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‘How to live together’ is a fundamental question of our human existence. Today we live in a reality more closely intertwined than ever, yet becoming more and more deeply divided. Not just because of the multitude of identities crowding our world, based on country, region, tribe, religion, culture, social class, or skin colour: not just because of ‘Us and Them’. Also because of ‘Me and You’: because we live in a world where people as individuals are increasingly unable to get along, from fighting their next-door neighbours to opposing anyone with a different opinion or background to the growing fear of strangers – of anyone who is other. The exhibition is now on show @droog until 30 June 2024.

In this world, characterised by an unprecedented level of global connectivity, governments are reinforcing borders and building new walls and fences, while social and economic inequalities persist and grow. The exhibition ‘ME/YOU, US/THEM’ presents the work of artists, designers, and architects who explore the intricate knots of identity, the multitude of coexisting identities, the concepts of ‘me’ and ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘them’, and how we do, or do not, get along.

The exhibition examines the issue of ‘how to live together’ on a scale varying from the border politics of nation-states to the interactions of individuals. By valuing and embracing diversity, societies can unlock their potential for innovation, creativity, and social progress. Ultimately, it all starts with our willingness, or unwillingness, to live together in a world full of contradictions. In 2012, based on these principles, Droog and Erik Kessels created the project ‘Identity Land’: a space for a million identities, a concept for a fictional society which could emerge anywhere and everywhere. Now, 12 years later, with immigration, nationalism and nativism on the rise, conflicts between countries and regions exploding, and online filter bubbles accelerating polarisation, the themes and ideas of Identity Land continue to be relevant.

Identity Land imagined a world where the nation-state no longer provides the framework for identity. Instead, it accepts that people want both an individual identity and a collective one. Playfully, the project proposes a manifesto for Identity Land and the replacement of the usual national symbols: the portrait of a Queen, King or President on a coin has been polished down to a mirror, the flag has become transparent, and the anthem is a medley of all the world’s anthems. They depict non-identity, hyper-individual identity, fluid identity and plural identity.

Identity Land was the starting point for this exhibition. Twenty international artists, designers and architects explore the notion of ME/YOU, US/THEM on various scales: from national border politics to migratory patterns in the natural world, and daily interactions between individuals. Danae Stratou’s installation ‘Cut 7’ documents the lives of people residing in regions marked by dividing lines, such as the Green Line in Cyprus and the border between Mexico and the USA. Shilpa Gupta’s flag made out of taped words reminds us that the sky has no borders, as does Desiree Dolron’s photographic tracking of the Monarch butterfly’s flight routes. Efrat Zehavi is slowly and surely building a body of work portraying a variety of individuals, sculpting their heads in clay while having a conversation with them. Artworks by: Ariane Loze (BEL), Aukje Dekker & Sexyland (NLD), CATPC (DRC), Danae Stratou (GRC), Desirée Dolron (NLD), Edith Dekyndt (BEL), Efrat Zehavi (NLD), Erik Kessels & Droog Design with Hans van der Meer and Helmut Smits (NLD), Francis Alÿs (BEL/MEX), Garry Davis (USA), Heather Dewey-Hagborg (USA), JR (FRA), Marije Vogelzang (NLD), Martin Creed (GBR), Rael San Fratello architects (USA), Shilpa Gupta (IND), Sunny Dolat & The Nest Collective (KEN), Tania El Khoury (LBN), Theo Deutinger (AUT).

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: from left to right Francis Alÿs on the screen, on the table Efrat Zehavi, on the wall Shilpa Gupta and Theo Deutinger on the screen on the right.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: CUT-7 Dividing Lines by Danae Statou

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: on the table Geographies by Francis Alÿs, on the table in the back Efrat Zehavi and on the screen Aukje Dekker and SEXYLAND.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: World Passport by World Citizen Governement

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: sculptures by Efrat Zehavi with on the screen Aukje Dekker and SEXYLAND.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: from left to right, sculptures by Erat Zehavi, on the screen Sunny Dolat, middle screen Martin Creed, two screen on wall CATPC and right Desiree Dolron.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: The Nansen passport: an internationally recognized refugee travel document, Courtesy FENIX, Rotterdam

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: from left to right Identity Land by Droog and Erik Kessels and Heather Dewey Hagborg.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: flag by Shilpa Gupta.

From the exhibition ME/YOU, US/THEM: from left to right, on screen Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa and right Ariane Loze.


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