What the fuck is Heimat?
Homeland - a term with which we first associate a place or an area into which we were born and in which we lived through our earliest socialization processes. It had a decisive influence on our identity, our character, our mentality and our world views. But homeland also means familiar places, people in the immediate vicinity and fixed cultural habits. A term that is in a constant state of change. In addition, every time we change our place of residence, a new home opens up for us that has an effect on us, even if it is no longer as formative as it was in childhood. However, one thing always remains the same: the emotional expression of close attachment - even to certain symbols of conventional traditions and values. It is precisely this phenomenon that the Offenburg artist Stefan Strumbel wants to draw attention to and has developed his very own theory.
Born in Offenburg in 1979, the artist still calls the region on the edge of the Black Forest his home. At the beginning of the 90's, he took his artistic roots in the graffiti scene. An art form that is still subject to varying acceptance today. He sprayed walls and trains and came into conflict with the judiciary for the first time in the mid-90s. In 2001 he decided to work as a freelance artist and to use a more legal form of expression for himself by creating garish paradigms of "home". Cuckoo clocks, wooden masks, and Black Forest girls were among the objects that on the one hand contained typical consumer goods of the Black Forest, but on the other hand also contained archetypes of German tradition and as such were carried into the world by millions of tourists as typical German souvenirs. With stylistic elements of Street Art and Pop Art, he placed them in a provocative context by replacing significant elements of original symbols of home with motifs of violence, pornography, and death. At first glance, they do not show anything of their disturbing content. Much more they seem like newly created cult objects, which even made it onto the front page of the New York Times in 2008, due to their brightly colored paint. Strumbel thus created an illusory world that served as a mirror of social reality. He uncovered the mechanisms of a society that, in its daily pursuit of status and consumption, is subject to the omnipresent stimuli of the media. The construct "home" thus became a metaphor for existential questions of identity.
Since 2015 his work has developed decisively. Far from the fleeting and transient, Strumbel has since turned to the creation of works of art that possess permanence. From then on, his works became increasingly abstract, while his visual language became more universal. The concept of homeland still resonates in them and is clearly perceptible. The current exhibition of the Museum Art.Plus in Donaueschingen, which takes place from 18 November 2018 to 24 March 2019, illustrates precisely this change. The spectrum of the works on show begins with a series of luminous neon panels whose advertising appeal is still strongly reminiscent of Strumbel's earlier pop vocabulary. As symbols of typical gingerbread hearts from the fair, they address the viewer directly, sometimes with crude statements. This is for the lonely people (2018) (cover) reminds us of a Beatles song of the same name. It is about loneliness and fragility, about memories of a better yesterday that makes today more bearable, but also about hope. The installations made of ceramic vases and milk cans in the interior and exterior of the museum are also about fragility. As parables of man, they embody vessels filled with everything that makes us human, but also vulnerable. A completely different perspective opens up for the viewer in the faceted mirrors such as Tears for Fears I (2015).
They deconstruct the environment of the reviewer in such a way that it is hardly possible for her to locate the point of view in space. Questions become loud: Who am I? Where am I in this world? And am I what I want to be? At the center of the exhibition, however, is Strumbel's current work phase, which is characterized by the almost ubiquitous bubble wrap. For Strumbel, it symbolizes the protection of everything you want to transport and preserve. Be it values, contents, convictions or feelings. What is pre-packaged and carefully packaged has the aura of the valuable and significant, but also of the fragile, attached to it from the outset. He packs everyday objects as well as cultural artefacts into the protective material, from which in turn the homeland idea speaks. He wraps canvases, crucifixes, Madonna statues and even his own cuckoo clocks in packages carefully tied with adhesive tape and then immortalizes them in bronze and aluminum. Refined in the same way, the packaging itself now becomes an object of art. For the viewer, on the other hand, the mostly untitled works become puzzles. For Stefan Strumbel does not go to the narrator level - no, with the question of what might be hidden behind the shell, everyone is left to his own devices.
18.11.2018 – 24.03.2019
Authorin: Claudia Thiel
Claudia Thiel is an art historian and likes to pose her questions to the subject area in a journalistic style.
Cover picture: Stefan Strumbel, Lonely (2018), neon tube in Plexiglas box, 120×120×23 cm
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018 & Museum Art.Plus / Art.Plus Foundation