Stocked with found objects and photographs, a series of galvanised steel vitrines by Los Angeles-based Skylar Haskard captures the chaotic yet compelling experience of the “doom-scroll.”

The image of a dog slumped across a sofa. Tucked between her legs: a still, once-whooshing black tail. Maybe two bright flash burns in her eyes. There’s a laptop in front of her. Paw placed over the trackpad. The caption reads:

Bitches be Bingeing

There’s a sheepish look on her face.

It was posted by @skylarhaskard in November 2022, 64 weeks ago. I recognise the irony. When I was asked to write about Skylar Haskard, I experienced the same unease and doubt I’ve always had in starting something new, and understood that before long I’d be folded over the dim light of my phone, clutching at the flickering images moving across my eyes.

@skylarhaskard Instagram post. 9 November 2022

Fast forward nine weeks to January 2023 and Haskard is opening his solo exhibition Rickle Works at Sebastian Gladstone in Los Angeles, California.

Haskard’s Body Object (2022) series awaits us inside. Standing tall in the middle of the room, four loosely piled heaps of crafted and repurposed chairs bedazzled with pink plastic flowers, ping pong balls, bicycle handle grips, you name it, thrive in their complete lack of functionality. In Body Object V (2022) a series of bentwood ribs are fused to a gaming chair, stripping it of its utility. Even if someone found their way into the seat, the hanging cradle would require them to be cut loose. Their deaths declare both a desperation to escape practicality and a desire to remain performative.

BODY OBJECT V, 2022, found chair parts, chain, egg chair stand, Indian ink, dimensions variable

Accompanying this arrangement at the Chinatown gallery, a series of fabricated steel vitrines stocked with found objects and photographs adorn the gallery walls. These vertical troughs become stages for kitschy dioramas reminiscent of early internet interfaces, ushering in the techno-optimism belonging to the early 2000s, the golden age before the techpocalypse, or perhaps, I can’t help but suggest, modern-day Instagram feeds – worlds connected by vast digital networks that offer endless opportunities for communication and growth? I want to believe in our instinct to perform and to capture as an enabler of practical navigation, but it seems improbable.

Experiencing Haskard’s fabricated dioramas feels like a rollercoaster ride: the artist himself, we are told, acknowledges that all of his works are always in- process and chimeric.

Take, for instance, Untitled, (Know Your Limits) (2022), a rectangular wall work containing C-type prints and thumbs up cable grips, one of seven “interfaces” on show that contextualise Haskard’s practice at large. The vignette confronts the experience of the “doom-scroll”: highly staged and intricate photographs combined with seemingly random found imagery floating across the eyes, unintelligible and chaotic yet easy to aestheticize. Walter Benjamin would recognise the spectacle in the snapshots: together they permit the masses to express themselves without seeing their rights recognised, or labour realised.

UNTITLED, (KNOW YOUR LIMITS), 2022, galvanized sheet metal, plexiglass, C-typeprints, magnets, beads, thumbs up cable grips, 32"H x 19"W x 2 5/8"D

Recently, I read a book that galvanised this idea. Isobel Harbison presented Performing Image in 2019, via the MIT Press, examining our changing relation to images in the internet era, since the advent of smart phones and the spread of online prosumerism – the idea that online viewing habits and information appetites constitute a new kind of labour in the ideological context of neoliberalism. She expressed concern about finding the right language for how images are experienced and for how images shape experience, but then went on to break through in a goliath way, offering close analyses of works by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, Mark Leckey, Wu Tsang, and Martine Syms.

A few years ago, Harbison wrote: ‘I am concerned by how, now, with the rise of “DIY” image platforms and technologically developed means of image capture and circulation, this unregulated, all-encompassing image performativity exerts itself relentlessly, spiraling Benjaminian urges into real image addictions, and putting us to work for free in the service of global corporate expansion in an unprecedented colonization of personal information and visual material, the consequences of which we are yet to fully know but must now begin to imagine.’

Harbison is interested in how these artists probe, dramatise, and disturb the activity of prosumerism, spurred by her own unresolved relationship with social media and further compounded by political events at the time of writing (i.e. Trump, Brexit) which completely undermine the project of intellectual and legislative decolonisation.

While the collective prognosis is not that prosumerism be damned, ‘[in] such a crisis,’ Harbison concedes, ‘finding new modes of communication, collectivization, and self-representation, or rectifying those from neoliberal control, has never seemed so vital.’

I have the feeling that Haskard is sympathetic to this idea. Swimming in the chaos of his troughs, I get the nauseating feeling that sits in the bottom of the throat.

He acknowledges the system of exploitation in which the neoliberal model is built:

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

reads the plastic lettered beads pinned to Untitled,

(Know Your Limits) (2022).

But also seeks to participate in this form of communication, participation, profit, and pleasure- seeking:

UNFUCKWITHABLE spells another.

UNTITLED, (UNFUCKWITHABLE), 2022, galvanized sheet metal, plexiglass, C-typeprint, magnets, beads, thumbs up cable grips, silicone cable ties, 32"H x 19"