JJ Harper – 23 September, 2022
Shiraz's work makes me feel insecure. There's reference upon reference to things I don't—and maybe won't ever—understand. Sometimes I feel there's an assumption that I will understand ‘x' artwork, or that I have an opinion. The expectation of a payoff, investing mental real estate in engaging with the work—and guess what? The jokes are all about death. The joke on us, naturally. 'Ends' feels better than his previous Coastal Signs show but then again every critic's taste is hopelessly middle brow.
15 September - 22 October 2022
“Are you left or right wing?” Shiraz asks. It’s the question on everybody’s lips. I fumble for an answer, something about being apolitical and something about centrism and something about God (which I don’t really believe in, no matter how much I posture). Like a vending machine rejecting a creased note, Shiraz doesn’t accept my response; demands a better tender. In a moment of what I think is genuine emotional vulnerability I express I’m too confused to know anything. I think this admission of lack comes off as humble and modest but Shiraz just says I’m dumb and that his opinion of me is even lower now. Join the queue.
My favourite work of Shiraz’s is Asset Form, a screenprint of a WINZ income and asset declaration (specifically the section for declaring ‘art’) with its literal form subtracted. It’s a bit Tao Wells but Shiraz makes his audience really work; as the sparse commentary accompanying Ends point out you’ve gotta “solve the riddle” of the show Sphinx-style.
Politics is a stream of consciousness text by Kathy Acker wherein her own dreams are intertwined with spied-on discussions between ‘fellow strippers’ through unrelenting use of first-person singular—a definitive rejection of the sociological method.
However, as Chris Kraus points out in her biography of the writer, After Acker, Acker was most definitely lying about overhearing anything. She was also not as impoverished as she claimed and didn’t prostitute herself for money but for experience, for her writing—many Auckland girls could relate—but this is the foundation of her practice: identity is precarious.
Seems to me like Acker’s only real political ideal was for the individual’s freedom to be a complete degenerate. But everybody is an outsider now. You can’t be against inclusion if there is nowhere/nothing to be included in—there is no first-person, no sovereign. Politics ends on the line “I’m sick of fucking not knowing who I am.” Transgression of identity. Where can degeneracy get you? As Acker writes and rewrites across her oeuvre, probably just death.
Shiraz’s work makes me feel insecure (he once said to me that I’m incredibly self-loathing and have to make it everybody else’s problem). There’s reference upon reference to things I don’t—and maybe won’t ever—understand. Sometimes I feel there’s an assumption that I will understand ‘x’ artwork, or that I have an opinion. The expectation of a payoff, investing mental real estate in engaging with the work—and guess what? The jokes are all about death. The joke on us, naturally. Ends feels better than his previous Coastal Signs show but then again every critic’s taste is hopelessly middle brow.
The title works from that show Securicraft were fasces made of incense sticks, acknowledging the ineffectual gesture of claiming fascism—all transgression has been subsumed; goes up in smoke.
I revisit the show and Bridget shows me an arresting detail: date pits hidden in the corner of the windowsill. A speck you could only see in the online documentation if you knew it was there. Even IRL you mightn’t notice. The pits look a little bit like cockroaches, in relation to the painting Glue Traps. Ends constantly presents and represents and re-represents death and decay. Case in point: Guts, a painting of an old drawing of Shiraz’s; not unlike the loose sketches from his duo show with partner Rea Burton at Furniture Gallery (née Satchi & Satchi & Satchi (and then back again)). A representational recycling—the thread linking all the works. A pointillist fragmentation of a painting from Securicraft of the cover of the Beach Boys album Surf’s Up; the turpentine brand Shiraz uses; a board of MDF and another Slab to represent that board. It’s all a bit much these references, makes my head spin, a little like the deconstructed clock mechanics lining the gallery walls. Winky face.
I think Shiraz is a good artist. And “an acerbic, bleak, but not unfunny“ person.
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