(developing stage, TBC)

On the stage which is called life, our fears stay hidden behind joyful smiles. A joke, or two, is satisfying the crowd. After every perfect performance awaits a big applause! But who catches us when we trip and fall? In this Court, we are, in fact, all Fools, submitted to a regime of judgement.’

Set in the crack between reality and fiction, this scene features a fool-like figure seated on the ground behind a glittery stage in front of multiple chairs meant for a demanding audience. Is the next act about to begin or did the fool just left the stage, too tired to perform its zany antics under relentless public scrutiny and the glooming consequences of possible failure? What will its next move be? And don’t we all, in a way, relate to this fool’s predicament? For Court of Fools, artist Rik Dijkhuizen brings together a wide array of literary and historic references, such as the trope of the fool and the commedia dell’arte, to reflect on mental health and wellbeing in today’s hyper-individualistic society. This installation invites us to think about the hidden narratives – the behind-the-scenes – of the continuous demand to perform perfectionism in a world that condemns alterity in evermore nuanced ways.

As the lines between public and private are dissolving, our lives have become much like a court tribunal that is hostile to deficiency and forces us to abide by norm. In order to navigate the authoritarian regimes that make a clear distinction between good and bad, we shape-shift between multiple roles and persona’s in order to avoid raising suspicion on our performance and productivity. Much like the commedia dell’arte’s zanni’s Arlequino and Pedrolino (Pierrot) we are sentenced to play our zany part with vigor and conviction – at the cost of becoming who we are. It’s the fear of being pointed out as a fool that marginalizes us, that disciplines us into obedience and dictates the way we behave, move and interact. And by doing so, we became fools ourselves, diagnosed with sad clown syndrome while wearing a dunce hat and pretended smile, trapped in a world of control and (self)surveillance.

We left ashore our foolish agents that mock, question and negate a journey towards barren lands while we set out sail on a ship of fools. Who’s better off? The ones that use all their antics and follies to keep the ship afloat, or the wise fools who are being tossed into the ocean because they subvert the authoritarian regime and coursed us onto the unknown? Is the figure we see here sitting on the ground one of those deficients? Will he reenter the stage for another round of judgement, or will it choose a more joyful, witty and zany path towards self-realization? The installation Court of Fools aims to flesh out an otherworldly place where we are lifted off our burdens to perform perfectionism in a court of fools and become the jesters we
truly are.