Although inanimate, the objects filling the exhibition space of Andy Fitz’s exhibition Stumped! Again! at the Kunstverein Göttingen appear infused with life and vitality. An elongated broomstick holding a falling curtain rod in place (Additions, 2023); a lamp-head which seems to have sprung from its pole and landed right beside it (One of two Standard Lamps, 2022); cabinets that are not mere holding spaces but charged pieces in and of themselves (Pinocchio’s Bitter End, all 2022). It is as if someone had returned to their model suburban home after a 9 to 5 work day, turned on the lights, and caught all the objects pants down expanding their boundaries and exploring new constellations.
In this humorous and whimsical show, their first solo presentation in Germany, Fitz shows several new works along with existing ones from the past couple of years. With a cartoonish aesthetic and countless gnome-like figures, the exhibition presents a celebration of queer domesticity, where the only true readymade – an IKEA plate set and utensils – fell through a made-to-fit hole in the high extended table and broke in two (board game, 2023).
Entering the exhibition space, the viewer is first blocked by an ornamented black fence that transforms into two lamps on the sides (Home Sweet (Electric Fence), 2022). Or perhaps it is the other way around. Fitz stretches the tension between outside and inside, creating objects and compositions that elegantly fuse into new hybrid entities. The indoor-outdoor lamp-fence merges the property borders with the alleged softness of the domestic living room. Is it the outside that suddenly becomes homey, or is it the inside space of the family home that feels fenced up? It is a fusion of both. There is no way to separate the lamp from the fence, the outside from the inside. They flow into each other.
Upon closer scrutiny, the seemingly factory-standard objects reveal tactile evidence of handcraft. The uneven layers of paint as well as the jagged circles and lines introduce charm to the scene, which suddenly feels like a set design. A staging, where the familiar reappears with the latent glitches in our perception thereof – where a chair's back-rest magically grows and ties knots with the one besides them (Presence Observed, 2023).
The wooden cabinets of different sizes from the Pinocchio’s Bitter End series are by far the most bulky and awkward elements in the show. Even though every single one is somewhat open – a door cracked open, a drawer slightly pulled out – the wooden material seals the supposed openings. They are impenetrable furniture, except for the small peeping holes spotted here and there, complemented by little nose-like phalluses that stick out, sometimes functioning as knobs, sometimes just hanging there. Ribbons drawn on the surface of the wood add another sarcastic note. Here’s a gift, a closet one cannot exit! Except by splitting into multiple smaller bits that may crawl out of the (glory) holes, as laying one’s way out clearly didn’t work. Who knows how they reform again afterwards, if at all.
And then there are the gnomes. These magical creatures who captivated human imagination for centuries have shrinked into Walt-Disney-inspired garden ornaments and have perversely sprawled across Western suburbia during the 20th century. The little humanoids are mostly depicted hanging around or performing tasks, sometimes caught flipping fingers or exposing their bums. At the Kunstverein Göttingen, the gnomes are everywhere. Made out of solid white plaster and paper clay, in a boyish shorts and T-shirts look, they play around on a seesaw (You See, I Saw, We Were Seen, 2023), fish (Fisherman a Half Second Later, 2023), or glitch into multiplicity (Us (little events occurring in time, repeating ourselves to), 2023). Chopped-down tree stumps compliment the figurative gnomes, functioning as scenery or as scenes in themselves – a melancholic empty swing (Monogamy, 2022) or a balloon caught on a branch (Freedom (some trails and tribulations), 2022). Together they compose a playful, emo, dollhouse-like setting of possible ways of being.
Nestled in the old built-in fireplace just beside the entrance door, one last figure, a kind of jester or arlecchino, sits inside a little niche with its back to the room. As the last visible work before exiting the space, hiding from the gaze, this character is the one that sticks with you when exiting the Kunstverein into the Lower-Saxon humid midsummer day’s dream. It is often through humour that we can confront and recognise the harshest burdens of contemporary existence. It disarms, even if for a moment only, the suffocating strains of patriarchy in its many-headed forms. The fantastic arrangement that is Stumped! Again! is a thought experiment in the art of bending – taking on the external load, curving and arching to avoid the break and celebrate the flexure – into a Cheshire cat smile. After all, who besides the jester could really speak the truth(s)?
Andy Fitz – Stumped! Again!
24/06 – 06/08/2023
Curated by Alke Heykes and Sarah Crowe
Kunstverein Göttingen e.V.
Gotmarstraße 1, 37073 Göttingen