This is an installation of 306 armed garden gnomes,
housed on the west side of Lafayette College in an abandoned
guardhouse: a structure intended to shield the college students from the envisioned menace of the local population.
They are installed in 13 rows on lawn effect carpet, accompanied by a low hum, reminiscent of bass speakers
enclosed in a trunk. A single motion activated light hangs in the middle of the space above their heads.
It combines the dream to "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps",
succeed and own your house with the
fear that comes from the ever present potential of losing that for which one sacrifices. It combines security with
defensiveness and a need for a scapegoat to pin the precariousness of life itself upon. It is about reminiscing to past
times that were carefree: the wish to remain a child. It is about the fear that lives below the surface. American notions of
labor, property, security and self-defense are woven with the strands of a colonial past and America's legacy of slavery.
This installation is inspired by the fear of the "Haves" losing to the "Have-nots". It is about the fear of blackness.
It recognizes history and yearns for a responsibility for the present.
The garden gnome is a standard prop in German gardens. It adds fantasy to the property and represents, perhaps, the
playfulness of the owner's decoration style. It is a way for a grown person to harness a bit of childlike foolishness.
Gnomes are most associated with middle-class neighborhoods and garden clubs. In Germany a garden with
gnomes can and often flies a German flag, a symbol of national and cultural belonging.
To many young people it is a sign of being conservative and stuck in ones ways and
expectations, but for me it is a sign of the personal freedom granted by ownership and the
aura of security won by sacrifice. The lawn and the care of that lawn define every man's kingdom.
The imaginable threats that impose themselves upon that kingdom are countless.
"WIEDERGROSS" is a mash up of my two experiences:
being a foreigner in Germany and returning to the US of A to find myself a stranger in my own land.