Splendid Isolation

Splendid Isolation SMAK opening Mei 2022 Foto Anton Coene 28

Following the collective experience with different kinds of seclusion over the past two years, this exhibition is dedicated to the exceptional circumstances of a life in isolation. It brings together artists who have created work under self-imposed or forced restrictions. Out of resistance, escapism or survival instinct, they have made striking artworks that explore where the boundaries of human freedom lie.

The concentration and reflection that a creative practice can demand leads some artists to withdraw from society. In a globalised world, with its deeply anchored network structures, a life of silence can serve as a prerequisite for creation, or as an invitation to introspection. The living conditions of the artists in this exhibition, however, were more often forcibly influenced by external factors. Due to ideological oppression, religious discrimination, social inequality or cultural differences, certain works were created in a prison, psychiatric institution or isolated location. They express issues of identity and call into question forms of standardisation based on culture, race, gender and biology.

Several works by each artist are on display, which enables viewers to uncover the origins, development and artistic individuality of the oeuvre. Yet the works are often connected to both the autobiographical background of the artist and the context in which they were created. Without being encyclopaedic, the exhibition thus unites a multiplicity of voices that belong to different cultures and generations.

The backdrop to the creation of this exhibition was the hard lockdown of 2020 and the aftershocks of the coronavirus pandemic. The impact of this global event, which we experienced together but also disparately, lay behind the decision to explore the artistic production of artists experiencing various forms of isolation. In the meantime, the horror and tragedy of wars fester on, which influences how we view things and gives a different slant to the notion of seclusion.

The exhibition catalogue can be consulted in the museum rooms and is on sale in our bookshop.

With art works by Adrien Vescovi, Asim Abu Shakra, Danny Bergeman, David Byrd, Derek Jarman, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Eugenio Dittborn, Forrest Bess, Frank Walter, Hélène Amouzou, Hervé Yamguen, Hessie, Irma Blank, Judith Scott, Luciano Perna, Majd Abdel Hamid, Louise Bourgeois, Nalini Malani, Salam Atta Sabri, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, Shuvinai Ashoona and Zehra Doğan.

These audio stories about the artists are an introduction to the artworks in Splendid Isolation. Look carefully and listen to the audio fragments at the same time. Would you like to receive an extensive explanation of the works? Then be sure to read the catalogue that is available in our Bookshop. Listen via QR codes: don't forget to bring your headphones.

Enjoyed your visit to Splendid Isolation? Post your photos and videos on Instagram!

All exhibitions
Become a Friend of S.M.A.K.
made by