The US President Theodore Roosevelt famously said that politicians on the world stage should 'speak softly and carry a big stick'. And on the evidence of this photo, you might think that Sean Duxfield, whose arm this is, has decided to follow Teddy's advice in committing his duties as Exhibitions and Collections team leader. 'Problem? Talk to the bat.'
Well, that would make a good story. But the bat's in the house for much saner reasons. Over the past year or so, Shane Cotton has been painting on bats like this one. Ten of these word-wrapped, densely patterned objects will soon be hung in Shane's Christchurch Art Gallery / Institute of Modern Art touring show in Brisbane. He sent us this one down so Sean could measure it up and construct a set of customised hangers.
Baseball bats are loaded objects at any time. When you see one lying around, it's hard not to want to hold and heft it. And when you encounter someone else carrying one, it's hard not to start feeling nervous. As anyone will know who saw bats like the ones below in Shane's show at Hamish McKay Gallery in 2011, something especially strange happens to the bats when they're embellished and delicately suspended in a gallery setting.
While losing none of their associations with American baseball (and Shane is a fully subscribed fan), they start to suggest objects with some other, ambiguous, perhaps ritualised and probably aggressive purpose – speaking sticks, fetishes, trophies, persuaders. If someone spoke softly to you with one of these in their hands, you'd certainly want to listen.