I use my paintings, drawing, and sculptures to look at how technologies at every age of human civilization exert control, loudly or subtly, over human choices. As inventors, we assume a nonreciprocal relationship of control over our technologies. Taking the camera as an example, we sometimes mistakenly believe that photography frames our memories and experiences in a pure medium; however, the camera’s mechanical limits create products of finite possibilities, altering our relationship with our memories and channeling our experience with the world. If this is the case for something like photography, can the same be said about Drawing? About Painting? In fact, all technologies we create, having their own built-in limits and functions, channel our experiences, guide our interactions, and to varying degrees alter our thoughts and even beliefs.
My most recent body of drawings and paintings, titled ‘Annihilation Game’, grew out of my research into conspiracy theories propagated through online message boards. In these constantly evolving conspiracies, I saw kernels of truth, real places and people, translated through filters of misunderstanding, misinformation, and often outright deception.
Here are some quick examples: In one cluster of online message boards, speeches by the president are interpreted to contain secret messages to hoard Iraqi currency with the understanding that the president will take actions to ‘revalue’ the currently week Iraqi Dinar in order to make his supporters very wealthy. In other message boards some of the adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory posit that prominent Democrats eat children and drink their blood—their book about it is an Amazon Bestseller. Still another conspiracy theory holds that the stolen emails of politicians posted on wikileaks are riddled with secret codewords used to discuss a “satanic cabal of elites” who traffic an international ring of child sex-slaves out of the basement of a real Washington DC pizza shop. The beleaguered pizza shop, which has no basement, has been shot up with an assault rifle by someone trying to ‘free the children’, and more recently, set on fire by an arsonist.
For this set of diptychs, I’ve been looking at the ways in which these online message boards use rhizome-like threadings of fictions and lies, intentionally inaccurate translations, a faith that secret codes and messages abound, and a type of weaponized mistrust, to build these online communities of conspiracy. Not wanting to grant authority to, or reinforce any of the imagery, memes, and visual currency of the conspiracy theorists, I chose to couple the immediacy of painted gestural abstraction —which is itself an honest record of the event of the painting process—with painstaking, deceptive translations of those records into black and white graphite drawings that have been subtly altered. The drawings relate to the paintings as a dark reflection, a convincing, yet fictional retelling of a true story.
Paintings and drawings on this site have been exhibited in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago and Miami.
—Scott R Horsley, 2019—