John Hurrell – 29 June, 2010
White socks wearers can be figures of fun amongst non-white sock users. As clichéd stereotypes go, in the public imagination in terms of the ‘uncool' or ‘straight', they are more linked to athletic jocks than say nerdy types; bible salesmen more than Larkinesque librarians. They inadvertently offend and are mocked because they are linked to a sort of excessive wholesomeness, representing the banality of the squeaky-clean.
dog/ younger for older/ catcher/ tube socks. (ewok, kyote, baby fred flinstone, scamp, Quix Bunny in the rye.)
11 June - 3 July 2010
Melbourne artist/musician Alex Vivian’s installation in Gambia Castle looks at first glance to be somewhat chaotic, superficially in the manner of Dan Arps, Christopher Hill and others, but it becomes more ordered and consistent the more you examine it. Its sculptural themes are not endless (as they could be) but actually restricted and ideationally tight - usually featuring items of male clothing strewn about and various other objects to insert, drape them over, stuff them into, spill out of, or wrap around. Such objects include an open carrybag, a wooden seat, drying racks, an S-shaped metal grill, a plaster Greek bust, an oddly shaped glass container, and welded chains.
Pairs of white socks dominate. More than other clothing types such as boxer shorts, white folded jockeys or soccer jerseys, they are ubiquitous and provide a source of merriment - at least with one interpretation. White socks wearers tend to be figures of fun amongst non-white sock users. As clichéd stereotypes go, in the public imagination in terms of the ‘uncool’ or ‘straight’, they are more linked to athletic jocks than say nerdy types; bible salesmen more than Larkinesque librarians. They inadvertently offend and are mocked because they are linked to a sort of excessive wholesomeness, representing the banality of the squeaky-clean.
As if to offset any sense of excessive hygiene or social conformity Vivian has two homoerotic photos (one of Michelangelo’s David) mounted on card and leaning against the skirting board. They are covered with different words written in coloured cartoonish lettering: David in terms referring to statues and penises, the other with sound effect words found in comic strips. With these images, and a piece of paper on the wall that says ‘Bottom Everyday’, the implication is that the (cute) white socks are also fetish objects, items of arousal perhaps provided to excite gallery visitors - or if worn, anticipating a feverish homosexual orgy. (The white socks seem to also stand for condoms) Such a cheerfully, openly gross sexual interpretation seems most intended by the artist, judging from the invitation photograph of a clean-cut muscular youth about to take off his swimming shorts, and certain work titles that refer to anal sex, bathhouses and vaseline. Hightly theatrical in fact with not much subtlety.
Having said that, as I’ve already indicated there are clearly several ways of viewing this show. Because there are some loose pages, posters and stacks of magazines amongst the scattered ‘garment sculptures’, maybe the exhibition is really just about a habitually untidy fellow who has a foot odor problem, and who always travels well prepared. The display is clever with its calculated, highly salacious ambiguities and exploration of casually made sculptural form. Through limited but loaded means it demonstrates a range of interpretative approaches to being droll.
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