When I first heard about the lingam- exhibition, I thought it seemed purposely provocative. Maybe I was biased because of the provocative exhibition-mascot and by the fact that it was a Dutch exhibit. Then, Caroline Van Hoek invited me for her three-year- celebration dinner, with Ruudt Peters as a special guest. He is a renowned Dutch jewelry artist and teacher, and curator of the lingam- exhibition. Caroline sent this you tube film around and seeing it changed my mind.
In his speech, and in the film, Ruudt Peters explained how he got to make lingams himself. How they intrigued him, when he found lots in an eastern market. How big the cultural differences between east and west are; concerning the depiction of these fertility symbols, a common thing in the east, and practically non-existing in the west. He took them to the west and then was curious about other peoples’ points of view. So, he invited 122 artists to come up with a western answer to the eastern lingam, a way of showing a deeper spiritual meaning and symbolism. But when the boxes with the lingam- works arrived, he felt like he could not go through with the exhibition, the work felt out of place, almost vulgar, in our western culture. In the end, with all 122 works there, in a museum dedicated to religion (Christian art) he felt it was a true display of western society, in all it shapes and forms, through lingams.
When I was there, it was busier then I expected. It was nice to hear people comment to each other about the works. (Some were trying to see the deeper meaning and unhappy that there was not enough explanation. Some were laughing at the funny work, some were discussing the material use and some were getting excited to go and make their own lingam, great!) All the works, combined with real eastern lingams, were scattered on three big tables in one room. The walls and ceiling were painted orange except the yellowy lights directed at the work. The color reminded me of the red-lights, apparently I still could not get passed my western background. Or being inside a huge body, it was the same color as you get when you put a flashlight through the tip of your finger. Not the usual setting for contemporary jewelry exhibits. Because of this lighting, you had to get really close to get a decent look at any of the work. With 122 incredibly diverse works to choose from it was very hard for me to select one. I think Ruudt Peters was right when he said it turned out to be an example of what western culture can do with the lingam theme. Continued in the next post..