Galerie Fons Welters - Amsterdam

Save the Gnome (curated by Sven Lütticken & Reinout Rutte) – Marijke van Warmerdam, Berend Strik & One Architecture, Gillion Grantsaan, Fortuyn/O’Brien, Fransje Killaars, Jonathan Meese, Maria Roosen, Twan Jansen, Giullaume Bijl, Tom Claassen, William Speakman, Henk Visch, Ateliers van Lieshout

The gnome belongs in the domain of kitsch for adults and children – think of Rien Poortvliet and Kabouter Plop. However, this contemporary kitsch gnome is a mutilated reminder of gnomes that were still living reality for humans. In romanticism, when the erosion of this popular belief was already in full swing, people began to study it. Following the example of Jacob Grimms Deutsche Mythologie, master L. Ph. C. van den Bergh’s 1846 Test of a Critical Dictionary of Dutch Mythology, in which he gives a beautiful, concise description of gnomes according to popular belief. Although also applied to the so-called earth or almonds, who live outside, the term gnome was originally only used to indicate house gnomes:

A certain kind of house ghosts is traditionally called gnomes, gnome men. They are small in stature and deformed, but cheerful, lively and active, and they do all kinds of house services where they are admitted, even they sometimes bring their friends money into the house. They are often heard loudly laughing at night, but on the other hand they are sometimes troubled by the noise they make. They multiply the corn in the barn, and give them food to the housewife at night, so that they taste good. The house gnome is often given the name of Jan with the red cap.

When Van den Bergh plunged into ‘Dutch mythology’, it was almost a thing of the past: “In various legends in our country one comes across the story, in which one is told that someone met a procession of gnomes who left the country one night. because they could not bear the noise of the city, and could no longer find a place where they could quietly retreat, “said culture philosopher Ton Lemaire. This makes it clear in the language of the fairy tale that in the industrializing Netherlands there was no more room for gnomes – not so much in the sense that, as the literal text of the saga says, there would be no quiet places anymore (that state of matters are only approached somewhat in the present), but that space had become abstract and profane, cleared of any mystery. Leprechauns became a matter for children, ridiculous and somewhat embarrassing, only taken seriously in esoteric circles not to be taken seriously.
We see this exhibition as an attempt to rescue the gnome from the clutches of perverted artists like Poortvliet and scary esotericists. We have asked a number of domestic and foreign artists to make work that the gnome, who has been an inseparable companion of man for so long, approaches with respect instead of flatly instrumentalizing him. Many works only show the gnome indirectly, in his absence; the gnome is the elusive emptiness that lies behind all contemporary exploitation practices.

[Sven Lütticken and Reinout Rutte]