Hardeep Phandal: Konfessions of a Klabautermann

21st September - 29th October

The Gymnasium Gallery

Hardeep Phandal: Konfessions of a Klabautermann

Hardeep Pandhal presents his exploration of white supremacist psychology, taking German sociologist and writer Klaus Theweleit’s study of Nazi fascism and masculinity in his classic book Male Fantasies as a primary point of departure.
In the video, Pandhal raps to a score composed with Glasgow-based musician Joe  Howe  (Sunbutler, Ben Butler and Mousepad, Germlin) as we are dragged through a cartoon world marked by male fears of floods.  It forms a dense story board where borrowed and imagined visions border between the homely and the gratuitous.
Scenarios are woven from a rich array of histories and mythologies, including British director Richard Heslop’s 1991 film based on Noah’s Ark Floating, and a scene taken from American writer Chester Himes’ cartoonishly violent Harlem Detective series.
The video cuts to seldom seen personal archive footage of a private performance within a flat, which shows the creation and crowning of a glass-like headpiece constructed of sugar, a nod to the pompous Durbar ceremonies that symbolised Britain’s power during the height of the Raj.
A knitted garment worn during the performance is displayed within the exhibition space, reworked with Pandhal’s unfinished hand embroidery.
In his lyrics, Pandhal assumes the persona of an imagined ‘Klabautermann’, a mythological trickster that watches over sailors for their safe return - but sailors are doomed if he is ever seen.
Male maritime coming-of-age rites connected with imperial adventures across the seas also become the unlikely source of comic parody. In naval initiation rites referred to as ‘Crossing the Line’ for example, sailors would inflict ritualised forms of abuse on their co-workers to become ‘savage’ before encountering unknown territories for the first time. Such hazing, involving flagrant misogyny, homophobia and racism, would form the building blocks for these men to become of age. In the process, such ritual re-enactment serves, in Pandhal’s view, to repress a sense of self-weakness.
Questions surrounding the legacy of colonialism come into focus again with the large wall drawing in the gallery, based on James Gillray’s well known satirical cartoon of the Scottish-born politician Henry Dundas, which was originally executed by Gillray in light of Dundas’ anti-abolitionist views on Slavery.
Pandhal’s interest in historical and cultural amnesia are fuelled further by being a resident of Glasgow, a place littered with unabashed trophies of empire - the city’s major art gallery and the names of the busiest streets (such as Dundas Street) for example draw attention, albeit not in any forthcoming way, to Scotland’s complicity within slavery and empire.
Alongside this, Pandhal presents his versions of ‘comic foregrounds’, freestanding screens with head-holes to imply viewer participation. With the sardonic drawing No Open Door for the Indian, exhibited outside the gallery and based on a drawing first published in the Hindu Punch in 1914 (whilst the Komagata Maru was at sea), Pandhal gives us a further glimpse into his double-edged world.
About Hardeep Pandhal
Konfessions of a Klabautermann is a co-commission by Berwick Visual Arts and the 13th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival. The Festival took place from 20-24 September 2017. The exhibition is supported by the Elephant Trust and Arts Council England.
Berwick Visual Arts programmes a broad cross section of contemporary visual art across its two gallery spaces in the town – from family focused exhibitions over the summer period, to supporting and showcasing the work of emerging artists.

Please note that this exhibition is only suitable for people aged 18 and over.

Whilst we do not set out to shock or offend, some of the work we exhibit is provocative. We recognize that much of the resulting imagery in the video screened in the exhibition is challenging. The works explicit use of sexual and violent imagery means that the work is not suitable for gallery visitors under the age of 18 and our gallery staff have been carefully briefed to enforce this.



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