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Rot-am-See  (Red on the Lake)

Rot-am-See is a small, southern German town once known for its factory that made garden gnomes. I had the fortune to study its archive and learn a great deal about this factory while staying with its owner. Gnomes, whether frozen clay or ceramic objects or more animated, are complex fetich objects. Their complexity stems from their relationship to delirium, to withdraw from substances, and other causes of delirium. Their relationship to the grin, the most basic expression elicited by all masks, combined with their homey, countrified forms of industry make up the key feature of their use as an allegorical tool.

Perhaps one of the strangest features of gnomes is their resistance to being disposed of. These fetich figures, unlike most others in the ruins all our own gain a sacred but not a disposable nature through sacrifice. The sacrifice that makes them sacred is often of the kind in which an object is set aside unused and unconsumed. The absurdity of gnomes is found in their very resistance to disposal, to their lingering, age transcending mode of survival. To call someone a gnome in Germany is not simply to say they are small and insignificant. In calling someone a gnome one is pointing out their resistance to disposability, to a nature of being sacred in a way that cannot be removed or replaced. This situation is referred to in German as “Gemütlichkeit,” poorly translated as “coziness,” but having more to it. In a sense, this is a situation of being immanently ancestral beyond the fetich and the noble absurdity of state forms of power.

A sacrifice to the water spirits might itself be described as red on the lake, yet in Rot-am-See the persons, places and things that are made are more sacred and less disposable. The push-pull of the dually sacred and disposable is nullified by the further sacrifice of being left unused by those who wish to make little of them.

 

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