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Wienie Collapse 1965-1983: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Downtown Disney: “Beautiful prima ballerina dancing in white dress with red light shining from below. Black cloak spread out, about to wrap it around her. She is stepping towards you on the stag Wienie Collapse 1965-1983: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Downtown Disney: “Beautiful prima ballerina dancing in white dress with red light shining from below. Black cloak spread out, about to wrap it around her. She is stepping towards you on the stag
VISITORS TO PRIMAVERA 2008 AT SYDNEY’S MCA MAY RECALL MARCUS CANNING’S PINK WIENIE—A 6 METRE HIGH SILICON CASTLE THAT COLLAPSED UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT AND BECAME, IN ONE REVIEWER’S WORDS, “A GRANDIOSE POOL OF FAILURE.” FROM THE DEBRIS, REARRANGED, AUGMENTED AND PHOTOGRAPHED, CANNING HAS CREATED WIENIE COLLAPSES, A BODY OF ABSTRACT ‘MEDITATIONS’ ON LATE CAPITALIST CONSUMPTION AND COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS.

The word ‘wienie’ in Canning’s titles refers less to the ‘immature penis’ or Viennese sausage than to Walt Disney’s term for the iconic castle at Disneyland’s centre. The term is still used by Disney creators to describe the “visual magnet” at the heart of an attraction, and by film crews for the sausage-waving technique that guides stage dogs through a scene. Canning’s luscious inkjet prints mounted on aluminium feature a kaleidoscopic array of forms, complemented by a selection of verbatim Rorschach Test data gathered from Nazi war criminals prior to the Nuremberg trials. These quotations are intrinsic to the works, while the individual titles all reference real Disney castles and their locations, as well as the European architectural follies that inspired them.

Canning’s prints are striking in their lurid spectacle, textural detail and the near-invisible surface on which their folded, wedding-cake richness is overlaid in hot pink, white, and glossy black. The mirrored arrangements seem 3D despite—or perhaps because of—a textural quality as smooth as glass. The wall-mounted Rorschach Test quotes point to a range of interpretive possibilities: “Two gremlins busy with human vertebrae”; “Two pink mice climbing up a tree”; or this one: “Skin of an animal, such as you would see on the floor of a lady’s room. The lady who owned it altered it by adding feathers. Only a lady would do this.”

Nowhere is there a Rorschach quotation to suggest the obvious: Wienie Collapses is easily read as a set of lushly prepared allusions to female genitalia. The lengths gone to to elide this possibility sometimes appear extraordinary, for example: “A funny bear fur spread out…It is alive and represents Bolshevism over-running Europe.”

To create Wienie Collapses, Canning mixed quantities of sump oil, hair gel, sugar and liquid soap into the remains of Pink Wienie to form what he calls “psychotropic landscapes”, which were then photographed and manipulated to create symmetrical configurations. The materials reference some of consumer culture’s most ubiquitous substances; oil and sugar providing potent symbols of what might be termed ‘western decadence.’ The work follows on from Canning’s earlier preoccupations with late capitalism, explored through video, installation and sculpture, such as the creepy Dough Boy video (1999) or Midas (2006), which featured a revolving planet formed from plastic trophy heads.

Conceived as the world economy was going into meltdown, Wienie Collapses explores a literal and theoretical terrain that cleverly weaves the playfully phallic ‘wienie’ into a seductive commentary on excess, folly and material desire. The annotation of the collapsed balloon castle’s photographed detritus with Rorschach quotes draws further associations between consumption, desire and mass psychology, as well as teasing out questions about the meaning and interpretation of art—ultimately another ‘consumer’ product.

Anyone who’s ever seen a vagina at close range will recognise in Canning’s images the clitoral shadows, the tucks and folds, the sense of ragged symmetry and satiny textures. But Canning insists this wasn’t his intention. At most, he acknowledges “the straight-up irony of a glistening pink castle, with all its inherent embodiments of phallic monumentality and mentality across western history, ultimately collapsing into a series of very polymorphic psychotropic works…”

At the same time, “There was definitely an attempt to evoke a sense of a grotesque anatomy, an uncanny body—but a surrogate or artificial body that is corrupted and mutating.” A brave statement, given the historical (and spurious) western binarising of nature–femininity–chaos–corruption versus culture–masculinity–order–reason.

Wienie Collapses fuses a lush array of ideas and a cornucopia of visual intrigue, cleverly critiquing late capitalism’s folly around the anchoring trope of the collapsing wienie. The series certainly fulfils Marcus Canning’s aim of containing “enough teeth, barbs, hooks…to maintain a tension over time, but at the same time fit the profile of a product range…that would hover in a space between attraction and repulsion...”

There’s a juicy irony in this combination of commercial intent and cultural commentary, especially given the central symbol of the must-have ‘wienie.’ Arisen from the detritus, Wienie Collapses is not so much “a lobster pie with decorations” or “a substance taken out of an operated knee”, as a flamboyant, laughing phoenix.


Marcus Canning, Wienie Collapses, Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, West Perth, Aug 7-28

RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 pg. 54

© Urszula Dawkins; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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