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 webcams inside their private homes, haul girls aim to provide instant instructions for the use of consumers. The pretended authenticity of the message appears to contrast starkly with traditional promotional media.

As it happens, the setting in Panhans' The Haul 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

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The Haul (hello everybody)
Stefan Panhans
2016
10/40+10
1 channel video, color video, stereo audio
1920px x 1080px, 6'00"