To Be King (Feb. 27, 2015)
Opening Reception: 26th February from 6pm, Preview from 4pm with the artist
Talk by James Sey: 28th February 11am (limited space available, please book, free of charge, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org)
To be King is informed by the essay ‘Las Meninas’ which Michel Foucault published in 1966 as the first chapter to his book The Order of Things. Foucault in his description of the painting by Velàsquez suggests (amongst other things) that it is through language, the taxonomy of the day, that things are ordered. This order, particular yet tenuous, is dependent on who is in control of the gaze, who is ‘king’.
To be King situates itself as a destabilizing narrative in which the king is ‘dethroned’. Positioning characters and spaces from the periphery in the place from which the dominant gaze originates points to the possibility of a different order of things and highlights the fragility of the established and dominant order.
The sculptural component, the Black Infanta embodies everything the Spanish King, Philip IV is not. Her pose imitates that of the seventeenth century portrait paintings of royal children. She is placed on an enlarged headrest, an object associated with sleeping, dreaming and the unconscious and holds instead of a sceptre, orb or sword, a stick made of Port Jackson willow.
The Black Infanta’s placement in front of the ‘painting’ places her in the role reserved for the king for whom Las Meninas was originally made and who also stands outside the frame of the painting. Completing the circuit of gazes is the museum guard who role is witness to the viewer looking at the ‘painting’. In addition she functions as an ironic indicator of status, an embodiment of the value placed by the cultural centre on a ‘masterpiece’.