Gödel Escher Bach
There is more to art than meets the eye
28.04.2023 — 20.08.2023

Gödel, Escher, Bach
There is more to art than meets the eye

19.05.2023 — 27.08.2023
West in the former American embassy, Lange Voorhout 102, The Hague

The best seller ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach’ by the American scholar Douglas Hofstadter was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 1980. He researches the logical and scientific significance of self-reference on the basis of the work of three makers: Gödel, Escher and Bach. Escher became a renowned and popular figure partly through this book. This group exhibition illustrates the role of self-reference within the arts (i.e art is art because it is art), yet it also highlights how it applies to our contemporary notion of art, as well as self-reference in the process of the viewer.

One of the fundamental aspects of the work of M.C. Escher is self-reference. This is visible in the famous lithograph ‘Drawing Hands’ (Tekenende Handen) from 1948, where a drawn hand draws a drawing hand. Also in other works of M.C. Escher, one can find self-reference as a recurring theme, such as in ‘Relativity’(Relativiteit), ‘Waterfall’ (Waterval), ‘Hand with Reflecting Sphere’ (Hand met Spiegelende Bol) or ‘Convex and Concave’ (Hol en Bol). It is represented in one way where a waterfall falls into itself, and in another where a staircase leads to its own starting steps. The optical illusions that fascinated M.C. Escher throughout his whole life were all self-references.* Along these lines, M.C. Escher can perhaps be seen as the great man of self-reference, rather than of optical illusion or impossible spaces.

The American scholar Douglas Hofstadter researches the logical and scientific significance of self-reference itself, through the work of three makers: Gödel, Escher and Bach. Hofstadter lays out how the work of these gentlemen is based on the concept of self-reference and that therefore there is a logical connection between their ideas. The book approaches the concept mostly from a logical and scientific perspective, and in that regard, it seems to be geared towards readers interested in mathematics, logic and language.

With the group exhibition ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach’, West Den Haag puts the work of M.C. Escher in a broader context, inspired by Douglas Hofstadter. The presentation aspires to familiarise a new audience with the work of M.C. Escher, and offer new insights at the same time.** Similarly to Hofstadter conducting his research from his own expertise in logic and sciences, West Den Haag opts to approach this project from the contemporary arts. Some questions tied to this endeavour are: What is the role and significance of self-reference in the work of M.C. Escher within art production in general? What is the societal value of using self-reference in (artistic) practice or other social environments such as politics, education or healthcare?

The group exhibition ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach’ shows the work of 26 contemporary artists from The Netherlands and abroad. The project is developed in the context of the Escher year 2023 in The Hague and forms an addition to exhibitions that display M.C. Escher’s prints in Kunstmuseum Den Haag and Escher in het Paleis.

* This fundamentally distinguishes his work from other artists who work with and on optical illusions such as Victor Vasarely, Josef Albers, Bridget Riley or Anish Kapoor.
** The presentation intends a similar approach as the retrospective exhibition ‘Symptom Bauhaus’, organised by West Den Haag in 2020. This critical overview offered a different perspective on the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus and was well-received by the press and visitors.