Currently on view at Sadie Coles HQ in London, My Head is a Haunted House explores the weird and eerie from a range of perspectives, mixing together works from a broad group of artists. The show, curated by writer Charlie Fox, is an intriguing investigation of materiality and motive, swapping pathos for a suspended sense of presence, and a concrete subject for a creeping sense of a body, either present or withdrawn.
Opening with a re-creation of the red curtains from the show Twin Peaks draped down from the ceiling, the viewer passes into a space where each of the items on hand seems haunted by the the same sense of unspoken dread and tension that has marked so much of David Lynch’s career. There’s strange re-scalings and re-workings of perspective, like Sue De Beer’s Witch House, a small, doll-house sculpture that seems to play on a sense of suspended reality that never allows the viewer fully inside, while Mike Kelley’s series of banners from his Pansy Metal / Clovered Hoof series integrates a queered perspective on punk and heavy metal that presents the object as haunted, as possessed with messages smuggled in from elsewhere. A similar operation is embraced by Robert Gober, who turns the domestic object into a symbol haunted by a body, one pressing through from the other side of an unseen curtain.
Other works take a striking counterpoint to these images, beginning from the language and vocabulary of Hollywood horror and working backwards. Alex Da Corte’s works, Daggering (showcasing a Michael Myers character trapped inside a television set) and Slow Graffiti (which centers around images of Boris Karloff and Frankenstein’s monster), push the grammar of mainstream horror and turn it into something unspeakable and incomprehensible, a sort of middle ground in which the viewer and the viewed cannot escape the liminal state in which they are held, unable to create emotional resonance and pathos in the other.
Perversion and contamination are the rules of the game throughout, this same sense of deconstruction and withheld states that makes the show seem to float just a few inches off its ground. Like Gober’s work, the viewer is left to intuit and investigate, probing the surfaces of these works into to find the site where deeper meanings and buried texts are hidden. In this sense, the Lynchian allusions seem to hold a resonant undertone for the show, that of the line between the visible and perceived, and the moments of unnerving surreality where the curtain is pulled aside.
The show closes August 31st.
— D. Creahan
My Head Is a Haunted House [Sadie Coles HQ]