12–30 June 2007, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
Los Angeles-based, Glasgow School of Art-trained, Skylar Haskard has installed here a jerry-built, foil-lined, perforated pegboard den. Continuing his references to the temporary architecture of gang huts, bivouacs and shanty towns, Haskard has, we are told, responded to the gallery space in the development of this new work. Maybe so, for Transmission’s home-to-be is across the road: his ad hoc tactics are apposite. But that given rationale seems too rational, too blandly like contemporary art practice proper, to account for a construction which is so bizarrely provisional.
Above the roofless den the strip lights have been ripped and lowered from the gallery ceiling. Trailing mains wiring like life-support umbilicals, they illuminate the silver space to a ghastly degree and reveal the absence of anything very interesting inside, save for a couple of tomato plants on a fridge, some scattered sheets of photocopied paper and a ten-inch Cash Converters’ television.
Beyond the shock of the shabby, the shiny habitat begins to resemble a Heath Robinson space shuttle module. It becomes living quarters for expectant adventurers who await (forever no doubt) a mother ship and a Star Trekking itinerary. From this perspective of forlorn voyage, a Bright Bike parked outside the whatever-it-is takes on crucial significance.
The electric-powered bicycle impudently invokes Simon Starling’s 2004 project Tabernas Desert Run, (recall that Turner Prize star Starling famously cycled forty-odd miles across the Spanish desert on a hydrogen-powered bicycle and then used the water by-product of the motor to paint a watercolour of a desert cactus). Starling’s wonderfully teleological project highlighted through strictly controlled self-sufficiency the profligacy of just about everything else known to humankind.
The internal logic of Starling’s research-based artwork is a million miles away from Haskard’s contingency. Although we see some organic reference to his previous works, pasted A4 on the outside of the booth, Haskard’s set up borders on the shambolic by comparison. In this regard the rationale of site-specificity sells the artist short.
Inside the structure once again, despite the full illumination, nothing yet becomes clear. But the playful purposelessness seems now to be deliberate. Haskard is Starling in reverse: where Starling presents the component parts of a logical art equation, Haskard presents parts of an open sentence. This tatty incompletion is emphasised by the bike being clearly separate from final output. Unlike Starling’s work there is no circle to recycle.
The coup de crap is the video. Mobster Robert De Niro harangues psychiatrist Billy Crystal, threatening him with all sorts if his powers as shrink don’t live up to expectations. ‘Analyze This’ is the film title and also the demand Haskard makes by proxy. Despite this critic’s attempt to answer De Niro’s and Haskard’s challenge, something virtuous remains free in the poverty of the installation. A rigorous shabbiness wins through this weird exhibit, one which chimes with the provisional nature of Transmission’s interim space, yes, but also with the provisional art to which the gallery itself will return when it moves back to its permanent home.
Ken Neil is head of Historical and Critical Studies at Glasgow School of Art