At the End of the Day, We’re All Sooty is a narrative installation by William Earl Kofmehl III with Jacob Feige. Informed by the history of chimney sweeps, this exhibition brings together 19th century Victorian England and 21st century post-industrial Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The gallery, transformed into a residential neighborhood, becomes the stage for performative acts involving a number of fictitious characters. The domestic set consists of three houses: a middle class, a lower class, and a stained glass home. All costumes, sets furniture, and interior objects have been conceived and hand built by the artists.
Living and working in Pittsburgh, Kofmehl drew his inspiration for this project from the city’s visible remnants of obsolete industry, its densely packed old brick row houses, and its irregular narrow streets. The history of the chimney sweep trade represents both a dark past of exploited child labor in 19th century London and, conversely, good luck iconography associated with chimney sweeps such as clover, mushrooms, horseshoes, and chimney brooms. This project plays on the relativity of hierarchical structures and the interdependent relations between master and servant, perpetrator and victim.
Sweep #1 (dormant sweep): Kofmehl’s character in traditional clothing is awakened from a catatonic state by the golden fingers of Sweep #2.
Sweep #2 (magic sweep/thief): Feige’s character has magical golden fingers, which heal.
Narrator/Fake Sweep: Wears fake sweep clothing, carries fake sweep props. Explains narrative, lectures on chimney sweep history, yet is in servitude to sweeps.
Master Sweep /Sweep #1: Kofmehl’s Dad; a family man dressed in 21st century garb orders the three sweeps and lives in the middle class house.
Additional characters include the woodcarver who occupies the lower class house. He carves while speaking in German about wooden figurines of chimney sweeps. The stained glass house owner shines lights at different parts of the windows.
Discreet objects furnish the houses. The middle class house features a photolithograph with gold leaf. On view in the lower class home is a black & white slide show. All of the houses are connected by their rooflines on which the sweeps crawl. Placed throughout the installation are three half- human size bronze sculptures based on traditional German Rauchermen. A bronze cast hat mounted on a tripod is a pinhole camera used by the sweeps to document their performances during the exhibition. Several hand-embroidered images hang on walls.
The Performance: Opening night features the full cast in continuous performance. The chimney sweeps find themselves in a mysterious plot, unfolding through semi-improvised sequences during the installation. For additional information regarding performative acts during the exhibition, please contact the gallery. William Earl Kofmehl III as Sweep #1 will live in the gallery for the whole duration of the show, choosing to actively perform at his discretion.