LOTS OF JASONPHUS
The 18th Century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his classic work The world as Will and Representation sought in the world a general principle, a “thing unto-itself”, that underlies all being. This he identified as Will. Unlike previous conceptions of the idea of Will, Schopenhauer conceived of the will as being devoid of intellect and rationality – the Will was a basic instinctual drive that manifested itself in a variety of manners and not all were reasonable. Representation refers to appearance, the outward and the external. Will is that which motivates us, it is internal and subjective.
Enter Jason Phu. Jason Phu’s exhibition/performance Lots of jasonphus at Archive_ artist run initiative, when looked at superficially is a simple play on ideas of race, particularly the ongoing dialogue, (or more truthfully, monologue) surrounding multicultural Australia, specifically the deadweight idea of the ‘yellow peril’ (see Pauline Hanson et al.).
Scratch the surface and what becomes apparent in this Dada performance is that Jason is heavily influenced by the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer – there is a certain sense of pessimistic lunacy in the performance. Schopenhauer saw the world as will and representation. Lots of jasonphus was an investigation of this duality of will and representation. As the participants stepped into the gallery space they assumed a jasonphu wig and a jasonphu set of glasses, along with a prearranged jasonphu jacket and trousers. A set of instructions awaited explaining the nature of being jasonphu, and the routine utterances of jasonphu, which, for such a delving philosophical enquiry, consisted of crass phrases such as ‘fuck that shit’ and ‘shut-up poo head’. So, with as much as a gallery patron can absorb in a short period of time, they became jasonphu and with the addition of cheap beer, sought to enact, as true as possible, the will of jasonphu: Did it work? No. Not even with the addition of the ‘subjective-view-cam’ strapped to the authentic jasonphu’s head, watchable from a corner of the gallery.
The investigation was always to be an ultimately futile task. Schopenhauer wrote that the world is an expression of the Will in gradations of complexity, that the will perhaps resides in the manifestation of jason’s hair, the manifestation of his mannerisms and phraseology. The gallery patrons had captured the representation of jasonphu, judging by the photos. But the Will? Close, but no cigar ‑ the most ample illustration of the divergent wills was the Wall of Jasonphus. Here, pinned to the gallery wall were illustrations of jasonphus by jasonphus (read: gallery patrons by other gallery patrons). You need only look at the huge variation of these to get a sense that the subjective nature of the Will had thwarted all.
Schopenhauer spoke of Will and Representation as best thought of as a coin: as one and the same thing, but one side is the force and one side is the manifestation of the force, neither causes the other but they are the same entity. The dressing as jasonphu didn’t allow jasonphu’s will to manifest within us. The investigation was deemed meaningless and frustrated – exactly what Schopenhauer would say of life.
David Greenhalgh 19/08/13