Gallery project, interactive, various dimension
December 2021 / OFF/FORMAT Gallery, Brno, CZ
Garden gnomes are inherently proud creatures, proudly representing their position, being guardians, some guarding treasure. The place belongs to them, so to speak. If we focus on their personality, their familiarity with the world and their mental development, it is based only on the information and experiences that happen in their immediate surroundings. It is from these that they form their idea of people's lives and the overall community, their own identity. Our dwarf is the patron of the seating area, a bench with a table coming from the campus of the nearby Faculty of Fine Arts. This bench is burdened by its community significance, its function as a local meeting point. It is a place where students not only meet civilly between, after, and during classes (weather permitting), but also where they form clubs, openly share their concerns, raise criticisms of the educational institution itself, arrange the exchange of study materials, plan revolutions, drink beer, relax, study, gossip, verbalize their desires to be recognized, discovered, or just share the experiences of ordinary days. It's a spot where a lot really happens throughout the year.
As a genius loci, the bench functions in relation to the institution as a place outside the institution, paradoxically falling below the institution itself. In a way, it occupies a place in the hegemonic structure as a potential protest against the system itself. It thus becomes an important part of that very system in order to be balanced to maintain the operation of the ideological apparatus itself. Just as, for example, the ideology of neoliberal capitalism can be effective precisely because it provides a refuge within itself, it includes the possibility of even being anti-capitalist, which gives it strength. In the same way, a bench on a college (or university campus) can act as a place for leisure, a safe zone "outside the official structures."
Such and similar places with meaning and relationship to the institution are commonly found in various communities, whether they are more representative of other faculties, corporate companies, or other spheres of social space. Our bench in the exhibition project features a statuette of a ceramic dwarf with a not-so-attractive appearance, mumbling under his beard. From the position of a permanent resident of the place, the patron of the college students' bench, he/she/they/it has an eye on everything, not missing a single situation. Soaking up the diverse identities and attitudes, listening to the stories of the changing students coming in from "outside" (from the perspective of the dwarf), combined with the pride of the patron of the place, Humblebrag's speeches sometimes come across as confused or contradictory, which is reflected in his mumbling or inability to hold his own thought. It is as if he is muttering from a dream, occasionally over-phrasing or solving some sort of perverse riddle aloud. "I'm not woke enough" he mutters angrily, or "this isn't right, I shouldn't be out here, I should be at school, on the other side of the ocean" he quotes Greta Thunberg's words as his/her/its own thoughts. Meanwhile, as he surreptitiously eats forgotten potato chips or rummages around in the dark in a garbage bag, he sings Maddonna's "Vogue" or Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy" while willing everyone to dance. It's like catching a lonely kid dancing in front of a mirror.
You'd think he was going through a meltdown. This is literally suggested by his only piece of clean clothing, an orange cap from under which black matter oozes out, covering the rest of his body. Humblebrag thus stands in a kind of juxtaposition to the place that shapes his world, of which he is also a kind of unreliable archivist. As the mythical, fairy-tale figure of the patron of the "safe space", he materializes in the situation as the so-called "little other" or "autre" (a term coined by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan), existing in synergy with this place.
His name, Humblebrag, reflecting his character as well, is a derivation of a term, sometimes understood as a buzzword, used to refer to the use of seemingly modest or self-deprecating statements aimed at drawing attention to one's own success.This psychological state is, of course, reflected in its physiognomy. The Humblebrag is a physically and mentally warped being whose growth has stalled forever, unlike the constant growth of everything else.
The Humblebrag exhibit is a museum display of a "safe space" including its mythical character, Humblebrag the dwarf.It removes from the public space of the Faculty of Fine Arts campus (which is literally only a hundred metres from the gallery itself) an object representing its essence, used for social ritual. It thus transforms it into a museum exhibit, mimicking its original environment, reminiscent of an open-air museum. The dwarf statuette repeats overheard fragments of speeches, shaped by its own logic into stories, questions and its own ontology. The dwarf thus only comes to life and speaks at night, when no one is around (or when no one is moving around, after dark). At this point it is abandoned, but the unfinished beer cans and forgotten bag of chips point to the students' previous life at the bench. So it occasionally rustles in the dark.