Look Ahead (Rent-this-Space)

Alex Gawronski: Look Ahead (Rent-this-Space), 2010

‘Hardbodies’, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Sutherland, Sydney; curated by Shane Haseman

(Digital print on vinyl on billboard) Photo credit: Jennifer Leahy @ Silversalt

Billboards are almost exclusively used for advertising. Their basic purpose is to draw attention and instil desire. Before the days of mass marketing, the excitation of collective desire was nonetheless a significant social phenomenon. One of the most apparent public appeals to collective desire was (and still is) the mass spectacle. Historically, among the most popular mass spectacles were public executions. This was particularly the case during the period of the French Revolution, an era that paradoxically also announced the birth of the greater Enlightenment project (and ultimately that of Modernism). In the 18th Century, public beheadings via the ‘modern technology’ of the guillotine drew large and excited crowds just as heavily publicised mass entertainments do today.

In lieu of these considerations and with the title Hardbodies in mind, this work suggested the macabre origins of the mass spectacle. It hinted, furthermore at the partial curatorial premise of the Hardbodies exhibition which itself hinged on an oblique reference to Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel ‘American Psycho’ – especially its conjoining of detailed descriptions of slaughter and the repetitious incantation of brand-names. In American Psycho, the ‘hero’ – curiously like many in the proto-fascist literature of authors like Ernst Junger – attempts to recast his body as instrumental and invulnerable. Alternatively, in this work the ‘hard-body’ in question was the steel guillotine blade as an emblem of a pervasive institutional/mechanical apparatus pitted against the corporeality of an absent though ever-vulnerable body.

Actually, advertising promotes vulnerability and the losing of our heads: the suspension of belief we entertain when falling for the inanities of ads practically amounts to our beheading. In such instances we are split between real needs and unstable desires incurred by the familiar though seemingly infinite adaptability of commercial phantasms. In the end, this piece hoped to provoke viewers to consider the fact that, while ads generally seek to harmlessly ‘tickle our fancy’, the soft reality of the fantasy worlds they conjure are in fact structurally harsh and violent.

Written by alex gawronski

February 13, 2014 at 3:31 PM