Anna McNay

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