Dane Mitchell’s work regularly asks us to check our convictions, in serious tones and without a comic guide to cue our response. Convictions are not just those things we hold dear, the clarity of right and wrong, but the sense of occasion for which a bronze plaque offers a memorial.
These plaques are well positioned in the outdoors. They use the visual language of authority (bronze cast) to address in the language of public speech (commemoration) an occasion worthy of our attention (public atrocity or good deed). Only in this instance Mitchell’s plaques commemorate an event that sounds suspiciously like the trailer of a B movie or Mills & Boone romance – ‘maligned intent’, ‘irreconcilable difference’, ‘shattered dreams’ or ‘abandoned hope’. But according to the conventions of their form a casual visitor may contemplate the possibility of an actual event, and why not a shattered dream for that matter. Somehow Mitchell’s plaques open up the possibility for a myriad of human interactions, dramas and loss of a less public kind, now invisible to the human eye but palpable within the landscape. This is Dane Mitchell at his best, the proverbial trickster who forces us to stare at a plot of grass and reimagine it as a site of interpersonal crisis.
Like much of his work, this series of plaques relies upon the language of reason to redirect viewers to an unknown possibility, while the very introduction of this possibility in turn destabilises its originating authority and reason. Set in the landscape in the terrain of public sculpture, and its heritage of commemorated, sanctioned and civic-minded art, Mitchell’s work also tackles the pursuit of earnestly collective and agreed-upon aesthetics of public art. His work acknowledges that being disagreeable in public art is also rare and unruly, especially with limited means. But the better for it, these bronze plaques are careful not to make a fuss of art’s flamboyant risk-taking, instead they remind of the subtle reinventions of the mind, which gave rise to all forms of adventure.