‘Stoikerinnen’ (Female Stoics) is the third exhibition in a series by Kasia Fudakowski (born in London, 1985) which began with ‘Enthusiastinnen’ (Female Enthusiasts) in 2011 and was followed by ‘Pessimistinnen’ (Female Pessimists) in 2013. While the Enthusiasts are able to get excited by almost anything which often leads to good-willed misunderstandings, and the Pessimists utilise a kind of defensive pessimism in order to, at best, be pleasantly surprised by a non-apocalyptic outcome, the Stoics exercise denial and indifference in order to endure what life throws at them. Since its ancient origins, Stoic ethics have been based on natural reason, self-sufficiency, and self-control as a way to achieve a virtuous and good life. The requirement, however, to follow reason to it’s sometimes absurd conclusions, forces the Stoic to accept such extremes as suicide, incest or cannibalism, if the situation dictates it. This ambivalence and the radical implications of this ́virtuous ́ mindset are central to the exhibition.
Fudakowski translates this philosophy into a sculptural language through the use of materials, motifs and sound. The column, which she interprets as the most fundamental and stoic form, is seen here robbed of it’s inherent supportive function, and becomes the starting point for a series of tragic/comic site-specific sculptures. These columns stand, not only devoid of their function, but also damaged, incomplete and faded. They display the traces of their endurance. The ‘shabby-chic’ and potentially cheerful initial impression given by the hand-woven wicker sculptures, which weave in and out of clichéd pastel female forms , is replaced by a somewhat morbid and critical interpretation on closer investigation. With the use of name-tags, variously positioned to either humanise or objectify each column, Fudakowski refers to female names such as ‘Sandy’ or ‘Katrina’; commonly associated with recent or forthcoming natural disasters. The smaller objects which accompany each column such as throw-away barbeques, chewed-up chewing gum and bleached coral (the skeletons of the sea), Fudakowski points to the Stoic’s darker extremes and considerably less glamorous history.
The Stoic-heroine, shares many attributes with the Comic-heroine. While the Tragic heroine either succeeds in her arduous quest or dies trying, the comic- heroine repeatedly gets knocked down, gets back up, and without any visible pain or suffering, carries on, ad infinitum, unperturbed. Fudakowski often utilises structures and strategies that one would normally associate with Comedy, in her work. Working with clichés and common assumptions, her work leads the viewer in one direction, before pulling the proverbial carpet from beneath them, mimicking a kind of ‘pull-back-and-reveal’ joke structure. Her sculptures, which stagger between abstraction and the figurative, play and with our inherent anthropocentricity. Here she seemingly pays tribute to image of the ‘enduring woman’, only to reverse back into a sharp critique of the manipulative and denigrating nature of such a notion.
In ‘Stoikerinnen’ as with previous work, Fudakowski includes an audio element to accompany and interact with the sculptures. The LP record, produced by the Cologne based label Apparent Extent, contains audio created by Fudakowski as well as commissioned texts from Alexander Brenchley, Dorothy Feaver, Sam de Groot, Paul Haworth, William Kherbek, Helen Marten and Ayumi Rahn as well as music created especially for the LP by Volker Sander and Tobias Levin. The record employs a dark humour to focus on the extremes to which Stoic reasoning can lead. A publication to accompany the record will be released over the coming year in association with the Stadtgalerie Delmenhorst.