Guy Debord’s seminal text The Society of the Spectacle (1967) acknowledged the spectacle as simultaneously united and divided – sharing a similar function to society itself, and that when these violent divisions coalesce as spectacle they destabalise and contradict it’s own attempt to control the masses.
As part of a recent research trip to New York City, artist Shane McGrath was present for Thanksgiving and attended the Macy’s parade. It was during this period as a spectator that McGrath witnessed marches and protests of civil unrest sparked by the Grand Jury’s verdict not to indict the police officer that shot Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, MO, USA.
The morning following the announcement, just days before the parade while in a crowded subway station, McGrath spotted in front of him a middle-aged African-American gentleman who had pinned a hand-written note to the back of his shirt reading “Stop killing our young men”. McGrath later recalled that statement amidst the public outcry in the days of protest that followed, including an attempt to mount a protest parade to infiltrate the Macy’s floats. These rival parades formed his response as a non-American citizen via a series of inflatable sculptures that populate his exhibition Don’t Shoot.
Fascinated by the extreme contrast and synchronicity of the two happenings in public space; one a saccharine celebration of consumerist cheer - the other a desperate attempt to draw attention to a harsh reality, McGrath adopts the façade and (often) insincere nature of public spectacle by way of an unsettling critique that heralds the ambition and importance of public protest activated within a political system of indifference.
Shane McGrath’s practice that responds to site-specific events, histories, individuals and communities; often realizing his outcomes through artworks of a temporal nature or that highlight various temporal happenings permanently as public sculpture. He graduated with a MA from Massey University Wellington in 2010 and is currently undertaking his PhD at Deakin University, Melbourne. His work is held in private and public collections in Australia, and New Zealand. Recent solo & group exhibitions include The Substation Contemporary Art Prize; Newport, Melbourne 2014. Tools of the Trade Project; Paul Nache Gallery, Gisborne, 2014. Parallel Play; Bartley + Co, Wellington 2013. Gelber LuftBallon: Dunedin Research Project;Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin 2013. New Acquisitions II; Fort Delta Gallery, Melbourne2013. Headlands- Sculpture on the Gulf; Waiheke Is. Auckland 2013. Melbourne Art Fair, with Bartley + Co 2012. The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture; City Gallery Wellington 2012. Structures:recent acquisitions; The Pah Homestead, Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland 2012 Curated exhibitions include Place+Space; The Print Factory, Wellington 2009 Recent publications include a contribution towards Blue Oyster Annual 2013: edited by Chloe Geoghegan, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, 2014. Shane has undertaken several artist residencies and been commissioned for civic sculpture in Australia and New Zealand.