Roxman Gatt
'Smoke Machine, Lion and Jeep', 2021, presented by Kupfer Project Space

Created with GIMP

The Credit X Film Programme, presented by Modern Forms, is a 12-month, 12-film series of video artworks shown via galleries in the Credit X network, curated by Mazzy-Mae Green, Nick Hackworth, and Greta Voeller, with each film to be shown alongside a text from one of the curators.

The programme’s second screening was of Roxman Gatt’s ‘Smoke Machine, Lion & Jeep,’ which was available to watch from 6 November – 6 December 2021.

Text by Mazzy-Mae Green

The filmed performance, a 1080p single channel video, begins with Gatt picking at the grass of a football field, in a motion akin to that of a child pre-PE lesson, bored or slightly dreading the public exposure. The camera pans up, past tattooed hands, across a deconstructed white shirt and over the bleached front streak that seems to be the official hairstyle of the last lockdown, to show the artist in full view, arms crossed and staring at the viewer.

Across the following 18 minutes, Gatt integrates dance and performed-with-nonchalant-precision football drills, dressed in the Central-Saint-Martins-esque robes of the fashionable, operating within the realms of an art-school-cum-becoming-but-not-quite-gender-fluid society. Spanning multimedia art, performance and sculpture, Gatt’s work explores sexuality, identity, gender and consumption. After graduating from an MA in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2015, he has built a practice that pulls on ‘00s club, digital and celebrity culture, in performances that often feature the artist, interrogating them, in my view, as spaces of release, discovery and negotiation. The work itself carries vulnerability, a theme that appears to run throughout Gatt’s œuvre, as an artist interested in alternative notions of masculinity. His current project, titled Rosa Kwir, and situated in Malta, brings together stories of Maltese trans men, and non-binary and LBQI masc- presenting people.

My lasting impression of Smoke Machine, Lion and Jeep is that of the release of expression manifest in dance culture, set against the critique of the need for a mono-masculinity on the football pitch, or perhaps it is the simple performance of the context of gender and how and where we perform what. There is a simple but wondrous transition from football pitch to nightclub, involving the artist slowly falling asleep on the grass, to open their eyes inside, and begin to dance to the strobes. It reminds me of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or of Nancy Sinatra’s video for Sugar Town, which becomes a dreamscape, a field for transformation and truth in fable.  

At 10:00 techno sounds begin to play, as white lights flash; at 13:42, the music turns to Britney Spears’s Everytime, both references to the contemporary culture of nostalgia-driven Millennials. The inclusion of a Hollywood icon is not an isolated event in the artist’s work, with Angelina Jolie playing the titular part in a series from 2017-2018. Britney’s lyrics and the butterfly embroidered onto the back of the artist’s jacket locate the work in this certain timeline, and there’s a fragility to the scenes, as when Gatt sings along to the lyrics “I feel so small.” These references fix the work to a zeitgeist, expanding Smoke Machine, Lion and Jeep out from the individual to the societal, the sociological frameworks from which have been created our gendered constructs, forever in flux.

For more information on Smoke Machine, Lion and Jeep, please contact Kupfer.

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