Goals and background

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Self-determination is generally considered an Enlightenment ideal. Countless emancipation movements have demanded their "own body" and, as an extension of this, the behaviour and appearance to give a boost to emancipation; on the other hand, in Western political thinking, self-determination stands for freedom. It is a concept which has played an essential role in the definition and development of democracy since the French Revolution. Self-determination is thus both an objective and a precondition.

Self-determination has always been considered an important ideal. Recent developments, however, have robbed the ideal of its power. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the civil war in former Yugoslavia, the increasing violence among ethnic groups, the increasing power of the mass media and new developments in genetic engineering, medical science and the euthanasia debate, the ideal of self-determination is revealed in a new light. Crimes are being committed in the name of self-determination. In the name of freedom, freedom of information is becoming less free. Determination of the self increasingly seems to result in the determination of the other.

Art as a means of direct emancipation, summarised in the concept "socially relevant" is hardly relevant any more. But the visual arts have, in recent years, discovered a powerful social orientation, varying from "a call to arms" to "political correctness". This has breathed new life into the debate on the role of art. Without making absolute statements within and about these areas, this exhibition shows how, within the visual arts, further exploration of the concepts of body and identity is expressed in a material and visual way.

Against this background, the exhibition puts the idea of self- determination forward for debate through the work of nine artists.

Objective and organisation of the event

The objective of the event is twofold. Firstly, to present themes such as the body, ethnicity and personal and cultural identity as issues of self-determination. This will be done both through an exhibition and this discussiongroup at Internet, which will bring this initiative to the attention of a wide audience.

Secondly, the intention is to radicalise the art world's intensely popular themes of body and identity by confronting them with the concept of "self-determination". Artists whose work draws on the themes of the body and its (self) determination have been invited to take part.

The artists have been asked to make a new installation specially for the exhibition. The already much-debated theme of the body in the visual arts will, through the concept of self-determination, be deepened and broadened to embrace themes such as multiculturalism, ethnicity and biotechnology.

Self-determination as a concept can function as a link in bringing together diverse strategies and interpretations surrounding the concepts of body and identity. This could act as a starting point for renewal in the arts.

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