The Sad Elephant

Uncategorized Jul 20, 2005 No Comments

Imagine you’re an artist and you’re sitting at home with some felt, some padded post bags and a video camera. What do you do with this unlikely material? Why no recreate Kazimir Malevitch’s costume designs for the 1915 opera Victory Over the Sun and then video yourself doing crazy things around the house? It could happen and this may be how Shane Haseman’s exhibition Zero For Conduct came about and which is showing at Scott Donovan Gallery until Saturday.

Shane Haseman, Untitled Mask, paper bags, felt, glue, 2004.
Courtesy Scott Donovan Gallery.

It’s an eccentric idea – and one that has a certain undergrad aura – but Haseman’s video 8 Actions is performed with such deadpan chutzpah that we have to admit to being beguiled by the whole unlikely concoction. Haseman has carefully pasted felt onto the paper bags in designs created by Malevitch and then shot a series of vignettes where he wears the post bags as face masks and performs around the house using an apple, a white stick and available domestic architecture. Haseman’s movements are stiff and robotic, sort of like those Bauhaus artist ballets where middle class guys who don’t know how to dance threw shapes in absurd costumes, while wearing Mormon-esque costume of black slacks and grey shirt. You look at this video and think, this guy really means it – or does he???

Shane Haseman, 8 Actions, DVD, 5 min loop.
Courtesy Scott Donovan Gallery.

We suspected that the work may have something to do with the exceptionally humble beginnings of Modernism and Russian Futurism [being lounge room pastimes of the intelligentsia], and perhaps Haseman is saying something about an artist’s need to inscribe their own personality onto their influences – perhaps, but we couldn’t shake the image of one mask and its doleful elephant-like ears. Combined with Haseman’s stiff movements and absurd choreography, the whole exhibition felt unbearably poignant. Along with the video, the show features the masks stuck on the wall. Look what I have done, says Haseman. And indeed, he has done very well. Zero for conduct, top marks for creativity.

The Art Life

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