You Are All Individuals!


Yael Bartana, The Missing Negatives of the Sonnenfeld Collection, 2008

Participating artists:

Yael Bartana (Israel/The Netherlands, 1970)
Daya Cahen (The Netherlands, 1969)
Köken Ergun (Turkey, 1976)
Enrique Marty (Spain, 1969)
Daniel Svarre (Denmark, 1976)

The exhibition You Are All Individuals! takes its title from a famous scene in the film Life of Brian (1979) by Monty Python. On the same night that Jesus Christ is born, another child is born in the stable next to it. His name is Brian. By a quirk of fate Brian is seen as the Messiah and everything he says and does is declared sacred. Much to the annoyance of Brian, who doesn’t want to lead the masses.

Brian: You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves. You are all individuals.
Group: Yes, we are all individuals!
Brian: You are all different.
Group: Yes, we are all different!
Individual: I’m not. 

We all know the dangers of a mass that blindly follows its leader. And, of course, we all have learned our lessons from history. We are aware that groups are closed, repressing and potentially violent. We are also aware that groups have the tendency to be hostile to those outside of the group, or even more so, to deliberately create an external enemy so as to guarantee the unity and stability of its own group. Besides, joining a group obstructs the individual development and personal freedom of choice.

On the other hand, how susceptible are we to the appeal of the mass, the desire to become one with the others? Becoming part of a group means safety, a shared identity and solidarity. In these fearful uncertain times, that is a reassuring thought. Society is on the verge of falling apart because of the continuous pressure on the individual and its responsibilities. We are in need of common ideals. Together we are stronger. Aren’t we?

When does group formation lead to fanaticism? At what point do we speak of a dangerous and threatening mass and when of a revolutionary collective movement? The writer and thinker Elias Canetti already emphasized that mass movement and fanaticism are part of our ‘condition humaine’. It is a universal phenomenon, not tied to any specific ideology, religion, culture or country. In his influential study ‘Crowds and Power’ (1960), Canetti describes how crowds form and develop, and how anybody can become part of it. Human beings have an inherent tendency, as it were, to merge with the crowd.

The exhibition You Are All Individuals! brings together five contemporary artists who look into the tense relation between the individual and the crowd from different perspectives. The exhibition will consist of a selection of existing works and some new site-specific works.

The exhibition You Are All Individuals! opened on May 6th 2011 in Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam, and was part of the cultural manifestation We Are All Fanatics!

Click to see the promo of We Are All Fanatics!

Read the review of the exhibition in Metropolis M here