First in a series of three (so far), The Ballad of Randall Carter tells the strange tale of young Charles D. Ward (pictured here), and his boyfriend Randall Carter, who mysteriously vanishes from his Jeep on a country road a cold rainy night in November. These works continue my exploration of fine detail as a means of layering multiple narratives within an image.
Some details follow:
This work was generously supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, to whom I am eternally grateful! Thank you!
(update: these works will be on display throughout august at Nathaniel Hughson Gallery, which is at John and King William in downtown Hamilton. The “opening” will occur during the Art Crawl on August 9th, 7pm-10pm)
In a perfect WordPress world, these would be alongside each other as a two-panel presentation, but I can’t seem to figure that out.
Anyway my friend and colleague Stephanie Vegh asked me to join her in a group exhibition at Nathaniel Hughson Gallery, I believe showing in August of this year, which was fairly last-minute but a fun opportunity nonetheless. I always have a few side-project and prototype ideas running around, and as serendipity may have, a newly “spare” room, so I decided to execute these two works which, originally, were simply stepping stones for other works, but have come into their own independently.
Lacking, at present, a formal statement for these works, I’ll say very little, but narratives of divination, unanticipated trajectories through history and the “monster” that is the forgotten past certainly pervade a lot of my thoughts regarding the work. They are both composites of around 50 images each, so the detail in the final works is quite pristine. They are currently being printed and mounted, hopefully I’ll see the fruits of my efforts sometime next week. I’ll be sure to update when I get specifics on the exhibition itself.
The exhibition proposals are finally going out for this body of work. I seem to function at a snail’s pace these days in developing work, but it actually feels like all the pre-production conceptual crap is up to snuff and I know what I’m going to do. The first work is all but finished, and can be seen in a previous post: https://mattsparling.com/2011/10/31/new-work-the-dismemberment-of-a-shoggoth-the-once-and-future-king/
This is the current state of the “artist statment” for this initial group of works, to which I’m referring as the “Prologue”:
The Once and Future King (Prologue)
Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as makeshift-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these images – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, the gruesome aftermath of a monstrous invasion of a residential garage, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘causes’ of these events seem entirely unknowable to us.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, the characters stand in the moment, posing, perhaps with pride, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come. The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these bizarre, random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.
Staged in lost and unknown locations scattered across rural and suburban Southern Ontario, these stories occupy vague landscapes situated in a nether-space disconnected from recognizable geography, constantly familiar, yet existing anywhere, at any time, and nowhere simultaneously.
I’m starting some of the preliminary technical work (ie; camera angles, feasibility tests, set construction) for a work called “The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)”, although the repetition of “prologue” there bothers me and there’s a third title to a group of works called “The Ballad of Randall Carter” … and then another grouping simply called “Reunion” …. all grouped under The Once and Future King … I am disorganized.
Anyhow, here’s the narrative fragment that’ll accompany the work and serve as a ‘public’ description, and it explains why soon (well, weather permitting), this blog will be inundated with me taking photos of my Jeep from odd angles filled with books:
The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)
On a dark rural road in Ontario, the wine-red Jeep of one Randall Carter is found abandoned, door open, several large stacks of books balanced on the seats. Carefully folded on top of the books was found a military uniform, embroidered with Carter’s name and a series of unidentified insignia. The Jeep was discovered by Carter’s boyfriend, Charles D. Ward, after Carter’s protracted absence prompted Ward to retrace the route to Carter’s residence. Ward claims he found the Jeep by following the sound of music on the radio. The combined weight of the books was found to be 167 lbs, which coincidentally was approximately Carter’s own weight prior to his disappearance.
Abject apologies for the lack of updates here. Also, if my former students of this past semester would like to lend me permission to post some of their work here, drop me an email, you guys were great.
This is a bit random, but How To Be A Retronaut is an easy way to be sucked into a web-blackhole for hours at a time. I came across the above image today, here’s the original post:
He even seems to be holding a fairly modern camera. Amazing.
Yes, there’s a million other explanations, and photoshop works miracles these days, but the world needs more irrational flights of fantasy. Also, neutrinos seem to be getting a lot of speeding tickets these days.
I felt a bit like I was rushing this post, but it being Halloween, it seemed appropriate.
The Dismemberment of a Shoggoth is the first work I’ve executed in a larger series, at present titled The Once and Future King. I would have liked to have had the full artist-statement on the series completed when I posted this image, but it’s still in the works, but meanwhile, here’s a snippet:
Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as working-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While we are privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these events – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, a garage where some monstrous Lovecraftian terror emerged and was summarily dispatched, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘cause’ of these events seems entirely unknowable. The events themselves play across a fictional timeline, punctuated by a system of signifiers drawn from actual reality and historical reference.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, characters stand in the moment, posing, proud, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come. The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these seemingly random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.
Ideally, when complete, the work will be printed around 60″x90″, and funds permitting, on big beautiful lightboxes. I have included some detail shots below to show the level of “readability” present when viewing the work in person, but I’m hesitant to post a full-resolution zoom.it version at present for a variety of reasons.
More props to the Propnomicon for being an essential resource in the creation of various bloods, goo and otherwise disgusting elements for the scene. Also thanks to my buddy Jer who made me a nice tub of gelatinous congealed grossness he whimsically referred to as “thickened water”. And, as always, my brother for posing for me, and my family for tolerating this level of insanity in their own garage.
Happy Halloween everyone!
I’ve had a side-interest in bookbinding for some time now – I’m even planning a large work in which something I bind is featured – but for now, I’m getting practice making little notebooks, and most recently, a journal for my sister, modeled after that of River Song, from Doctor Who, whose own journal resembles the doors of the TARDIS:
River and the Doctor, both time travellers, encounter each other out of sequence – most typically, the Doctor’s future is River’s past. Eventually both keep a journal, and upon meeting, compare notes to figure out “where they are” in each other’s timeline.
This was the first journal I’ve made that I hard-bound, and it turned out fairly well I think, given the need to emulate the distressed quality of the original:
I’ve been using clearance sketchbooks as a source of cheap, good quality paper for these little journals. It seems a little odd buying a sketchbook, removing the spiral binding (thank god for my stack cutter), and then using the paper to sew and rebind new signatures, but I like the hand-binding process a great deal and I can’t seem to find reams of paper of the same quality for that kind of price. I might be insane.
The rest was matte board and quilting fabric and various odd papers and such, with some acrylic paint to finish.
A few of the resources from which I self-taught on the subject:
Hamish MacDonald’s “DIY Book” blog and podcast – covers the complete self-publishing process from novel-writing to bookbinding to distribution. I originally stumbled upon Hamish via his No Media Kings tutorial on a do-it-yourself-book-press.
Ceropegia’s videos on bookbinding – they’re a little out of order (ok, a lot out of order), and the titles require a bit of knowledge of bookbinding language to decipher, but I learned a whole ton watching these vids.
The previously-mentioned-and-constructed work involving the killing room is almost complete, I’ll post something with a bit of an artist statement as soon as it’s finished-finished. The past nine weeks a litter of seven puppies has been destroying any and all time available for serious “work”.