Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Collisions: Mark McDean + Julie Clarke (12.09.2011)

Gauntlet: Mark McDean (2011) 16 x 50 cm
In response to Julie's last instalment in our continuing collaboration of collisions I was somewhat emotional to see the poppies painted on the (wooden) gun. It automatically reminded me of the iconic 1970's image of the hippy placing a flower in the end of a soldier's gun. I  realised how naive we can be relating to war and death. I chose to use camouflage material in my work. I have an issue with it being a fashion statement, the wearer wishing to be a suburban commando. Visiting the op shop I was led to the kids section and bought a pair of shorts. I deconstructed the shorts and reconfigured the patches into a flat rectangular surface. I had great difficulty with what the next step/process would be. I trimmed the fabric in the shape of a skull, cross stitched eyes an mouth but, towards the end of this stage, I realised how dumb arse and cliched it was. When I was about seven years old my mum and dad took me to join cub scouts. I was introduced to this homophobic 'society' by playing 'running the gauntlet'. Two lines of uniformed cubs (male only) stood  scarves in hand, circled by the woggle, a leather clip to tie the scarf together. As the unsuspecting cub was pushed down the middle of the two lines, the group swung their scarves around their heads, attempting to flog the chosen one, hitting fiercely with the contact of leather on skin. I chose not to partake of any further cub scout activity!! Soft, limp, roughly hewn from old fabric, the Gauntlet requires a gesture, either of defeat and/or protest. (Mark McDean).
I received Mark's artwork in the mail yesterday, the day after 9/11, so I immediately thought about our Australian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and all those men (& women) who have been involved in war. The fabric is formed into what I perceive as a severed arm, since there appears to be five finger-like protuberances at its lower most point. Overall, the sleeve, sheath or glove is constructed piece-meal from different parts of an original garment and its fragmented nature recalls flesh, which has been stripped from the bone. The fact that Mark has used military camouflage or battledress in this work is telling, for not only does it speak about a garment that allows a soldier to blend in with his environment, but refers to the disguise that homosexual males must adopt in order to 'pass' as straight in our society. Crypsis is deployed by many species and is a excellent strategy for an organism to hide from its potential prey or enemy. The human species itself also mobilizes in an attempt to avoid conflict, injury or death, and in this way it is no different to the animal species, which can be aggressive and territorial. The soft, limpness of the construct suggests that the phallic appendage usually stiff and ready to hold the equally solid gun in war is made over here into a hegemonic order deflated, lacking any real power anymore to call men to arms. (Julie Clarke)

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