“Welcome to the carnival”, the cartoon face seems to exclaim as he observes our arrival into a world of marvel and make-believe. His laughter is dark and ominous, his task to take us out of our comfort zone for a brief awakening. After the initial shock resides, a wonder begins to stir in us and the new world is born. This is the role of the trickster, a mythical archetype that can be seen in the coyote of Native American mythology and the Quinkins in Aboriginal Dreamtime.
As they turn a world of appearances on its head only to return it to its original form, anamorphic artefacts function much like the trickster, playing a devilish role with scientific principles of perspective. Illustrations portraying ladies and gentlemen of the upper classes, dressed respectfully in waistcoats and corsets, assume a frightening appearance as their likeness distorts into delirious patterns and unrecognisable shapes.
Twisting and turning like the reflections of a fun house mirror, Trick or Treat shares a common theme with folk festivities of the carnival. Originating in medieval times, the carnival evolved as a subversive strategy to mock authority figures and temporarily disrupt existing social hierarchies, with carnival performers using vulgar language, abject content and hyperbole in their imitations of royalty, aristocracy and the church. Likewise, Haig’s Trick or Treat creates a fictitious world that presents the ‘real’ world of official order and ideology in a grotesquely exaggerated way.
With his Duchamp-like arsenal of toilet bowls, abject references, and his quirky taste for amateur aesthetics, Haig readily takes on the archetypal role of trickster. His purpose is to provoke as much as to entertain. One of the essential aspects of this figure is the ability to disclose the unvarnished truth under false claims and arbitrary ranks. With his playful defiance of the intellectual highbrow, Ian Haig targets both those who venerate technology as a remarkable new frontier and those who charge it with crimes of a dystopian dimension. So, rather than be spoofed by its artifice, we are entertained by its devilish ways.
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