From 2 September 19h to 30 October 2022, Het HEM presents Sweet Harmony: Out of the Underground – the third edition of a series of exhibitions that reflect on 40 years of rave culture from an artistic point of view.
After previous editions in London and Manchester, the third edition of Sweet Harmony takes place in the most suitable space in Het HEM: the 200m-long former shooting range in the basement of the building. Raw and dark with multigenerational graffiti on its concrete walls, the tunnel’s post-industrial architecture will feel like familiar territory to ravers old and new.
Rave has been a breeding ground for creative expression since its inception in the US (Chicago and Detroit), the UK, the Balearics and continental Europe. Sweet Harmony shows works of artists who came from rave culture or are inspired by it in their practice. Their artistic expressions touch upon themes such as the spiritual and mythical aspects of rave; rave as a space for queer play and resistance; and exposes how rave culture has emerged in various cities worldwide at the same time.
The nightclubs Waakzaamheid in Koog aan de Zaan, Parkzicht in Rotterdam, and the RoXY in Amsterdam were places of prominence where manifestations of the Dutch rave and house culture in the late eighties and early nineties originated.
Sweet Harmony outlines the broad international context in which Dutch rave culture is embedded. It gives new meaning to local, seemingly self-contained expressions of mass youth culture and its impact on contemporary art and culture on a global scale.
For Sweet Harmony, guest curators Inez Giele de Jong and Joost van Bellen, former programmers of the Club RoXY, have compiled an ode to the art collection of this illustrious Amsterdam nightspot, which put culture, art and music movements such as house, easy tune and hip-hop on the map in the Netherlands.
Under the name R.A.R.O.X.Y. 'Reminiscing the Artwork of the Radical outlet for the Xenomaniac in You', this mini-exhibition emphasises the presence of art and performance with the belief that it has been the inspiration for spectacle esthetics at festivals as we know them today.
Participating artists of Sweet Harmony include Harvey Ross Ball, Aukje Dekker & Gerald van der Kaap, Meeus van Dis, Franklin, Thomas van Linge, Michele Rizzo, Sarah Schönfeld, Alyson Sillon, Ari Versluis, Juha van 't Zelfde, Spyros Rennt, Mark Leckey, Vinca Petersen
The R.A.R.O.X.Y. Room includes artworks from artists Paul Blanca, Leigh Bowery, Cleo Campert, Jean-Paul Commandeur, Erik Fens, Peter Giele, Pieter Bijwaard, Harry Heyink, René Habermacher, Jurriaan van Hall, Gerald van der Kaap, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Seymour Likely, Siert Dallinga, Maxim Meekes, Erwin Olaf, Ruud van der Peijl, Walter Russ, Niels Schumm & Nepco, Gebr. Silvestri, Aam Solleveld, Jan Verburg, Guus van der Werf and more.
Sweet Harmony takes place in our underground shooting range, which regretfully is only accessible through stairs. People in a wheelchair or with other mobility aids, please contact us prior to your visit so that we can assess how we can facilitate your visit to this exhibition.
The exhibition also includes very dark sections, fast flickering and loud sounds.
Christina’s World, a painting by Nokukhanya Langa, is arrestingly flat and two-dimensional, almost blending into the concrete architecture of the shooting range. But looking closer, we see that the canvas is narrative-driven and communicative. Is it the reverse side of a fogged-up mirror, with cryptic messages scribbled to the self? Christina’s World feels like a nod to Alice in Wonderland somehow, but it also resonates with rave – with its almost hallucinatory depth reminiscent of the plateau achieved with psychoactive chemicals or dopamine and adrenaline from hours of dancing. Langa’s paintings may feel distant at first glance, but the physical intimacy they invite opens a pathway for subliminal, subversive and political messages to come through. Wonderfully complex despite its seeming simplicity, Langa’s work evokes humans’ needs to see and be seen, to touch and be touched.
Part of Sarah Schönfeld’s artistic practice takes place at sites of communal transcendence – like Berghain and other underground rave spaces in Berlin, where between 2014 and 2017 she (consensually) collected over 2000L of urine from clubbers. The result, Hero’s Journey II, is a treasured archive of roughly 750L in a glowing vitrine. With its sheer volume and scale, it is an exercise in alchemy and archaeology. One can also sense its humming, electric connection with Thomas van Linge’s Fountains. Hero’s Journey invites us to worship and even to contribute our own chemical archive to the trove.
Schönfeld looks for ways to use drugs outside their moralized context. In her All you can feel series, she demonstrates that outside the body, these substances hold cultural and (al)chemical power. She dissolves drugs such as Ecstasy and MDMA on photonegatives and enlarges them to a monumental scale. The drugs have a chemical reaction with the photonegative, making each print unique, like a map of an alien world.