23 5/8 x 15 3/4 in.
installation size variable
Portrait as an Escapologist comprises 150 copies of a single photograph in poster form, installed in uniform rows on the gallery wall. This self-portrait shows McQueen constrained by shackles about his neck, wrists and ankles, placing limitations on the pose and representation McQueen is able to execute for the camera. In an interview with Rob Nelson, McQueen identifies the single photograph as a remake of an historical portrait of a Dutch escapologist, taken in 1926.
In Portrait as an Escapologist, McQueen plays the escapologist himself, with visual references to 19th and early 20th Century studio photography as well as Andy Warhol's Double Elvis (1963), echoed in the qualities of filmic repetition, black-and-white reproduction, and analogue print display. Examining portrayals of confinement and the performativity of escapology, McQueen imbues the superficial nature of the escapologist’s struggle with the overtone of racialised violence, using rhythm and repetition to amplify anonymous slave imagery.