Fernando Lancellotti’s Playground of the Absurd

By Kate Stanworth

On the wall of Wussmann Gallery, Argentine artist Fernando Lancellotti projects the shadow of a mouse scurrying in a spinning wheel on an infinite loop. Watching the creature’s futile effort to get somewhere elicits feelings of sympathy. Is this because his fate is so easy to identify with?
Lancellotti’s mouse has a mythical parallel in the Greek character Sisyphus, who is condemned for all eternity to push a rock up a hill, which then simply rolls straight back to the bottom. Writer Albert Camus drew parallels between Sisyphus’s senseless drudgery and a modern life spent working in factories and offices.
The oblivious mouse appears quite happy to accept its banal task however, and since Camus added that such a condition only becomes tragic when there is a consciousness of it, our feelings of sympathy are perhaps misplaced. What’s more, there is no cage that keeps him there, so we can only conclude that the little rodent has merrily accepted eternal imprisonment of his own accord.
If we were to go further down the road of absurdist rodent-human metaphors (and exploring these farcical possibilities is the joy of Lancellotti’s darkly comic show), we might be reminded of Jean Paul Sartre’s proposition that humans, like the mouse, also choose to incarcerate themselves in pointless habit rather than face existential questions about the meaning of life. Immersing oneself in pointless routine might be tragic, but it beats staring into the scary unknown.

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