As a person, I am often overwhelmed by the prospect of communication. As an artist I am always overwhelmed by it, and that failure takes form through my practice. Failure is an implication in my work. It is a failure that runs through me and the absurdity of making at all. A making that occurs out of compulsion rather than intuition, and guessing instead of improvisation. I re-present things we recognize and already know. Each individual piece, and my practice in general is a collection of broken threads—statements that fracture under the weight of expectation. They are only explicitly what they are, but they can be acknowledged or dismissed by way of systems of understanding. Systems that presuppose the works are puzzles to be solved or a network of signifiers that connote in relation to one another. For example, I could make an argument that tie-dying a t-shirt with the exhaust pipe from my car is a statement about the failure and hypocrisy of progressive movements and the people who enact them. This is valid, but I do not want to lose sight that these two things: a car exhaust and a t-shirt exist at all, and that they could somehow -- without any regard for intent -- be anything more than that. Their location as a catalyst for any type of meaning is as ridiculous as their ability or inability to effect change. Art is a place of “impossible communication” – which is something that takes place outside of intent.; it is a vehicle for empathy and understanding which does not necessarily offer either. it is also a place for misunderstanding that draws us together in a shared experience of pretending, and is a microcosm of our lives at large. I would like to situate my work as an acknowledgement of this “impossible communication”.
I vacillate between wanting to say something meaningful and recognizing that the components of any such “statement” are ridiculous: Cubes of crushed cans are arranged to be a rough table. Issei Sagawa – the free Japanese cannibal and pseudo-celebrity -- is portrayed on pieces of pizza. Ceramic squash are bolted to a 100 dollar bill entry-door-carpet. A towel warmer is covered in dried terra-cotta clay next to a handmade gravity fed IV that is dripping water into a pot of boiling ramen. The world has made these combinations available to me. They are fatalistic and absurd. And are also the products of things that are both within and outside of my control. They sit blatantly wherever they may be no matter their context. I make decisions about their organization as an attempt at understanding them but find their resistance to meaning powerful.
For instance Issei Sagawa is a man of violence, one who is at the limit of society. He murdered and ate a woman in the 1980’s and never went to jail for it due to a legal loophole between French and Japanese law. Despite, in fact because of, his atrocious acts he enjoyed a life of cult celebrity in Japan—staring in porn films, writing novels about his crime, interviewing for popular publications, etc. His lived reality exists at a limit of our ability to truly empathize with or comprehend. To address him is to point to the impossible. He is both human and inhuman. He exists so close to the edge of our understanding of ourselves that we must deny him; but in doing so we risk losing touch with a truth about ourselves. This impossibility: to either accept or reject Sagawa is absurd— burning his portrait into a piece of pizza is an acknowledgement of this. In doing so Sagawa becomes signified through a punchline about cannibalism; we cannot understand him so we joke instead. In my work the joke and the one-liner become vessels for the irreconcilable.
Jerry Springer relates in some ways to Sagawa. The show takes us to another kind of limit through the contradictions between (within?) the content and format. It was a talk show hosted by the former mayor of Cincinnati Ohio. It operated under the guise of a platform for public discourse on personal issues that will lead to healing or a resolution. It is a guise we aren’t meant to believe though. The real reason the show existed is for an audience to laugh at and criticize people who, for whatever reason, decided to take part in it. Springer is a spectacle, and the line between what is genuine, what is staged, and what is a mixture of both becomes blurred. The blurred line along with the fact that participants volunteer allow the audience to laugh at and shame others in public, for their own amusement, without guilt. The laughter of Jerry Springer is cruel, totally human, and seems allowed due to a displacement of responsibility. The reality of the show is always suspended in disbelief because it is hard to imagine why anybody would subject themselves to it. The laughter of Jerry Springer is self aware as well. We laugh because it exists at all, never mind the particulars of people’s lives. The show begs the question: Is belittlement and laughter our more natural inclination when the limits of socially constructed morals are exceeded by disbelief? The answer is probably yes, but that does not negate the power of sincere empathy no matter how we arrive at it. Just like in the show when Jerry shares his final thoughts, which are essentially a lazy mash up of feel good generalizations and his ending catchphrase “Take care of yourselves, and each other” nothing is resolved.