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Press Release

A Game of Fort Da

Naomi Süssholz, Maaike Haverals
A Game of Fort Da
05.11.2020 > 29.11.2021

Fort and da. Gone and there. Those were the two words Freud’s grandson would utter while repeatedly playing a particular game in which he would throw away a toy attached to a cord, exclaiming ‘fort’, immediately followed by pulling it back while saying ‘da’. Just as ‘good little boy’ Ernst - as Freud would call him - couldn’t resist playing this game over and over, his grandfather, on his turn, couldn’t resist seeing this as just another nonsensical game, in other words, it somehow had to mean something, there had to be a hidden message. A cigar is never just a cigar, right? The child’s game is a hieroglyph, that once deciphered through the psychoanalytic alphabet, revealed it as a coping strategy, a pleasurable kind of revenge. Because Ernst’ father was sent to the front of World War I, a traumatic event passively imposed on the defenseless child, the toddler created a game that allowed him to deal with this violent, sudden absence. By symbollically substituting the absent father with the presence of a toy and actively performing the same movement between throwing away and pulling back ‘the father’, Ernst miraculously transformed pain into pleasure: a symbolic metamorphosis or gamification of trauma into thrill.

The toys we once cherished as children are now somewhere sealed off in a weathered box, hidden in a dusty corner of an attic and since long forgotten. But that, however, doesn’t mean we have outgrown games. In some way, art is all about play. That becomes all the more clear if we look at the works that are shown in this exhibition. Each, in their own specific way, are a contemporary version of Ernst’ little game, playing with the rich tension that is generated in the movement between the two poles of absence and presence. Some of them may spring forth from trauma, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them do. Sometimes, a game is just a game, played with no specific purpose, and enjoyed for the sake of itself, thereby strongly resembling art. So if we can see these works are somehow resembling games, then that makes you, the spectator, into a player, invited to play along their ever-changing rules.

Maaike Haverals (b.1998) and Naomi Süssholz (b.1997) are both Brussels-based artists and are currently enrolled in their master of fine arts at LUCA School of Arts.