Wednesday 24 June 2015

Portfolio: Mandy Niewöhner

Portfolio: Mandy Niewöhner

“Towards the end of my MFA at Goldsmiths, I developed a second self and his name is Gerrit,” says Mandy Niewöhner matter-of-factly. “He’s like my alter ego. He’s a really annoying man who thinks he’s a really good sculptor, which isn’t really true.”

Niewöhner, originally from the Netherlands, had gone to Berlin to take part in one of Diane Torr’s Man For A Day workshops. This is where Gerrit was “born”.

“In Berlin, he was ok. He was similar to me. But as soon as we came back to London, he felt he had to prove that he really was a man. He got this attitude.”

Gerrit walked into Niewöhner’s studio, tore down all her research work, got some concrete and began to sculpt. “I know it’s from my hands as well because we share a body but I just don’t recognise it as my work. I don’t do sculpture. I don’t know how to.”

Over time, Gerrit and Mandy have become more integrated and now she describes them as “an artistic duo in one body”. Her final degree show was produced by them both, as was an exhibition they took to Russia last October, This Is For All The Queers. “I did a performance as Gerrit, addressing all the gay people in Russia. I thought I’d be stopped but I had people standing around me, almost crying, touched by what I said. It was beautiful.”

Both Niewöhner and Gerrit work on the themes of gender and performativity, kicking against the binary system. “With Gerrit and me together, we’re already challenging it as we exist,” says Niewöhner. As for terminology, she prefers the term “queer”: “It’s all-embracing. It’s everything and nothing. After all – I can’t be a lesbian when I’m Gerrit!”

Mandy Niewöhner has recently been awarded the British School of Rome Fellowship residency for 2015 and will also be included in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries.

To see the full portfolio and enjoy the images, please see the July 2015 print issue of DIVA magazine 

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