Coined in the era of the digital natives almost a decade ago, the format of a ‘haul’ has become a catchy media term for private, home-made videos produced for online circulation, typically by ‘haul girls’ or vloggers showing off their newly-purchased accessories. Recording themselves by webcam inside their private homes, haul girls aimed to provide instant instructions for the use of consumer. The pretended authenticity of the message appears to contrast starkly with traditional promotional media.
As it happens, the setting in Panhans’ The Haul (hello everybody) conforms to this genre: the scene is unmistakably set in a private kitchen, thus delimiting the urban household that the viewer is being introduced to. Up to this point the perspective of the camera moves between the fridge and the door, before uneasily following the speaker-protagonist: a fashionably bare-footed woman. Her interjections also flow in the typical language of a haul-vlogger, continuously stating her preferences and recommendations alike.However, instead of being exalted by the appreciated items, something strange happens.
Panhans’ appropriation of the haul video format is reminiscent of the 1970s’ feminist representational critique, questioning conventional narratives of domestic life. One is reminded of Martha Rosler’s legendary video work Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), which features the artist wearing an apron, presenting a series of common kitchen utensils and parodying their use in a Brechtian estrangement effect. Or, recall Chantal Akerman’s short movie Saute ma Ville (1968), in which a young woman – also played by the artist herself – enters a kitchen and starts behaving more and more strangely until eventually letting the scene blow up. Yet, whereas Panhans applies a similar strategy of estrangement as the filmmakers informed by feminism, he reroutes the genre of the currently circulating haul videos via the dysfunctional monologue (a script?) of the protagonist (an actress)?
Highlighting an ideology of instant consumption, Panhans’ work is informed by what Kerstin Stakemeier and Marina Vishmidt recently called the “reconstruction of autonomy from an expanded understanding of reproduction”. Still, Panhans’ subjective, well domesticated camera work performs a distancing effect instead of the haul-associated immediacy. The artist not only appropriates but also exposes the personalizing logic of global consumer capitalism by leading its very characteristics – through the contrived setting, irritating camera perspective and the affect-driven monologue – ad absurdum. – Elena Zanichelli
Stefan Panhans (b. 1967 born in Hattingen, Germany) studied communication design at the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart and fine arts at HfBK, Hamburg. Panhans lives and works in Hamburg, Berlin and elsewhere.
His solo shows include Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Villa Merkel – Galerien der Stadt Esslingen, Kunsthaus Graz, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Kunsthalle Mainz, Shedhalle Zürich
Stefan Panhans’ web site: www.stefanpanhans.com