Artfag No. 10 (October 2005)
Daryl Vocat, A Boy's Will (Launch)
September 24, 2005 

We have always taken a particular interest in Daryl Vocat. Aside from the fact that his name is among those mentioned as one of those who might be behind our little endeavour, his continuing interest in boy’s-own culture and boy’s-own stories is of some fascination, as his interpretive glance is always accompanied by a roll of the eyes and a snicker or two. These totems of nascent masculinity form a leitmotif in Mr. Vocat’s continually expanding oeuvre, and watching them rear their queered heads in one print series after another never ceases to amuse; hence, our presence at Art Metropole for the presentation of another folio of prints devoted to the crashings and bubblings of pubescence, this entry entitled “A Boy’s Will.”

The entrance hall (for lack of a less grandiose-sounding descriptor) is lined on either side with prints: “A Boy’s Will” is displayed opposite the “Scout” series. The “Scout” series opens with a rather officious portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, and a rather contentious homo himself. A darkly shimmering Baden-Powell emerges from an aquatinted haze, looking for all the world like a mound of polished bronze, gazing evenly and purposefully into the distance, a quote of his – “I have had the luck to lead two distinct lives” – floating next to him, written in a child’s scrawl. This is a fitting overture to the rest of the series, as its proud dualism contains the thematic and formal structure of what is to follow. And what is to follow? A suite of pictograms and left-over boy scout manual illustrations, bits of salient text (“Draw a Line to Divide,” “Be Prepared”), and roughly textured photographic imagery (most of it subtly or overtly homoerotic) juxtaposed, superimposed, and altogether wrestling for pictorial dominance.

“A Boy’s Will,” different though it may be in technique (screenprints as opposed to “Scout”’s etchings and drypoints) employs the same visual stratagem: cheekily altered boy scout manual illustrations. The tone is slightly different as well; “Scout” is far more austere, whereas “Boy’s Will” is prankishly lighthearted. It imagines a boy’s society based on mischievous play, of flouting rigid authority, of flying the pirate flag – like an instigation of a world-wide slumber party. The manual illustrations are tweaked to show boys playing with a Ouija board, tattooing each other, taking slingshot aim at passing cars, indulging in a bit of nude massage. This juxtaposition of the institution and delinquency, of societal expectation and personal fantasy, is the double life, not only of Baden-Powell, but of all Arcadian boy’s culture in general. This is the tangle that arises out of institutional boy’s-own culture; all that male-bonding jargon – of shaping rough clay etcetera – processed through the lurid, sweaty uncertainty of pubescent manhood, and resulting in a kind of Spartan code for the junior teen set. It’s precisely that potent, confused mix of rigid militarism, Arcadian innocence and emergent sexuality, laid out page after lovingly rendered page, that gives Mr. Vocat’s prints their depth and resonance. Like an expertly voiced harmony, each of the aforementioned strains are paid their honest homage, and thus, we can trace their parallels, their overlappings, and their occasional tangles.