"What else is there? Is this enough? What does this mean? Is there a point? Does this end here? Does this make sense?"
JWG presents Make It Make Sense, a virtual exhibition examining the works of 13 artists through the lens of their individual clashes with 2020. An interview with each artist about their life during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed distinctive ways of coping, thinking, and surviving; each work was selected to echo their words.
Painting, drawing, sculpting, collecting, weaving, writing, watching, waiting: these are the tools of sense-making in a senseless time. The handling of these tools forms a disparate rainbow: controlled or flexible, comforting or necessary, careful or inventive, at times surprising and invariably deeply personal. As each work was made under different roofs, so it was made under different pressures, different stresses, different constraints.
Each question answered by the artists illuminated the experiences behind the objects, each conversation engendered a nuanced way of grasping meaning. The methods these 13 artists employ are as unique as fingerprints, but they are all united in their quest to make sense of the world. From ceramics to photography, from the surreal to the corporeal, the media and themes of the collective works are deliberate choices. The choices are complex and varied but all are conduits for a message; the answers to the following questions are complex and varied but all are a conduit for understanding the artist and the art. “How are you, really?” begins each conversation. Before the answers can make sense, there’s other things for us to learn…
How are you, really? Lonely, happy, angry, sad. Uncertain, grateful, excited, broke. Displaced, disturbed, still running wild. Impatient, tired, running on empty. There’s so much time, so little money. There’s cancelled shows, postponed trips; there’s cabin fever, Zoom fatigue. Don’t read the news, avoid society, this is a sea change, this year is cursed. Great time to be a germaphobe, bad time to max out credit cards. Everything’s different, nothing’s changed. Take out a loan then order takeout; wake up from nightmares, wash your hands. Accumulating massive debt, accumulating pet hair on the floor. At least you have a dog, a cat, a studio, at least you haven’t been laid off. You should feel lucky, life is good. It could be worse, there’s people dying. There's secret parties, lovers' trysts, there’s people fighting for their rights. Wear the damn mask, think for yourself, stand up for something, doubt the truth. Consider what your duty is--as artist, human, ally, voter. Go register to vote, go get a COVID test, go for a drive, then everyone go home. Read all the books, listen for helicopters. Go online shopping, pay your bills. Take solo walks, check up on friends, work for twelve hours, drink at night. Quit alcohol to stay in shape, revisit cigarettes to deal with stress. Start therapy, new medication; try yoga, mindful meditation. Stay realistic, don’t lose hope.
This is the moment, monster, angel; a portrait, theory, altar, joke. A poem with no words, a language with no letters. A scream, an action, a complaint. An object, concept, method, feeling. A way to dig up magic, a way to make ends meet. A way to pass the time and keep insanity at bay. It feels like play, it feels like work. It's normal life, it's all fucked up. That’s just the start, that's all it is. What else is there? Is this enough? What does this mean? Is there a point? Does this end here? Does this make sense?
MATT ROSS @MATTHEWADAMROSS