Rijksmuseum Twenthe

Ars longa, vita brevis

From 23 June 2018 - The new collection presentation of Rijksmuseum Twenthe  'Ars longa, vita brevis' (Art is long, life is short) will be held with a main focus on 'the human condition'. 

The Human Life in  nine episodes

The museum has invited nine artists to each set up a room, in which the artist will use the museum collection in relation to a new, or already existing, work of the artist. In this way nine successive cabinets will arise with installations, in which the artist will tell the story of 'la condition humaine', the human condition in the 21st century.


The nine artists that will participate in this project are: Bart Hess, L.A. Raeven, Berend Strik, Philip Vermeulen, Anne Wenzel, Peter Zegveld, Karin Arink, Armando and Silvia B. Their installations will follw different phases of human life, starting with Desire in the first and ending with 'Memento Mori'in the last cabinet. Or to put it shortly, human life in nine episodes.


The human condition

'Religion and humour are manners to stop thinking about our inevitable death, but art tempts us to think exactly about the hard things.'This statement was made by visual artist Joost van den Toorn and is an answer to the question what his work ultimately is about. For him art is a way to look fear (of death), directly in the eyes to subsequently deal with it.


Another stategy is too look away from fear, for example by offering the prospect of a perfect world. Religion, and Christianity in particular, gave Europe a satisfactory answer to the imperfection of the human existence for centuries. In the afterlife every believer wouldawait a harmonic situation that would last endlessly. This, in opposition to the imperfect and earthly reality, which is mainly characterised by a fundamental duplicity. The good never exist without the evil and the beautiful never without the ugliness.


In the course of the 20th century the existence of an almighty God and the prospect of the heavenly salvation was no longer a satisfactory answer for the human deficit. Indeed, the notion that we as humans can never reach a perfect state, starts to become determining in the way we think about ourselves. Our reality is divided by contradictions. Our world is fundamentally ambiguous and the human struggles and dissensions are unavoidable.


The arts don't provide, in the contrary to religion, closes answers to this flaw. They do however try to let us relate to this problem. The making and the seeing of art can be a way to handle this deficit. Exactly by focussing on the ambiguousness of the human existence. That's why the human condition and specifically the human condition of the 21st century, which is permeated with this duality, is the coordinating theme of Ars longa, vita brevis.


Ars longa, vita brevis

The nine episodes of Ars longa, vita brevis are alle characterised by the above described duality: Desire, Need and control, The mystery and the loss of it, Playing and Restaint, Solidarity and freedom, Willpower and inability, Contol and letting go, Fidelity and unfaithfulness and finally Memento mori.