11 October 2010

Would You be Shrink Wrapped for the Sake of Art?

Lawrence Malstaf is an artist who makes unusual designs on his subjects, who he calls volunteers. He literally shrink wraps them. It may sound like an idea for a grisly death in the next big budget horror film but the intention is to encourage people to consider the threat to their survival and how they protect themselves when under threat.

The performance Shrink is one of those experiences that people are unlikely to forget – whether they are the observer or (particularly) the volunteer or indeed whether they get what the artist intends. The performers place themselves between two sheets of plastics – their only accompaniment is an air tube.

Next, the air is slowly drawn out of the gap between the sheets until they are effectively shrink wrapped. Their movements are heavily restricted by the plastic but slowly, painfully so perhaps, they are able to move and express themselves through a kind of slow motion dance.

It all looks as if it would have your average health and safety inspector rushing for the banning order, but there is an assistant who keeps an eye on his or her allotted performer. If there is any sign of danger or panic then the air is let back in to the plastic.

However, the results are unusual.  The eye is inexorably drawn to the captive shapes slowly dancing in their prison of plastic.  As a visual metaphor one can interpret it how one wants. 

Most of the volunteers seem to be more than happy with the experience, comparing it to being back inside the womb. However, would you like to be shrink wrapped for the sake of art?  Here is one of the volunteers speaking about his experience.