William Hunt, Invitation Card Rotwand
It is with great pleasure that we announce our second solo exhibition with English artist William Hunt (*1977) at Rotwand.
William Hunt, a case study
"Practicing being something else just in case you're not what you think you are." It will always be an artist that makes a suggestion like this. Because he can; or, rather, because he's encouraged to. An artist can be fruitless, hapless, ridiculous or wrong and he will be applauded all the more for it, because an artist gets to play out the latent fantasies of the rest of us.
But what is the substance of the fantasy that William Hunt plays out on our behalf? In short, he performs music in physically restrictive conditions: submerged in a tank of water, trussed upside-down, with a head covered in setting plaster, up a ladder in the sea with his clothes on fire. This is a case of severe self-thwarting and the psychology is suitably layered: all social anxiety grows from the realisation that we cannot control how we are perceived by others, so why not adopt a self-image that embodies this unpredictability? And if we wish the authentic self to be visible, then its struggle to become visible is essential viewing. It is better to place it centre stage than to relegate it to the dressing room.
Drama, it is thought, originated in ancient sacrificial rites, which would cast the hero as a rebel against the divine regulation that is responsible for the existence of suffering. The hero that constructs his own suffering, then, is at once perpetrator and victim, demigod and mortal. And if a hero takes seriously that which is absurd, then it follows that he finds absurd that which should be taken seriously. This is radical iconoclasm of the most attractive kind. It signals a mistrust of the logical, the productive, the harmonious and the clear-cut. This is a denouncement of received ideas.
An independent mind is always admired in drama, especially if the body must suffer indignity or pain as a payoff. But, for us mere mortals who like to watch but perhaps not to experience drama, Hunt's methods represent more a mechanism for coping than heroics. If we are seen to struggle against adversity from the off, then we are not to blame when we fail; and if we succeed against all odds, we have escaped from a hell of sorts, albeit of our own making.
Sally O'Reilly October 2010