The checkered dish-towel hangs neatly folded in the kitchen. The curtains are drawn. It is after six o’clock. The newscast is about to start. A storm is looming.
With his solo exhibition “all clear” Max Schaffer ventures into uncertain terrain, all cleverly reflected but with a slightly cheeky implicitness. A space-capturing installation of new textile works illustrates the theme that ‘domestic bliss is undergoing radical change’. This time the artist, whose style explores conceptually and formally the charged relationship between everyday culture and cultural discourse in a multi-layered interconnection of appropriations and references, uses conventional dish-towels as the basic material of his exhibition – not as a readymade, but as an item of encroachment. Tinted in batik technique with black dye, the textiles usually associated with conservative domesticity seem to mirror the characteristics of the exhibition concept with a subtle undertone: something is out of whack here, the uncontrollable, the unknown, the other has upset the order of things and is now asking for an unavoidable confrontation with something that remains undisclosed, an event that can no longer be reversed.
“Let’s show Irma that we shoot first” was a Facebook post that was made when Hurricane Irma swept over the US state of Florida in 2017. More than fifty-four thousand people were “interested” in the event. “Don’t shoot at the storm” countered the police finally, explaining (accompanied by a comprehensive infographic) that the bullets would come back, their change of direction is incalculable and consequences are unpredictable – a boomerang effect.
Domesticity offers no refuge from global progress. The grid can’t hold back the color from following its own system: a circular one like a cyclone that inexorably draws its own circles.
As conforming as the initial material appears to be, as different is the end result after batik dying classic dishcloths. Despite the same color, same lacing and same application time, the “tie dying” technique, once attributed to “alternative” culture, is unpredictable. Submission seems impossible.
The work allows associations with the emancipatory strategies of the counter-culture and the openness of new and alternative models of life that are currently being perceived as an attack on the conservative values of society, a somewhat critical resonance of the latest socio-political developments in Europe and the United States.
“Die Schoten dicht machen” (batton down the hatches) affirm wall-mounted cubes made of various materials which are formally reminiscent of nest boxes, but have no entrance or exit. Hermetically sealed, they may defy the vortex but they don’t offer real refuge, neither inside nor from the outside.
A lock-down appears just as useless as a frontal attack, the uprising starts from within: the personal is always political. The alleged infiltration of social norms has already occurred multiple times by now, an appropriation, no: an absorption in response to a cultural hegemony, which in itself spun out of control long ago. Max Schaffer questions the unbearable of “native culture” in a subversive act and has papered the walls with it, a vivid, immersive visualisation of constantly changing weather. According to the artist, the declaration “all clear” is but a reputed all-clear signal: it will be a long time until we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Marlies Wirth, March 2018
Gabriele Senn Galerie