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Drunk Chimp

ArtistRonnie van Hout
Production Date2002
Mediumfibreglass, paint, found objects (clothing and shoes), LCD screen, wireless transmitter, portable speaker system, video (single channel, standard definition, 4:3, colour, stereo sound)
Size9min 37sec
ClassificationInstallation
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Subjectsself-portraits, identity, alcohol, substance abuse
Accession Date20 Mar 2003
Accession NoC2002/1/34
Credit LineChartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2002

Description

Ronnie van Hout's work features his animal alter-egos Sculpt D Dog and Monkey Madness. His monkey character plays on the idea that we evolved from apes, and riffs on old films and TV shows where this was a key trope: Lance Link, Monkey, Planet of the Apes and Kubrick's 2001. Van Hout parodies the idea that apes can paint. In the 1940s Paul Schiller studied the artistic activity of chimps, and later Desmond Morris featured Congo, an ape-artist, on his television show. Morris may have been deadly serious (he was an artist himself) and yet the idea of ape-painters was frequently used to ridicule modern art, particularly abstract expressionism. Monkey Madness first appeared in Van Hout's video Painting Again (1998), where the artist adopted a primate persona in order to defeat his painter's block. However later videos, Drinking Again (2001) and House of the Rising Sun (2002), played up Monkey Madness's problems with the bottle. The sculpture Drunk Chimp finds Monkey Madness prostrate, holding not the wine bottle from which he attempted to find inspiration, sustenance or escape, but a video screen documenting his downfall. The video uses the opening "Dawn of Man" sequence from 2001 where a cosmic intervention allows apes to evolve into humans. However Van Hout's version spoils the idea of a great leap forward, replacing the monolith with a wine bottle; the self awareness journey becoming a road to oblivion. De-evolution. (Snake Oil, 2005)

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