- Purchased by the Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery, 2007
- Mixed media
- 1600 x 700 x 500mm
It’s always a mistake to look at an autobiographical work and assume the artist is speaking directly about the events of his or her own life. For the past couple of decades, Ronnie van Hout has used his own likeness, and sometimes his childhood memories of growing up in the Christchurch suburb of Aranui, as the starting point for his work. The figures are him, but they’re not him. “It’s a form of acting, a kind of masking”, he’s said. “I’m interested in childhood and revisiting sites of the past. It’s very hard to go back. But in the visual arts, things stand for things; they’re not the actual things, they’re just in place of. You’re pointing to something that points to something else.”
Ersatz is a German word meaning stand-in or replacement. It’s typically used to refer to something that’s of inferior quality than the original. Ersatz coffee, for example, is something that isn’t coffee at all. Ersatz (Sick Child) is one of a number of ‘sick children’ that van Hout has made in his own likeness. Each wears boy-sized pyjamas but has the head and hands (and in this one’s case, also the grubby feet) of a full-grown man. He leans precariously against the wall on two legs of a chair, as if eavesdropping on adults in another room. The silence is filled with his own whiny voice emanating from the speech bubble-shaped speaker above him, as if his need to be noticed were drowning out even his own thoughts: “Look at me. Listen to me. Pay me. Pay me your attention.” Works of art always demand your attention, but this one has the temerity to say it out loud.
(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)