Artists have long been aware of the social implications of their work. Politicians also frequently talk about the role of art in society. A certain form of social engagement can after all be found in almost every work of art. The People United Will Never Be Defeated was, however, not about art demonstrating its engagement. It focused on artists who emphatically, and explicitly, raise the issue of the political system: the voting, the speechmaking, the campaigns, the meetings, the decisions. By getting close to the politician they enter into dialogue with the established order.

The exhibition was inspired by the essay ‘Post-Propaganda’ by artist Jonas Staal (Jap Sam Books, 2010). Works included, amongst others, Staal’s Political Art Collection, with artworks from the parliamentary chambers of the political parties in Rotterdam. Filmmaker Rob Schröder interviewed the political parties about their art collections.

From an information stand, BAVO offered advice on the artists’ position and its possible improvement in society. Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson portrayed lobbyists during their work at the European Parliament. Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum swapped campaign billboards in the centre of Rotterdam for their own new billboards, and showed video recordings of the reactions of the public during the election period. Sjoerd Oudman composed a campaign song for all Dutch political parties. Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta presented their project Complaints Choir, in which they appeal to citizens to collect their complaints and have them sung in a choir. Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries presented a penetrating video account of how reason alternates with emotion in the voting for the Netherlands’ controversial politician, Geert Wilders.

The title of the exhibition refers to a Chilean protest song from the 1970s: ‘El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido’ by Sergio Ortego. This was a period in which many Chilean artists fled to Europe and Rotterdam. In the years that followed they expressed their political protests on the walls of the port city.