lan Haig investigates alternate visions of the everyday, combining popular culture influences with an uncanny understanding of the absurd. Much of Haig's work focuses on the internal mechanics of the human body, exploring themes of transformation and a variety of psychopathological states. Haig realises this through the investigation of ideas of attraction and repulsion involving flesh, fluids and bodily functions. Both playful and provoking, Haig's works offer astute critiques of the societal discomfort surrounding the less palatable realities of the human condition - namely, ageing, death and disease
- through the frame of the messiest elements of our biology.
Some Thing 2011 is the latest addition to Haig's body-obsessed oeuvre. An abject mass of moving gristle and bone, the robotic sculpture draws on the prosthetic aesthetic of B-grade 'body horror' films of the 1970s and 1980s. Presented on a white table, inspired by a morgue, the work's raw clutch of exposed viscera is an unsettling amalgam of gestation, mutation and consciousness; it is an ambiguous form caught in a tenuous struggle between life and death. The shape twitches, jerks and pulsates, its gentle breathing both compelling and monstrous, drawing us into the corporeal drama. Haig states:
Some Thing represents the unclassifiable body, a body that slips out of the comfortable category of what we think of as human. In an attempt to describe accurately what this pulsating mass of melted flesh and guts actually is, the title Some Thing seems like an appropriate starting point. It is a body that was possibly once human and is now on its way to being something else, transformed into another thing. Then again this thing could be sub human or post human. We can't quite be sure.!
The concept of the body in a state of transmutation is central to Some Thing. Haig cites the works of writer William S Burroughs, in particular his third novel, Naked Lunch 1959, and the body horror films of director David Cronenberg as key influences. Described by the artist as 'a creature without a species', Some Thing gives form to Burroughs's hallucinatory descriptions of flesh liquefying, transforming and consuming itself in gestation. This
'unidentified tissue', in Burroughs's words, summarises an entity in flux, an aberration of flesh, guts and cartilage, no longer human, while Cronenberg refers to 'the body dissolving boundaries between inside and out, self and other, and the living and the dead!?
Cronenberg defines these profoundly visceral and grotesque aberrations as 'new flesh'. Recalling a line of dialogue from Videodrome 1983 (Long live the new flesh'), Some Thing encapsulates the mutability of flesh as it merges with both physical and biological technologies, demonstrating Cronenbergs fascination with the breakdown and reforming of molecular structures. As illustrated in the ill-fated transportation of matter from one teleportation device to another in Cronenberg's The Fly 1986, Some Thing literally peels back the layers of skin, muscle and tissue, exposing a mass of vulnerable, twisted remains to the world. As Haig says:
Some Thing not only takes its visceral aesthetic from the horror movie but one also expects to see such a gory prosthetic and pulsating bodily form within the world of a movie and not the real world, i.e., John Carpenter's The Thing or Stuart Gordon's Re-animator. The illusionary world of film fuses here with the real in the uncanny material of a strange cinematic object. The telepod of cinema delivering the work into the real world, cinema made flesh.
Some Thing is the embodiment of these horrors; it externalises our fears of a body irrevocably changed. Drawn from cinematic roots, Some Thing's simulation of organic reality encourages us to contemplate our bodies and our selves, lending the structure a sympathetic resonance. Caught between gestation and demise, Some Thing lies in suspended animation, its place in the life cycle uncertain. From time to time, it twitches to life, pulsing and breathing, waiting for the next step on its evolutionary path.
Accompanied by a scratchy, percussive soundtrack by PH2 (Philip Brophy and Philip Samartzis), lan Haig's Some Thing is a powerful and confronting sensory experience.
1 lan Haig, 'Dr Benway, from Burroughs to Cronenberg: Notes on the work Some Thing, 21c Magazine: The Future is Here, <>,
viewed 1 May 2012.
2 Chris Rodley (ed.). Cronenberg on Cronenberg, Faber and Faber, London, 1997, p.80.
3 Haig.
Haig's flagrantly meaty work puts into physical form a key tenet of low-budget, body horror films, namely the depiction of an aberrant growth, accentuating the distinction between the world as we understand it and an abstracted reality. These themes are metaphors for the fundamental human fears of ageing, sickness and mortality. They reflect a fascination with our own flesh and make visible our unconscious horror of the fear that we carry the biological seeds of our own destruction within our own

Back to Top