On 26 May the University Museum Groningen will open the exhibition PHALLUS. Norm & Form. The exhibition, which was developed by the GUM (Ghent University Museum), takes the visitor on a journey across our ideas on sex, gender, science, and norms. Through art and science our gaze shall be directed towards the nether regions.
The penis is everywhere. Where there are people, there are phallic forms: in prehistoric cave paintings, in graffiti on bathroom stalls, or as ‘dick pics’ on social media. Medical research too is overwhelmingly concerned with the penis: female genitalia comes in a poor second. Is this justifiable? Or is this the result of unconscious or conscious social bias?
The concept and storyline for PHALLUS were developed and created by the GUM. The exhibition was shown there from 24 March 2022 until 16 April 2023. Over the span of more than a year, thousands of visitors to the exhibition and its accompanying public programme focused their gaze on the nether regions in order to gain higher insights.
The exhibition at the University Museum Groningen will take over the concept and the objects from GUM. Many of the artists and artworks that were on display in Ghent will be on display in Groningen from the end of May. This includes, among others, works by Sofie Muller, María Fernanda Cardoso, Murielle Scherre, David Hockney, Man Ray, and Vajinsky.
Franck Smit, director at the University Museum Groningen, is enthusiastic: ‘The GUM creates innovative and inspiring exhibitions. Their mission, which is to function as a forum for science, doubt, and art, aligns well with us. An exhibition such as PHALLUS is pioneering and deserves to be seen by many visitors in the Netherlands—and Groningen—as well.
The exhibition is the culmination of two years of intensive research by the GUM on the ways in which science studies gender and what role society plays in this. Who, for instance, gets to say what is normal—a normal penis, a normal man, a normal sexuality? Why do we often assume that bigger means better? Is it possible to measure phallic pleasure via research? And does the phallus make the man, or do our binary norms define how we think about forms?
Much research is done on gender and sex in the Netherlands—and in Groningen in particular—as well. In addition to visiting the exhibition, visitors can also participate in several activities in the accompanying public programme. The programme was created by a diverse group of experts from the University of Groningen, the UMCG, Rutgers, Women INC., COC Groningen & Drenthe, as well as by experience experts.
PHALLUS. Norm & Form was based on a concept by the GUM (Ghent University Museum) and was on display in Ghent from 24 March 2022 until 16 April 2023. Through a partnership with the GUM, the University Museum Groningen will take over its story concept and object selection.
The GUM exhibition team worked on the exhibition for over two years. This was done in collaboration with several partners, sociocultural organizations such as TIP (Transgender Information Point), and a research committee consisting of researchers and artists from Belgium and beyond. Young people were given an important voice.
The University Museum Groningen is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m. During school holidays, the museum is also open on Mondays. For more information, please visit rug.nl/museum.
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