BOY. BOAT. BAT.
30 August - 13 October 2018
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present BOY. BOAT. BAT. a new solo exhibition by Michael Taylor.
Figurative drawings, scenic paintings and sculptural elements are brought together as an installation in this body of work, creating a vibrant collage of styles and recurring motifs that are present throughout Taylor’s oeuvre. Extrapolating on his signature themes, Taylor has woven together an absurdist narrative using the characters of the Boy, Boat and Bat as touch points in his unfolding drama.
‘Boy’: the figure
Taylor’s troupe of pirouetting males come to represent a collaged portrait of his experience of the gay community or “tribe”, presented as an iteration of dandyism and flamboyant gesture. The characters that garnish the artist’s paper are non-placeable; they trump both a contemporary context and a South African one. They are a topsy-turvy fruit salad of misplaced masculinities in coming-of-age narratives or captured in intimate moments of male-bonding.
‘Boat’: the landscape
Persisting with the performative in his notion of ‘place’, Taylor uses narrative-driven scenes to create a makeshift imaginarium where the boat is a metaphor for the male figure. The question of ego seems to approach in the boat’s meditation between the conscious and subconscious. The boat — a symbol of leisure — forms the romantic backdrop for escapism, perhaps a hedonistic holiday in an exotic locale. It reoccurs like a visual punctuation mark, becoming a placeholder for both figurative and abstract ideas of storytelling, setting the stage for a fantasy play.
‘Bat’: the narrative
The narrative of BOY. BOAT. BAT. is a fictional one, and importantly, that of an outsider. Humour and satire are used in the staging of the compositions and propositions of paintings, while the theatrics of display mimic the theatre as a home of the absurd and exaggerated. The viewer is urged to see the exhibition as a set, with mini-vignettes or dramas unfolding between the characters. Theatrical poses and exaggerated gestures point to the idea of a ‘dance’ or choreographed rehearsal. Personal mythologies are at play in the curation of the show; suggestive bulges in striped pantaloons / orange onesies playfully call out to drawings of volcanoes at the brink of eruption. This ‘explosive potential’ of the overlapping vignettes seems to draw together various themes of the show: humour, fictional desire and sexuality.
Text by Lindsey Raymond
Boy. Boat. Bat.
An accompanying story by Bibi Slippers
“It was the famous Otis Redding song that made Beckett want to live in a houseboat, and in 1973 he finally did. (If you assumed the Beckett in question is the celebrated Samuel, your assumption is dubious. Our hero was a ginger-haired fellow with a penchant for slacks who never attained fame, but then, he never tried. Beckett only ever practiced the art of watching, often mistaken for time-wasting by everyone around him. Everyone around him was wrong.)
Beckett discarded his old life and everyone around him like a worn out coat at the end of winter. He caught a bus to Sausalito and took a cheap room in a beat-up double-decker barge, offered for rent by an old bat named Blanch. Of the existing inhabitants of the houseboat, it is Russell who remembers Beckett’s arrival most clearly. Usually more of a feeler, in this instance Russell was the watcher, observing the new tenant’s approach from the top storey, framed by his tiny window. Russell was recovering from a series of stormy affairs, but as he saw Beckett clutching the side of the motorboat driven by their landlord, the intensity drained from these memories and leaked into the present moment, lending it a bright and ready vividness that stung his eyes. It was as if seeing Beckett was enough to turn Russell into a watcher. As if watching could be contagious. Russell stopped his watching when he registered the distinct feeling that for him, the wait is over. (He described this scene in one of his four unfinished novels, in a chapter entitled “The Coming”. The passage is memorable, as far as Russell’s usually dull writing goes, in that it mentioned seven specific shades of orange in its description of the sun reflected on the water: Syracuse; Papaya Whip; Atomic Tangerine; Tea Rose; Spanish Orange; Bittersweet and Alloy.)
It was Tricia who met Beckett at the door. She had no inclination, as she took his bags while making small-talk with Blanch, that this man would be instrumental in her landing the part-time job at the café where she first met Frank, the Freddie Mercury-lookalike frontman of failed glam rock duo The Jettisons, who would unknowingly father her daughter Tina, whose son Ty (short for Tyrone, and Tricia’s grandson, if you’re following) would become the drummer of blog-rock turned corporate indie band Vampire Regatta, the millennials who would bring that tinny country fuzz sound, first popularised by Marty Robbins in the 60’s, back to the “ironic mainstream” in 2020. She could not know, because all of this was in the future, cards still being shuffled by the tricky fingers of time. Meanwhile, back on the boat, Beckett found its gentle sway extremely conducive to his watching and stayed for more than a decade. I wish I could show you the things he saw. Can you at least imagine bits of it?
(A side-note in closing: While Vampire Regatta’s hit “Underwater Pyjama Party” would never attain the iconic status of the famous Otis Redding song that was the catalyst for Beckett’s move, it will inspire a renewed enthusiasm for a lifestyle the Instagram-generation would call #thathouseboatlife. Would a little historical detail like this make Otis Redding, a man with an interest in tides, smile knowingly? And what would it make the other Beckett, the celebrated Samuel, say? My best guess would be: something about the sun.)”