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Christian Haye

Major text by Christian Haye, on Steve McQueen, in arts magazine Frieze, Issue 28 May 1996, pp. 40-43. The cover of the magazine featured a still from McQueen’s film of the previous year, Five Easy Pieces (1995).

In the magazine’s contents page, the feature was listed as ‘MOTION PICTURES: Christian Haye on Steve McQueen’. The article itself was illustrated with a number of stills of McQueen’s work, which had begun to be widely celebrated and press coverage of this type was characterised by a general tone of critical acclaim.  By 1996, McQueen was well on his way to being one of the most important artists to emerge in Britain in the course of the 1990s. His Turner Prize nomination, and indeed, the exhibitions for which he secured his nomination, was still sefveral years off.

From Haye’s text: “Before viewing Stage, I wondered if Bear could be interpreted as a simple process of reclaiming the black nude. Cultural critic Judith Wilson went in search of nudes by 19th century black artists and discovered only three which were not of children too primitive to be clothed. While the construction of a future history is painfully important, it is also bound to be almost callously didactic. Bear avoids this both through its eroticism and by presenting a code of blackness undefined by whiteness. It is in Stage that McQueen poses the question: Do I feel blackest when standing against a sharp white background? Two actors, a black man (McQueen himself) and a white woman (actress Margaret Kinnon) seem to be stalking each other but never meet. Their inquisitive glances could imply that they are pursuing each other, but could also suggest that they are just looking. Much like all theories that have placed race in a binary discourse, it is the viewer whose own subjectivity is called into question. McQueen has an answer for the viewer. Interspersed through Stage are tight close-ups of the artist’s own arse, its hole at the centre of the screens.”

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Article relating to an individual, 1996