Mark Wallinger

Behind You!


Not on display

Mark Wallinger born 1959
Pantomime horse and 2 mannequins
Unconfirmed: 2134 × 1727 × 1016 mm
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Jack Kirkland and allocated to Tate 2018


Behind You! 1993 is a grey theatrical costume horse, such as might be used in pantomime, that is worn on two mannequins positioned to suggest that the two figures making up the front and rear portions of the horse are engaged in an act of sodomy; the rear end of the horse is raised up, its tail stiff, while the head is dipping down. When first exhibited in a solo exhibition at the Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London in 1994, Behind You! was paired with a wall-sized photographic work in which a large crowd of football supporters surge around Wallinger and an associate who hold aloft a Union Jack Flag onto which has been appliqued the artist’s name – ‘Mark Wallinger’. Here, as with much of his work, Wallinger addresses the ways in which identities can be understood as being shaped through social construction. Rather than identify himself with the ritualistic gestures and the tribal nationalism of football supporters who treat patriotism to country and club as indistinguishable, the stance of Wallinger in holding the flag suggests a more nuanced address to the politics of personal and national identity that the photograph’s extended title points to: Mark Wallinger, 31 Hayes Court, Camberwell New Road, London, England, Great Britain, Europe, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy, The Universe 1994. Wallinger proposes that identity is not just socially constructed by who you are or where you were born or live, but is also subject to greater factors.

This grounding in the fluctuation between personal and wider national and cultural identities is further complicated by Behind You!. Based within the particular language of pantomime as a cloak for satirical or critical attitudes, this work wrestles with the ambiguity of masquerade so that, as the historian Jon Thompson has explained, ‘the alterity of reading that it proposes between the homosexual as a subject of popular prejudice, ribald comment and gratuitous verbal abuse and the Pantomime Horse as object of good-natured, even affectionate banter, is another example of Wallinger’s determination to confront the viewer with difficult interpretive tasks’ (Jon Thompson, ‘Doing Battle with Decomposition: The Work of Mark Wallinger 1985–1995’, in Ikon Gallery/Serpentine Gallery 1995, p.15). However, Thompson’s reading is just one aspect of a work that connects with the beginnings of Wallinger’s preoccupation with horse-racing as a subject through which he could address issue of identity and class (especially when he bought, trained and raced a racehorse named A Real Work of Art 1994). For example, a painting such as Half-Brother (Exit to Nowhere – Machiavellian) 1994–5 (Tate T07038), in which the front of one horse is paired with the back view of another horse (both of whom share the same broodmare), suggests that the purity of bloodline – inbred and manufactured – can also be as absurdist as the appearance of a pantomime horse. The third element of Wallinger’s exhibition at Anthony Reynolds in 1994 was a large black and white photograph, titled The Full English, depicting Behind You! positioned so that the act of sodomy takes place within a dispiriting urban landscape, underpinning, according to Martin Herbert, ‘the whole of Wallinger’s horse-racing-related work as an expansive, Hogarthian, panoramic burlesque of society as a whole’ (Herbert 2011, p.69).

Further reading
Mark Wallinger, exhibition catalogue, Ikon Gallery Birmingham / Serpentine Gallery London 1995, illustrated.
Martin Herbert, Mark Wallinger, London 2011, illustrated.
Sally O’Reilly, Mark Wallinger, London 2015, illustrated.

Andrew Wilson
July 2016

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