Private Chats 1 to 3,

The Lab, Dublin, 2013.

In the main gallery space are displayed three blown-up Java Chat screen grabs on paper, from an online gay chatroom: we are not told if Wilson himself is one of the chatroom participants. The stereotypical assumption is that gay chatrooms are where ‘masterbatory’ online flirting occurs between desperate gay men. This stereotype is compounded by the narratives played out on Wilson’s chatroom screen grabs between ‘wild dude’ and ‘randy’, whose staccato pidgin prose leaves seeds for potential hookups offline. These online dalliances in the a.m., following a sexually frustrating night at suggestively gay hangout the “littlemermaid nite-club,” with “fag hags” and “gayboys” being the main protagonists, smells of sexed-up desperation. Looking past such clichéd notions of gay promiscuity, these narratives are more about companionship than sex. By scaling up the screen grabs, which are primarily white space, the throwaway conversations at the foot of the screen are further subjugated, about to drop off the HTML cliff into further in-signification. This white space represents a long pause to an unanswered question; an unreciprocated sexual advance; a cypher that feels far emptier than the clichéd ‘black void’ could ever be.

As the title some songs are sung slower suggests, music is a dominant aspect of Wilson's exhibition. I Sing the Body Electric: 7 Screen Memories is the centrepiece artwork in the main gallery. The images and music that transition and loop across seven side-by-side laptops register subliminally like cabalistic advertisements. One of the seven laptops zooms in on the flat facial features of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani singer of the musical tradition Qawwali, a devotional and secular genre of music from the Indian subcontinent. The ‘party’ of laptops echo the compositional structure of Qawwali, whereby a group of musicians and singers perform side-by-side. Personally ignorant of the nuances that such music pronounces, there is no avoiding hearing mystical and devotional overtones, especially considering themes of death, grieving and loss are at the heart of the exhibition.

Significantly, one still image in the ‘party’ of Andrea Mantegna‘s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, perpetuates the subtext of masculine death (or the artist’s desire to confront his own death) that runs throughout the exhibition, with the unusual prominence that the Quattrocento painter gave to Christ’s genitals in the painting. High above the group of laptops a lone print entitled Two Dead Boys, compositionally, like Mantegna’s dead Christ, uses extreme foreshortening. But, whereas Mantegna's dead Christ is a dead weight, laid on the flat of his back on a cold slab of marble with his feet and crotch dominating the image, Wilson’s dead boys are rising, heads first, bloodied. This compositionally inverted version of Mantegna’s ‘all-man’ portrayal of divine death, lacks realism; it is bordering on romantic. The single contour line that economically shapes the dead boys’ bodies is reminiscent of an Ingres’s drawing, while the undertones of sex and exoticism remind one of Ingres’s controversial Grande Odalisque (1814), in which the French Neoclassicist painter portrayed a naked concubine in a Turkish harem, all Mannerist, elongated back and arms.




A Keynote Address

MICK WILSON_some songs are sung slower_

18 January – 9 March_

The Lab, Dublin_

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