habitual despair, Conners Conners, Melbourne, 2021
David Keating, the containers, 2021, installation view
the containers, 2021 (4K video, sound, 4:15) is a video in which the drawing process has been digitally recorded and used as the basis for an absurd narrative. The work refers to a practice called speed painting, popular among amateur digital artists, who share and critique videos of their drawing processes in online communities. Keating juxtaposes this emerging tradition with a scientific instructional format, this involves a scripted, digitally produced voice accompanying the unfolding process of drawings been made ‘on screen’ within a cinematic flow of time.
Rather than the usual utilitarian graphics imbued with the authority that we would expect from an scientifically informative video, the containers exposes the frailty of decision making within drawing. Mistakes and approximations become a part of the process, which reveals a personal struggle with the meaning and agency of drawing, whose flaws are integral to its validity. The work opens up for critique the conflict within drawing practice of exposing oneself – revealing thoughts, ideas and feelings – against the constraints of the medium which typically call for a studied ‘mastery’ of technique; which may ironically impede the possibility of expression.
Focusing on the theme of containers, of which a house, paintings, a museum, and a television are used as examples, Keating’s video muses on the inescapability of the formal, physical and conceptual boundaries that govern expression. Citing Romanian playwright, Eugène Ionesco’s imagery and use of gradually devolving aimless speech in works such as Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It, 1954 and Guy de Cointet’s theatrical pieces as prime influences, in the containers, the artist explores the resonation between the simultaneous unfolding of drawing and speech. Riddled with non- sequiturs, the reductive speech of the narrator both over-forcefully describes the obvious and renders the interpretation of the scenarios presented tantalisingly plausible but ultimately absurd.
The works in habitual despair, hint at the nature of Keating’s broader project; an engagement with the constructed nature of language itself. If emotion becomes habitualized then aren’t feelings constructed in the same way, by rules like a language? If so, shouldn’t we ask is there anything that remains unique? Is there anything that can be said to be true?
The series of line drawings are experimental architectural propositions, imbued within a spectral pink atmosphere. In odd juxtapositions between hard and soft forms, geometric and curvilinear line; limbs, forms and objects casually merge; a coffee table is suspended on arms, a room has eyes in the walls, a humongous hairy leg lies prone in a isometric depiction of an apartment and breasts bulge from what would usually be a flat floor.
On the one hand the works are intimate, funny and personal confessions, dealing with masculinity, desire and the inability of representation to fulfil expectations towards mimesis. But on the other hand they point to a more profound disillusion with the inadequacy of artistic language and a search for a hybrid, which might make more sense than the original.