Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC)
18.02.22 - 20.02.22
The social spectacle has worn – and will still wear – many faces. This is our modern version of volatile human pageantry, which involves a sceptical, comedic and well-timed evaluation in order to vaguely resemble the truth, and even then, there is still the matter of competition. Whether underneath an Instagram post, across a finish line, as a fan, or a plan to colonize the next planet, there is an ever-evolving allure to be ‘first’. The prize has changed as well, though similar structures provide motivation – fame, money, success, support, recognition – as capitalist ambitions echoing off pillars or sources of sustainable, psychological survival, affecting our instincts, and then, each other.
Moreover, with the constant reevaluation of this fickle façade, and the repositioning of these so-called ‘goal posts’, a kind of chaos ensues. No rhythmic ebb and flow, but rather the switch of a whim, or trend, or rumour. All of this, in addition to an already complex set of dynamics that oscillates around our general existence in the present tense. It is here where Michaela Younge’s keen eye hones in to observe, and relish. This exhibition is a presentation that ogles along with the audience, obsessing over the minutiae that spill from the seams of our lives. Younge fashions a fantastical space that platforms these bursts of life as a malleable, if not entirely metaphorical ‘stage’. Conceptually, and even throughout the process, for the artist, there is a no-holds-barred approach to the lives of the subjects, and the world that each wool-work becomes. The scale of Younge’s vision goes beyond diameter. The devil, and the drama, are all in the details.
In Younge’s creations there is room for every avenue, idea or chance that comes from a single train of thought; whether of violence, surprise, humour, joy, or shame. They all meld together along with the loudness, nearness and concomitants of shared life. The artist’s offering for this year’s fair contemplates the quest for novelty, the genealogy of ‘celebrity’ culture, and thematic notions of ‘breeding’. An inadvertently thorough inquiry into human lore and the symbiotic relationship between its social effect, Younge’s technique and chosen mediums create a childlike chasm through which to wade with these subjects and their parade of matters. Informed by both ‘cautionary’ and ‘fairy’ tales, the artist’s practice itself is an act of story-telling, and of character development, and feels very much like what those in television would call an ‘elevator episode’, where unlikely bedfellows are bound by circumstance.
This body of work can also be approached as an effort to understand the ego. Younge reminds the audience that by breeding dogs to win trophies and other prizes, we make these animals less and less independent. We ensure our influence and their reliance on us. We lower their quality of life and limit their life expectancy. These are choices that are made, if not decreed somehow, by some societal standard, joining the ranks of who and what exists under human control. The artist investigates the ego’s tenacity, as it moulds itself to themes of indulgence, affluence, induced euphoria, self-expression, celebration and it’s every undercurrent. Through her palette, Younge maintains a cheekiness that buoys her reflections, softening her imagination’s blow with hand-dyed materials and their pastel hue. The artist embraces various dimensions here, exploring further the effects of her caricatures on a larger scale, as well as returning to dabble with them on more intimate profiles.
Michaela Younge embraces the voyeuristic nature of the audience as it permeates social spaces, adapts itself – through the audience’s use – to social media and defines the spectatorship that harangues, covets and heckles the modern pursuit of ‘winning’. It’s less obvious without some scintillating signal or jesting juxtaposition, and herein lies another example of Younge’s ability to lead the audience into observing, deliberating and recognising ourselves in these otherwise – and purposefully – unrealistic clusters of colour.
Text By Misha Krynauw