Deadpan is inspired by a scene from Buster Keaton's 1928 slapstick film Steamboat Bill, Jr., in which the eponymous character stands in front of a dilapidated house as its facade crashes down around him. Bill's luck and evident naiveté place him in a spot where an open window hits the ground, thus leaving him unscathed amid dust and debris. In McQueen's remake the artist casts himself in the starring role, but unlike Keaton, who is a small man in a large landscape, the artist appears imposing in scale throughout a sequence of shots that capture the same action from different angles. While Keaton bolts from the scene after a comical delayed reaction, McQueen remains standing stoically in the wreckage, unflinching in the face of near disaster.
Gallery label from Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, November 17, 2011-February 17, 2014.