Maen Florin – Beaufort 2021
Benjamin sits deeply pensive, huddled together. With his knees raised, frowning eyebrows and outstretched hands, one of which is noticeably larger than the other, he seems to be waiting deep inside himself. The viewer, too, is waiting. His gaze scans Maen Florin’s sculpture, but the latter in turn does not grant him a second look. This brings – as in Maen Florin’s other sculptures – much discomfort. As sculptures, her fairy-tale puppets are situated between puppet and human: it is difficult to get a grip on them.
Especially Benjamin’s donkey ears raise questions. In the last century, children were sometimes adorned with donkey ears after misbehavior. Is Benjamin sitting on punishment and waiting for redemption? Is he playing the stubborn donkey or is he strong and wise, meek and affectionate like a donkey? In the sight of the boy embodying loneliness for the sake of otherness, there is a play of guilt versus innocence that partly explains our uneasiness. This play is often also contained in fairy tales – another hint at the donkey ears. ‘Unheimlichkeit’ emerged in the old German folk fairy tales: an alienating feeling that we as human beings can’t quite pinpoint. But fairy tales are at the same time a welcome distraction. In De Haan’s soap sanctuary, ‘fairy nights’ were also organized for sick children during which singers or actors performed and ensured that the sick children did not feel ‘different’ for a moment.
With her hybrid sculpture, Florin asks us not to avoid our discomfort with the Other, but to face it. Doesn’t that Other merely provide a mirror for what we dare not recognize in ourselves? Perhaps Benjamin is mainly waiting for this recognition.