The splatter dance of Smac McCreanor

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Splay, squash, splash, shatter… Smac McCreanor’s twisted replications of objects breaking under pressure are comic, relatable – and addictive

A ‘hydraulic press’ compilation by Smac McCreanor

I was introduced to Smac McCreanor’s videos randomly, as I was scrolling aimlessly while on hold for a telephone appointment. It was an instant, pleasant distraction, a genuinely funny if not awkward study on the human form and its disfigurement. McCreanor is an Australian performer, comedian, actress and content creator – the last, I believe, exemplifies her unique signature style on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Her Hydraulic Press videodance series is inspired by the sort of weird video-fix one finds online, a mise-en-abyme that swallows you into the abyss of digital paraphernalia. The videos are presented in split-screen, one side showing a hydraulic press crushing various objects (there’s even a YouTube channel for the freaks of this kind), the other with McCreanor performing a parallel outburst of sudden, irrational and uncontrolled movements, or what I call ‘splatter dance’.

But how does the breaking point become material for dance movement? Applying it, metaphorically, to the human body means trying to replicate the distorted forms of the crushed objects, creating an embodied ‘equivalent’ to the image and plasticity of materials. This revisioning of human physicality and bodily creativity isn’t a fetishist celebration of a body imploding under the pressure of the machine – a tangible fear so often connected with modernity and industrialisation. Instead of a battle between man and machine, this is rather a queer study on human shape and unity, how it can be estranged and reconfigured, playfully manipulated and comically re-examined. Whether introducing a toilet brush, a pile of cream-stuffed chocolates, a grinder or a lemon, a unicorn ornament, a frame, a handful of crisps, a bicycle wheel or other objets trouvés placed and crushed under the hydraulic press, her movement material becomes a study of pataphysics – the term Alfred Jarry invented to play with conventional concepts and the megalomaniac ambition of science to interpret reality.

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Just as her limbs release the kind of motoric energy as if caused by the hydraulic pressure, we release an uncontrolled burst of laughter

Blue Quote Mark

McCreanor creates a paradox: her out-of-joint positions and splayed limbs, her intelligible fluid corporeality in this type of ‘splatter dance’, is visually amusing because it is devoid of any psychological depth. It is rather this ‘shallowness’ that allows humour to expel, the visual analogy to the object that makes the body matter in a different way. The simultaneous projection of object/body, reframing the materiality of the body according to the materials of the object, is further explored through a theatrical element to highlight the object’s ‘personality’. Sometimes McCreanor wears a hat, her clothes matching the objects’ colour; more rarely, a scarf is thrown in air as if she were spilling out her guts (the closest she gets to expressing something ‘deeper’). The juxtaposition is evident and the effect is more than satisfying: just as her limbs release the kind of motoric energy as if caused by the hydraulic pressure, we release an uncontrolled burst of laughter, if not an uncontrolled desire to watch the video over and over again.


Reply to @layzee_bonez say no more #hydraulicpress #hydraulicdance diets with @hpc_official #fyp #oddlysatisfying

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Also, given the historical frame in which most of her videos are made, I couldn’t resist noticing that her approach to the stultifying effect of the pandemic and its restrictions – her own embodied experience and dealing with something that still registers variously in our bodies – could also be seen like a daily comic strip. Her outward physicality often ‘describes’ and recalls some of the emotional states in which I found myself during the pandemic: bend like metal, crack like glass, break like plastic, splash like liquid, melt like chocolate – and though hers is a funnier approach than my dramatic reading, I realise that I can also relate emotionally to her kinetic impulsivity, to the polymorphic perversity with which she exposes her own body. McCreanor’s is a work of ‘extimacy’ – a combination of exteriority and intimacy – articulated in a delicate sense of humour that registers sensorially and deeply, almost effortlessly, in our bodies. Read the viewers’ comments, and you’ll agree that it is the work of a true comedian who masterfully combines pleasure with artistic creativity. 

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