Kaspar Schmidt Mumm on healing communities with participatory art


Kaspar Schmidt Mumm is in the business of reconstruction. He uses local waste and rented equipment— scaffolding, recycled materials, laser cutting and programming—to create installations that can be made from scratch at each new location. With a practice also spanning painting, costume and performance, he’s invested in using art to heal communities.

“I am deeply interested in the processes of colonial restitution,” he explains from Berlin. “I want to understand my own cultural history, but also that of the countries I have lived in. I see a huge gap in the understanding of cultural representation, and I believe I can make changes through contemporary art. I don’t believe that these processes are acts of revolution or revolt, but rather a long process of reconstruction.”

Born in Germany and raised in Australia with Colombian, Pakistani and Canadian heritage, Schmidt Mumm is a third-generation immigrant who calls Adelaide home. He’s returning to his hometown to exhibit his large-scale participatory sculpture ROCKAMORA at Adelaide Contemporary Experimental.

ROCKAMORA is a site-specific installation that builds on my fascination with participatory sculpture and post-colonial narratives,” he explains. Using puppetry, papier-mâché, woodwork, upholstery, singing, improvisation and social theatre, ROCKAMORA is a large-scale sculptural head, sunken into the gallery floor.

Yet ROCKAMORA also embodies a bullying persona. Placing ROCKAMORA in a bathtub, Schmidt Mumm “encourages play and participation, asking guests to kindly tend to the [figure’s] creature comforts”. In questioning benevolence in a just society, Schmidt Mumm asks, “How do we confront a powerful antagonist?… Rather than seeing ROCKAMORA as an enemy to be defeated, I’m asking people to recognise them as damaged and in need of repair.”

The artist also has a clear future vision: “Our societal idea of public artwork is still planted in permanence. I’d love for this work to be presented as an active ongoing installation in public space.”

2023 Porter Street Commission: Kaspar Schmidt Mumm
Adelaide Contemporary Experimental (ACE)
10 June—12 August

This article was originally published in the May/June 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Sally Gearon