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This must be wonderful!

Solo expo by Paul Stümpel

WHEN: Friday 5 May 18:00 - Sunday 3 September 17:00

This Must Be Wonderful! I Don’t Understand It At All. is WOW Artist in Residence Paul Stümpel‘s solo exhibition for the Vertical Gallery at WOW, a visual investigation into concepts of the ‘Terror Management Theory’. ‘TMT’ is a well-known concept in anthropological and sociological science, which describes the ways humans are dealing with the fear of death on emotional, intellectual and societal levels.

The exhibition is in the Vertical Gallery starting on the first floor of the building.

‘This must be wonderful! I don’t understand it at all.’ is a visual exploration of ‘Terror Management Theory’ and the phenomena it describes. In his first solo exhibition, WOW Artist in Residence Paul Stümpel presents three wall panels, which investigate the essence of human ambition in all its tragic, comical and surprising manifestations.
The ‘Terror Management Theory’ is a well-known concept in anthropology and sociology. It describes the ways in which humans cope with the fear of death on an emotional, intellectual and societal level. Dealing with this fear is a common factor of human behaviour across different cultures and historical eras and is thus a deep root of culture itself.
With an eye for mischief, Paul reveals the fundamental similarities between people with fundamentally different world views and life goals. At the same time, he encourages a more light-hearted attitude towards these fears, looking for the beauty that can come from conquering them.
The title for the exhibition derives from a badly translated fortune cookie. It stands in ironic contrast to the human desire to understand all that is unknown, lest it become scary or threatening.
Paul’s way of working combines classic literature research with a more intuitive process of finding and arranging images from a vast array of cultural sources. In his collages, the images appear without hierarchy. Sometimes they are connected through pure visual resemblance, other times by contextual correlation. They can strengthen, disturb or destroy their original messages and create new meanings and interpretations all at once.
Paul Stümpel (1989, Berlin)

Rather than describing himself solely as a designer, artist, researcher or art director, Paul Stümpel sees his qualities in applying creative thinking to a wide range of challenges. For two years Paul has been working as a freelancer and has contributed to projects for commercial clients, cultural institutions and artists, with services reaching from classic design and production, to full-blown communication concepts, education programmes and visual research.

Next to that he has continued to develop and share his own artistic vision in collaborations or self-initiated projects. He likes to describe his practice as pop anthropology and creative politics. His two graduation projects OnceUponManyTimes and the Millennial Church serve well as examples of his personal interests and his way of working. At the same time they form the departure for recent artistic activities.

OnceUponManyTimes, for example, originated in Paul’s fascination for how various cultural influences mix and overlap online. The result is a book in which the story of Little Red Riding Hood is illustrated by the results of a Google Image search for keywords of the story. The images reveal a rich collage of multiple cultural narratives, and at the same time represent a visual culture that we are exposed to on a daily basis.This experiment not only creates a new way of telling a story with advanced technological tools, but also reflects on ideas of stereotypes, emotions such as desire and fear and the representation of cultural heritage.

Work by Paul has been featured in the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, the FOAM Output Awards and The Creators Project (VICE).