PHALLUS. Norm & Form

PHALLUS. Norm & Form

Photo: Gerhard Taatgen

I’m pleased to be part of the exhibition PHALLUS. Norm & Form, that opened to the public on May 26, 2023 at the University Museum of Groningen, Netherlands. The concept and story of the exhibition was devised and developed by GUM (Ghent University Museum). It was shown there from March 24, 2022 to April 16, 2023. For over a year, thousands of visitors focussed their gaze downwards, both in the exhibition and in the accompanying public activities programme, in order to reach new insights.

PHALLUS. Norm & Form takes the visitor on a journey through our ideas on sex, gender, science, norms and values. The exhibition is focussing on the male member. Is that putting it on a pedestal? Maybe – but only so that it can also be pulled down. One thing is sure: PHALLUS. Norm & Form is smashing all sorts of stereotypes.

Photo: Gerhard Taatgen

The penis is everywhere. Where there are people, there are phallic forms: in prehistoric caves, in the graffiti in public restrooms and on social media. Medical research is also overwhelmingly about the penis: female genitalia come in a poor second. Is this justifiable? Or is this the result of unconscious or conscious social bias?

In PHALLUS. Norm & Form, scientists and artists train their gaze on the nether regions. Is the penis in charge of reproduction? Are sex toys the result of scientific research? Does the phallus make the man – or is it the other way around?

The exhibition at the University Museum Groningen uses the concept as well as the objects from the GUM. Many of the artists and art works that were on show in Ghent, are also on show in Groningen. There are works by Sofie Muller, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Murielle Scherre, David Hockney, Man Ray and Vajinsky.

Next to the exhibition, visitors can also participate in a public activities programme, put together by experts of the University of Groningen, UMCG, Rutgers, COC Groningen and Drenthe.

About It’s not size that matters it is shape, 2008 – 2009


3D Modelling in collaboration with Matt Booth and Vert Design.
Electromicroscopy in collaboration with Sue Lindsay.

“The different forms of male genitalia displayed in Cardoso’s harvestmen sculptures and prints confront spectators with their remarkable heterogeneity. Some of the penises are long and thin, others short and fat. Many of the penis heads resemble flowers, one with a large orchid-like stamen and smaller hair-like tendrils surrounding it, others like an Easter lily. Some take the shape of a trident wrapped in a petal while others have a hollow bowl-shaped hole at the end surrounded by tiny hairs”.

More information about the artwork here.


PHALLUS. Norm & Form is based on a concept by GUM (Ghents University Museum). The concept and object selection were adopted by the University Museum Groningen in collaboration with GUM.

The GUM exhibition team worked on this exhibition for more than 2 years in collaboration with several partners, social cultural organizations such as TIP (Transgender Infopunt) and a research committee of scientists and artists from Belgium and beyond. Young adults were given an important voice.

More information on the exhibition in here.