Worldwide openings this week

1. Register in order to get a username and a password.
2. Log in with your username and password.
3. Create your announcement online.

31 Oct 2014

HMKV exhibition Evil Clowns at Dortmunder U until March 2015

Marion Auburtin, Clown Maléfique, 2014, HMKV in the Dortmunder U, Exhibition Evil Clowns 2014 © Marion Auburtin

Evil Clowns
HMKV at Dortmunder U


Curated by Inke Arns
Opening hours
Tue-Wed 11am-6pm
Thu-Fri 11am-8pm
Sat-Sun 11am-6pm
Mon closed
A book will be published in 2015 with essays by Inke Arns, Mark Dery, Judith Funke and Marie Lechner
Evil Clowns is generously funded by the Kunststiftung NRW.

Frauke Hoffschulte

Hartware MedienKunstVerein
44137 Dortmund

Share this announcement on:  |

We always knew it: CLOWNS are evil.
'Dangerous clowns are lurking on the city's outskirts,' warned the Dusseldorf avant-garde pop band Der Plan back in 1979. As though to prove just that, since the early 1980s the figure of the clown has been successively annexed to the horror film genre. In 1982 John Carpenter's Halloween hit the movie theatres, a spine-chilling horror flick in which a six-year-old boy murders his sister wearing a clown costume. In his novel It from 1986, Stephen King added the cruel clown Pennywise to the fray. Two years later came the arrival of the Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988), and even the Joker had nothing good up his sleeve: still just a violent criminal in Batman (1989), in The Dark Knight (2008) the Joker emerges as a psychopath who revels in destruction and chaos. Without a doubt, however, the king of the 'evil clowns' was the American serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who entertained children at street fairs as 'Pogo the Clown' in a home-sewn costume and brutally raped and murdered 33 boys and young men throughout the 1970s. Gacy was executed in 1994.

Young children are typically afraid of clowns. They are instinctively suspicious of these exaggerated jesters with their grimacing, inscrutable masks – and find them for the most part creepy. It can't be denied that the classic clown make-up incorporates scary elements ranging from the white skin colour, reminiscent of dead bodies or zombies, to the blood-red mouth, which has something vampire-like about it. Psychologists use the term coulrophobia when referring to the fear of clowns (which is considered to be one of the ten most widespread phobias). How would we react if the doorbell rang one night and we suddenly found a clown standing at the door?

The exhibition Evil Clowns is dedicated to precisely this unsettling figure, who has recently been enjoying an 'uncanny' career. Today, evil clowns appear in a variety of contexts: in literature, in horror and Hollywood films, in (anti-)advertising (Ronald McDonald and parodies), in TV series (Krusty on The Simpsons), in political activism, in pop music and in contemporary art. The masqueraded jester makes us laugh – but with a laughter that quickly gets stuck in our throats: There's Nothing Funny About a Clown in the Moonlight (Lon Chaney). Not long ago, the Northampton Clown, whose appearance is deliberately based on Pennywise, once again demonstrated this evocatively.

In its international exhibition, the Hartware MedienKunstVerein gets to the bottom of the ambivalent figure of the (evil) clown. Send in the Clowns! (Frank Sinatra)

With works by: Anonymous, Marion Auburtin (FR), Blue Noses (RU), Barbara Breitenfellner (DE), The Cacophony Society (US), Kimberly Clark (NL), Deichkind (DE), Constant Dullaart (NL), George Grosz (DE), Guerrilla Girls (US), Insane Clown Posse, the Joker, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Krusty, Laibach (SI), Renzo Martens (NL), the Northampton Clown, Novi kolektivizem (SI), Ronald McDonald, Pennywise, Der Plan (DE), Pogo, Abner Preis (IL/US/NL), Pussy Riot (RU), The Residents (US), Roee Rosen (IL), Aura Rosenberg (US/DE), Christoph Schlingensief (DE), Cindy Sherman (US), Super A (DE), Jeffrey Vallance (US), The Yes Men (US), and others.

The work of the Californian Cacophony Society ('You may already be a member'), for which the figure of the 'klown' plays a key role, acts as a hinge linking art, activism, and popular culture – and as a historical point of departure for the exhibition. The material presented here, first documented in 2013 in the extensive publication Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, has never before been shown in Europe. The Cacophony Society, which dates back to the Burning Man Festival (since 1986), developed early forms of adbusting, trademark destruction (for Ronald McDonald), subversion, flash mobs, and urban explorations (today: parcours) that can be found both in the political activism of the 1990s and in artistic projects today.