About Mitsy Groenendeijk’s sculpture series ‘People See, People Do’
For thousands of years, from Egypt to China, to South America and India, monkeys have been associated to all kinds of values. According to each culture’s system of belief, they have virtually come to symbolize the entire scope of human qualities, as different as wisdom and sinfulness, spirituality and enslavement to earthly pleasures. They are those mindless, abjected ‘Others’ of uncanny human likeness that modern western discourse has constituted into objects of investigation and appropriation. Mitsy Groenendijk’s monkeys from the series “People see, People do” return this inquiring zoological gaze and develop a new anthropology, one written by monkeys. Either standing, lying, sometimes afraid, hugging each other, double faced or meditating, they above all do one thing: Look at us. Far from being caught up or suffering the inquisitiveness of observation, they offer themselves in spectacle defying all possible appropriation. Crystallizing around their glittery eyes each gypsum pose and gesture reminds us of a formula, a clichéd act. Faithful to their mimicking fame, they relentlessly perform distorted versions of our rituals as though better understanding the subversive potential lying in their very repetition. While parodying our habits, they highlight the repetition of socially agreed rituals as an existential foundation. Being is less a function of an intrinsic nature but more so, a repetition of learned actions. By writing words and articulating themselves in space, Mitsy’s monkeys embody this amusing and deconstructive discourse on humanity. From their uncertain animalness, they create spaces for thinking of ourselves anew while strangely reminding us of some mass commodities. The challenging discourse on nature and culture that these child-size monkey-pets articulate echoes the rupture of yet another hegemonic distinction, between high art and popular culture, somewhere in between the Teletubbies, garden gnomes and Mexican papier-mâché Catrina’s. Emerging from those aesthetic and socio-cultural breaches, this is the trouble to which Mitsy Groenendijk’s monkeys confront us with: To which extent are we mimicking ourselves and others in order to be?
Catherine Somzé, Amsterdam 2005