oude Kerk challenges to take on an experimental way of presenting, where the art works interact with the religious symbolism, history and architecture of the building. Dutch artist Job Koelewijn makes a new work especially for the exhibition: a sea of colourful, fragrant flowers on the gravestones floor of Oude Kerk in memory of the dead who are buried here for centuries.
Heritage, humanism and contemporary art
As oldest building in Amsterdam and a fresh newcomer to the world of contemporary art, Oude Kerk provides a meaningful context for Once in a Lifetime. Visitors entering the imposing stillness of this monument feel irrevocably faced with the passage of time. Through an innovative exhibition program Oude Kerk aims to connect heritage with contemporary art.
With the philosophy of life as focus point, organization Humanistisch Verbond explores the human condition and the way we deal with matters on life and death. And this is not confined to one single source, since humanists draw inspiration from many sources including literature, philosophy and art. In Oude Kerk, a building dominated by religion, the secular ideology of humanism forms an exciting backlight. This unique collaboration between the two organizations is therefore a blatant incitement to deepening and public debate.
In addition to the exhibition, the organizers have compiled an extensive public program that includes walking meetings through the church, lectures, debates, films, workshops and courses. This intensive program invites participants to reflect on the transitory nature of life and its meaning in their daily lives. But beware: Once in a Lifetime is not just about aging and death: impermanence is age transcending, every moment in our lives is indeed transitory, regardless of how old you are.