An emotional connection to robots, artworks and objects and the desire for eternal life are inherent to humanity and are expressed in all artistic disciplines. This summer, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen shows how art becomes ‘lifelike’.
ANIMA MUNDI (literally ‘world soul’) explores the origins of the emotional link between man and inanimate matter, and mankind’s age-old desire to push boundaries and to breath life into objects. The exhibition, which opens on 9 June, combines artefacts from different regions and historical periods with contemporary art and scientific objects. Guest curator Hans Van der Ham: ‘Today’s androids would not be possible without the anatomical studies begun in the Renaissance. Across the centuries, man has wanted to imbue matter with spirit.’ ANIMA MUNDI shows artworks past and present in the context of ethnography, alchemy, anatomy, bio-technology and robotics. Installed in six adjacent galleries, the exhibition features films, robots, drawings, books, paintings and sculptures.
In ancient Greece, art was seen as a substitute for reality. Sculptures had to be so lifelike that the gods would want to ‘reside’ in them. The Aphrodite of Knidos (Greece, 4th century BCE) by Praxiteles is one such example. A copy of this sculpture from the Allard Pierson Museum is included in the exhibition alongside Renaissance artworks from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In many cultures across the world, people believe that their ancestors are embodied in effigies and make offerings to them. This custom is illustrated in ANIMA MUNDI through ethnographic masterpieces from the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam. Medical and anatomical objects are being loaned by Museum Vrolijk in Amsterdam, and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem is lending anatomical drawings. Pepper, the humanoid robot, is coming from the NEMO Science Museum and will be specially programmed for the exhibition by students at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, under the supervision of Dr Pim Haselager. The exhibition will also feature a cerebral organoid from the laboratory of Prof. Church in Boston, where Dr Jeantine Lunshof and others are attempting to grown brain-like organisms from stem cells, Mexican ex-voto paintings from the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, works of outsider art from the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent, and contemporary art from the collection of the De Pont Museum in Tilburg and the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.
Hans van der Ham (1960) studied classical piano and fine art. He has been working as a visual artist in Rotterdam since 1989, and has exhibited regularly in the Netherlands and abroad. His work is represented in various museum collections. In 2012, Van der Ham cofounded Garage Rotterdam, of which he was artistic director and curator until 2015. ANIMA MUNDI is Van der Ham’s first exhibition as a guest curator.
Including works by Albrecht Dürer, Andreas Vesalius, Eduardus Sandifort, August Falise, Augustijn Claterbos, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Bernardi Siegfried Albini, Christopher Williams, David Altmejd, Davood Koochaki, Desiree Dolron, Paul Duhem, Edward Muybridge, Erzsébet Baerveldt, Ferdinand Bol, Fra Bartolommeo, Gherardo Starnina, Goossen van Vreeswijk, Ted Gordon, Hans Bellmer, Heinrich Khunrath, Inez van Lamsweerde, Jeantine Lunshof, Johan Tahon, Johann Remmelin, Truus Kardol, Max van Dam, Medardo Rosso, Master of the Legend of the Magdalene, Melanie Bonajo, Michaël Borremans, Michael Maier, Nam June Paik, Michel Nedjar, Paul de Reus, Reynold Reynolds, Rob van Hattum, Sai Kijima, Siebe Wiemer Glastra, Sophie Dros, Stephan Michelspacher and Wanda Tuerlinckx.