Walking into Lachlan Anthony’s recent exhibition of gym- cult inspired supersculptures, What can you expect of me but for that to which you don’t already know the answer? Gallery 8 in Sydney’s Miller’s Point, one thought drags itself anaemically to the front of my mind: I am so unfit.
The trio of seemingly innocuous and meticulously constructed monoliths that encompass Anthony’s newest body of work greet you in the same way that you might imagine a group of body-builders acknowledging an ectomorph that has wandered into their midst mid-workout - which is not very much at all. Crowded into the modest gallery space, the atmosphere created by the unassuming installation feels just like an at-home gym: incongruous, uncomfortable and unnatural, by which I mean it is completely effective.
Unlike most cases where an intentionally excessive asceticism might reek of macho-Minimalism, his is an aesthetic that speaks as much of individual image-anxiety as it does of the woes of a greater Western society, suffering quietly under the aspirations of its bulimia-inducing stage-mother, Status Anxiety.
In order to better understand this institutionalisation of self-loathing, Anthony did what any outwardly confident, inwardly crumbling artist would do: he joined Fitness First. Like Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist, sympathetic field-study became his most important tool as he navigated the treacherous path to personal fitness. Elements of this personally inflicted sequestration have been documented and can be found on his similarly Spartan blog, http://fitnessfisting.blogspot.com.
The acute discomfort that Anthony’s art is able to conjure is largely due his awareness of the importance of such extracurricular research activities in understanding the identifying factors of ‘civilised’ spaces, and our expectations of them. The home, the office, the public gym – institutions that have collectively experienced the greatest degree of fetishisation via the Modernist ideal – are subjects whose gradual subsumption into ‘the everyday’ has resulted in Anthony finding himself variously submerged in “aspirational bankruptcy”.
Glisteningly rendered in slimming black, the alternately subtle/explicit anthropomorphism of these resultant sculptures serves only to highlight the menacing absence of human life and stamina that would render their presence viable. Formally purposeful members of the gym-equipment family are now highly evolved objects, languishing moodily before eventually fading into obsolescence.
The flaccid fat-suit-like Smeg (2010), for example, reminds me of the first time I used an exercise bike at my local gym. Hypnotised by endless clips of rump-tastic Jennifer Lopez and bootylicious Beyoncé, I pedalled for almost an hour. When I finally disembarked, instead of floating – fat-free – I fell to the ground in a limp heap. My legs had forgotten how to stand – just as this black vinyl skin seemed to have forgotten how to contain and define body-mass. It is for this reason that I often liken his artistic practice to the practice of taffy-pulling. The stretch is as much a public spectacle as it is a method of enhancing the natural elasticity that exists within all objects, regardless of how superficially solid they may be.
Stay tuned to Lachlan Anthony: for your chewing pleasure.