Adam Stone, 'Low Hanging Fruit', Bus Projects

Adam Stone, 'Low Hanging Fruit', Bus Projects

‘The major sporting star is a stranger who is paradoxically part of daily life, a key myth, a symbol…reified by capitalist, sexual and cultural processes that fabricate personal qualities and social signs as resources for commerce, art and fantasy. Athletes are perfect celebrities.’[1]

Adam Stone’s practice takes the subjects of sport, hubris, and lowbrow culture. In Low Hanging Fruit these themes are indicated in the fallen sport star Lance Armstrong, represented in a sculpture and installation that interweaves cultural dialogue with an acerbic post pop sensibility. 

Armstrong’s chronicle is indicative of a hypermodern era where previously distinct genre’s collude, intertwine and convulse: sport becomes entertainment, entertainment – in particular reality TV – an updated gladiator sport.  His early career was noted for the ‘triumph over adversity’ trope having overcome testicular cancer, a struggle that he claimed aided his skill and tenacity for professional cycling. However, he was later charged with using performance-enhancing drugs and in was striped of his Tour de France titles. Like other sport celebrities, this was played out through the tabloid and news channels including admittance to the charges on Oprah.

The rise and fall celebrity narrative is evident in social and global life as well as sports and entertainment. An ongoing concern in Stone’s work is the notion of ‘hubris’ seen in the young male who pushes too far in sport, influenced by his time as a BMX rider. Reckless behaviour is also the hallmark of contemporary screw-ups of global and enduring devastating effect. The financial crisis and global warming are driven by a human rooted compulsion and excessive drive; they are Icarusian sagas without the lyrical romance.  As such Armstrong is a contemporary archetype of human folly symptomatic of everyday narratives and global actions.

In this exhibition Armstrong is denoted in the form of a bronze casting of a half peeled banana in which a skull has been carved. Yellow and garish with a glossy slickness it sits upon the gallery pedestal of the plinth, a surreal gesture. Banana Art is a lowbrow Internet subculture where practitioners work against the temporary nature of the material, and document their efforts online. Here, the bronze sculpture, weighted by art history as well as its sheer physicality, is in contrast to ephemeral banana carving. The work therefore acts as an absurd monument to Armstrong, a simulacra pastiche of art-historical milieu with a post-internet nod.

Counterfeit Armstrong bands, sold to raise funds for his Lance Armstrong Foundation and aid cancer survivors, are linked together and strung through the gallery like celebratory bunting. This aspect of his story was his ultimate betrayal – as a former fan and cancer survivor stated:

‘he raised a lot of awareness and money for cancer… unfortunately, he undid everything, in many ways, by his sociopathic need to bully, win, play mind games, and he used cancer as a cloak to cover his sins.’[2]  

These bracelets also mark the convergence of celebrity and, although cynical to say, tokenistic charity. Their popularity as counterfeit indicates the bracelets function as quasi fashion statement and badge of fandom for Armstrong. They thereby speak of an armchair activism indicative of the Internet era where social media ‘likes’ constitutes a politically active citizen.

Stone borrows visual language from disparate sources – the bronze sculpture, popular sport culture, and Internet subcultures – and embeds these narratives into sculptural objects and installation. His artwork could be seen as acting like the social signs of the celebrity sport star: alluding to the spectators engaged fandom, and the hubris actions of the individual and collective. Through its temporary and permanent elements, this exhibition contains the contradictions of hero worship, and human drive in a capitalist era.

 

[1]  Miller, T. (2013) ‘Exposing Celebrity Sports’, in Lawrence A. Wenner, (ed.) Fallen Sports Heroes, Media, and Celebrity Culture (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2013), 18

[2] Quoted in Landau, E. (2013) ‘Cancer survivors: Mixed feelings on Armstrong’, CNN, January 18th, online at: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/18/health/lance-armstrong-cancer-survivors/. Accessed 13 February 2016