The House in the Woods
Exhibition shown at:
Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Apr 3 – May 16, 1998
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, June 6 – July 11, 1998
Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, Aug 20 – Oct 3, 1998
Introduction (from catalogue)
Works which resonate with the power of childhood fears and fairytales, and are bound together with
an absorbing simplicity, a surface accessibility which belies their knowing innocence and vitality.
Like all good stories, ‘The House in the Woods’ entailed a journey. There was a need to explore a premise: a of German art in which childhood memories, fears and fairytales are echoed. There was a need to find artists and artworks who would tell, perhaps remold and quite possibly refute these stories of lost children and siblings, shape-shifters, monsters, beasts, magical objects, changelings and faraway places.
Most stories have a beginning and mine was to find this house in the woods. I travelled to Germany, thinking of Hansel and Gretel, the Brothers Grimm and Rumplstiltskin. childrens’ stories which I remembered but felt, as with our own Scottish kitsch, might be typically cliched images that one country might have of another. I wondered too about the worth of fairytales – wasn’t such romanticism a little tacky? However, thankfully, most stories also have a middle, and mine was to find these artists, Stephan Balkenhol, Martin Honert, Mariele Neudecker, Thomas Schutte and Wiebke Siem. Through talking with them and viewing their artworks, I saw other possibilities in these ‘wondertales’. For while these may represent a state of childhood – that amazing feeling of experience within inexperience, and an imagination that runs riot – I discovered that these tales need not be childish. For these are not childish art works. They are wonders that create the atmosphere of stories that intervene in an apparently sensible, structured world in order to make spaces for dreaming of other possibilities. Anything can happen, for wonder combines pleasure in the strange and a curiosity about the familiar. And while dreaming is pleasurable it also has a function: it can be used for imagination, which is an aspect of thought able to suggest different social possibilities relevant not just for a fantastic, faraway past but for a contemporary, universal, real and tangible world.
Stories comprise meetings, collaborations and encounters and this one is no exception. So special thanks must go to the following: the artists for their energy, enthusiasm and commitment. Working with them has been a pleasure. To the essay writers Janice Galloway, Andrew Patrizio, Angela Kingston and Colin Bailey. To The Scottish Arts Council, The Henry Moore Foundation, Aberdeen Art Gallery, The Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, The German Foreign Office, Bonn and The Goethe Institute, Glasgow for their financial commitment. To Charles Saatchi and Sarah Rogers at The Saatchi Gallery, Jorg Johnen and Caren Ratzel at the Johnen and Schottle Gallery, Lotta Hammer, Dr. Beate Ermacora at the Kunsthalle, Kiel, Isobel Johnstone and Jill Constantine at the Arts Council Collection, London for lending works. Their assistance and patience is greatly appreciated. And finally, to Nicola White, Francis McKee, Ciaran Monaghan, Hugh Mulholland, Suzanna Abegg, Rachel Bradley, Judith Findlay and all the staff at CCA for their help and supportive collaboration.
Happy endings are only the beginnings of a larger story. For a story is made both by artists and audiences together. Nonetheless, for now, this story has an end which is the exhibition ‘The House in the Woods’. Thus a traditional ending might go something like this: ‘this is the story, its been told, in your hands we leave it’.