by Joanna Kitto
The ‘end of history’ is a political and philosophical notion that posits a sociocultural system at the pinnacle of humanity’s evolution. Existing in opposition to Eschatology, the Apocalypse, within the framework of many religious beliefs, the ‘end of history’ is a Utopian existence of peace and unity that once reached, remains.
Taking his cue from the rites, rituals and ornate costuming of cultures across time and place, Kaspar Schimdt Mumm’s new work, IMMI, explores and subverts this imagined endpoint. The multi-faceted exhibition, encompassing video, sculpture, photography and performance, prospects a future in which the intermingling between cultures has been further accelerated. A new group has emerged, the IMMI.
German-born to a Pakistani-Canadian mother and German-Colombian father, the Adelaide-based artist is influenced by his own place in the world, exploring ideas of cross-cultural heritage and the creation of a hybrid identity that mirrors his own. In his role as both the creator and central character, Schimdt Mumm acts as bricoleur, gathering around him a myriad of ideas, customs and behaviours from across social and historical divides.
In the first third of the video work we watch Schimdt Mumm arrive in a new world. Patterns of exchange occur between himself and the local IMMI - a group that includes a poet (Dom Symes) and an ensemble of musicians (Adrian Schmidt Mumm, Ben Sargent, Declan Casley Smith and Dillon Mueller). Schmidt Mumm taps into both the fear and the celebration of cultural hybridity, understanding that culture can no longer exist in isolation. In an increasingly globalised world, the flow of traffic has hastening and the directions of movement multiplied. Culture is no longer understood as the discrete and unique expression of activities and ideas that occur in a particular place.
Resonating with Dada’s chaotic energies, Schmidt Mumm’s aesthetic enters the realm of the uncanny. Elements from across religious, sociocultural and art histories are set against an esoteric, imagined landscape. Along the walls of the Floating Goose, a group portrait is formed by individually photographed figures, conceived by the artist and shot by photographer Emmaline Zanelli. The masked characters wear identical costumes, signifying uniformity, unity and affinity.
IMMI carries with it a multiplicity of connotations from a troubled past towards a proposed future. The group’s dress and landscape are swathed in blue, reminiscent of Yves Klein’s paintings and the residue of his Anthropometry performances. Klein too adopted this hue as a means of evoking the boundlessness of his own particular utopian vision of the world. In the twenty-first century digital age, another meaning is imposed. We recognise this shade as the ‘blue screen of death’ – an ominous warning sign that appears as a signifier of a virus, sickness and ultimately of demise.
The IMMI appear to exist in a vacuum. They are yet to be reflected and refracted through the anthropological lens. Until now.
Schmidt Mumm positions his audience as voyeur, gazing in through the glass window of the gallery. He invites us to reflect on the way cultures have been represented through the coloniser’s didactic museum display. Presented, framed and labelled by someone on the ‘outside’, ideas are lost in translation, sacred stories revealed, dissected, accessed by those for whom they are not meant.
Kaspar Schmidt Mumm shows us the promise of art in predicting futures and picturing alternate realities. We see the IMMI through the artist’s vibrant visual style, where wild colour, absurdity and play transport us to an eye-popping fantasy that, on second look, isn’t so far from the world we know.
Kaspar Schmidt Mumm, Portraits of the IMMI, 2017. Photographs by Emmaline Zanelli. Courtesy the artist.
Joanna Kitto is a writer and curator in Adelaide, South Australia.
IMMI was funded by the Carclew Youth Arts Programm and was exhibited by Floating Goose Gallery Inc. from 12th of May to the 4th of June.