Stepping into the fold

Linda Marie Walker: Louise Haselton, Act Natural

Louise Haselton, untitled

Louise Haselton, untitled

Does god see geese? And if SLEEP PEELS then do bells of loveliness ripple like rays of stars? It’s unfair to begin with questions; I take them back. Excuse them as mere rhetoric–a stupid way to write (stupid as…). The reverse of ‘stupid’ is diputs, almost ‘dispute’; a small matter of adding one letter and rearranging another. The matter of language itself; writing begins in the midst of a duel/dual, a dispute or doubling.

SLEEP PEELS is a palindrone. It clings, word to word, paused, like a quiet love affair. Still, Louise Haselton’s modest exhibition, Act Natural, at Greenaway Art Gallery had this pausing effect, a moment held still (breathless) before dueling with language. Can language be other than dual, double, two-fold–and more and multiple and ‘times’-this and 'times'-that, etcetera. So, when Haselton took the word LONE she asked for trouble, because ENOL is “any organic compound containing a hydroxyl group attached to a doubly linked carbon, usually in the form -C=C-OH” (Macquarie Dictionary). I have no idea what this means, but you can see the hidden message, the clue: ‘doubly linked’. A little toxic something, perhaps.

Every time I walk up the steps to the mezzanine space in the Greenaway Art Gallery I anticipate something. It’s a simple bare staircase which functions like a pause; you know the work up there will be of a different type and scale. It’s as if the staircase prepares you; it keeps you visually connected to 2 spaces simultaneously. Its bareness is a lone-ness, and yet it's intimate somehow, in the way the LONE ring was (bronze knuckleduster); a ring so intimate it “would lift the flesh from the face” (Lisa Young, catalogue essay). I’ve often thought of this staircase as an element of whatever work is up there, a path, passage, caught up, tangled, in the artist's intention (but never mentioned).

There were 6 works (3 bronze, one acrylic on board, one silkscreen, one paper and pen). They were singular, but played off one another, creating vector lines. The centre-piece, or anti-centre-piece, and almost ephemeral, drew everything to itself–a star–I mean ‘a star’ in shape and a-star in performance, like a character actor (Harvey Keitel) who simply takes the cake. The ‘star’ is paper, a length of paper folded into a star. It sits like a crown on a white plinth. And written around the star in pen was: dennis/sinned/do geese/see god/eva can I stab/bats in a cave/name no/one man/rats live on/no evil star/wont lover/revolt now. You can see language reverse itself, dispute/double itself. Whether language, me, you, means to is another matter. Usually we don’t. Yet we always manage to mis-mean. Lovely. Alarming.

It is difficult to say how quiet this exhibition was–as surely quiet as having 2 fingers cut off. What to say? It’s over. It hurts. Lone hurts. But, what to tell? Gone. Too late. There was a bronze tree of fingers, delicate fingers, not a child’s, fingers that had been around. Two were missing, broken off. Yet, there they were curled around each other on another plinth. It was, they were, sad, and comforting. Dead, in each other’s 'arms'. This was LONE; and while a-LONE, all around is a-LONE-ness. The works together witnessed LONE, as a community. They belonged somewhere, no particular place (and specific anyway), 6 things in view of each other.

In these days of ‘illegal entry’ Act Natural was a concise political work which in stillness evoked the overflow (the silent screams, the touches which generate ‘infinite’ possibilities), the excess sorrow that has no voice. And which points up the impossibility of acting natural; each occasion, event (here, artwork), requires separate attention, each has its own story, history, time. It is painful, as (L)ONE-liness is, it is hope, as setting out a-LONE is, it could be hopeful, if 'welcome' is offered.

The dual in Haselton’s work was (the pause) between language and object. It hovered, without desire for resolve, like an interval (a staircase), and in that interval imaginary refreshment came, food eaten, opinions exchanged (this is the land of language). The dual is rhetorical, within the beauty and despair of the word LONE (solitary, isolated, as a house: evoked in Lisa Young’s essay by the figure of Robert Indiana slouching in a door frame–architecture shows off at every chance): “Dragging on a cigar he gazes nonchalantly out…A lone renegade…” Later in Young's essay: “In counterpoint to the wistfulness of her text pieces, is the weightiness of her objects…; intended to be picked up and held, they have the authority of their traditional material…Curious human remains severed from the corpus delicti, they speak of an obsessive duality and the psychotic act.”

Haselton was generous, she made hard isolated works which reached for each other through small incisive moves, as if not wanting to disturb you (pausing before you). Their 'belonging somewhere', and their 'being in one place', their small party of melancholy, made one want to belong, be in solace (paused), with them, naturally, acting.

Act Natural, Louise Haselton, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, May 23-June 24

RealTime issue #44 Aug-Sept 2001 pg. web

© Linda Marie Walker; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2001