We All Go Down Together

We All Go Down Together

Scott Waters

From October 3rd to October 25th
Opening October 3rd, 2014 from 6-9pm

If we were to travel back to the beginning of the 1970s, to Omaha, Nebraska, we might find Randolph Jaffe. If we subsequently made our way to the dead letters room of the US Postal Service in that city, we could watch Jaffe reading through a multitude of small, lopsided hills of mail as he slowly begins to piece together a secret world inside America. We also meet William Witt, real estate agent. Voyeur of those to whom he has sold homes, Witt peers through curtains, sidles along garage doors, and hides in shrubbery. But he is also possessed of the completist’s mania for porn. Like Jaffe, Witt seeks glimpses behind the veil: the occasional hand of a fluffer, a too-low boom mike, or that fleeting moment when eye meets camera.

In another story Professor Alice Coombs helps create a void in space. Through the rigours of physics she recognizes that this Lack is also searching, has desires. It accepts the keys and strawberries and cats that are passed into its nothingness, but ignores batter’s helmets, ice axes, and aluminum foil. As Lack plays “hard to perceive,” Alice falls in love with its singularity and is drawn to the possibility of becoming part of its curated universe.

We All Go Down Together is a drawing project centred visually on the intersections of beauty and violence, banality, gravitas, and the sublime. Socially, the project looks at the relationships between isolation and community. This is also a project favouring cumulative, narrative experience over the grand, singular statement.

A magpie methodology: using the Tumblr social network, seemingly disparate photographic images are pulled from the blogs of my followers and those I follow. As these clouds, shipwrecks, straight-edge singers, and taxidermy animals have grown in number, this community of self-harmers, awkward sophomores, shut-ins, and aspiring artists has presented itself as a sort of diffuse zeitgeist, one directly linked to, but suspicious of, modern western culture.

Rendered on paper at a scale equivalent to a tablet or small laptop, these intimate drawings become traces of fleeting visual conversations that might tie together in unexpected ways. There is a straight exchange of extracting/downloading a photo, rendering it in greyscale acrylic ink, and uploading it back onto Tumblr. That is the virtual component; in the physical space of the gallery the body of work will look more like a sprawling family tree of photographically sourced artifacts mapping beauty, theatricality, and the sublime.

Celebrated is the solitary and isolated work of the artist, a type of practice that is being chipped away at in this age of socially geared endeavours: performative and relational practices, flash-mobs, Facebook, and the clamour of crowd-sourced funding. These and many other examples successfully promote the social as preferred. And here I tilt at windmills as I vaunt the beautiful, awkward agnostic hopefulness of the loner and images that might speak of (if not for) them.

Importantly, the titles for the drawings are a sort of exquisite corpse component: excerpts from books, song lyrics, and cinema dialogue are appropriated to form alternate trajectories for considering the visual. When assembled as a whole, these virtual communities, reconstituted images, and extracted quotes all operate to create various networks, or perhaps a Rhizome.

Of course there is a central paradox in sourcing from an online community to critique the ascendance of social art practices. As an artist, community is central. But, also, the joyous genesis practice of sitting at a small table with a piece of paper, ink, and brushes—headphones on and the world shut out—is one that should be lauded and stood up for.

In short, and at the end, We All Go Down Together is my mapping, through contemplative drawing, of a fleeting and amorphous community via the trace images of their desires, aspirations, and fears.