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The Great Enemy of Truth by Elizabeth Alexander with sound by Todd Bowser
January 11, 2019 - June 1, 2019
The Great Enemy of Truth, Elizabeth Alexander in the Main Gallery
Elizabeth Alexander; Crumbs Under My Pillow (detail); Hand cut vintage wallpaper, Tyvek, glue, vinyl flooring, chair, wood; 120” x 120” x 120”; 2018
Elizabeth Alexander; Wrought II (detail); Wallpaper, 2x4s, drywall, joint compound, roofing-tar, insulation foam, and other media; 48” x 120” x 36”; 2014
The Great Enemy of Truth
The Great Enemy of Truth comes from a speech made at Yale University by John F. Kennedy who famously said: “for the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.” This illuminating statement was made in 1962, yet feels like an accurate portrait of our current era of fake news, tribal politics and emotional baiting at the forefront of contemporary culture and decision making.
Channeling neurosis and anxiety into busywork, menial tasks, and fussing over trivial duties, I pacify doubt with reverie. Through labored processes separating decorative print from found objects or casting replicas of household items in paper, I unearth elements of human behavior and emotion through manipulations of the stuff of our past. A soundtrack of current events that both repulse and rivet my attention has become ingrained in the hours logged in my studio. My process has become a coping mechanism to distract from my frustration, confusion, and discomfort, while also mirroring the cultural tendency to carry on and numb or ignore unsavory realities through mundane tasks and daily rituals.
Trifling with relics of the American Dream I upend antiquated ideals and promises through an endless process of deconstruction and reconstruction, counterfeits and edits. I face my own dreams, delusions and desires while scrutinizing impositions on such aspirations through media, advertising and cultural nostalgia. I witness spectacles of ideal American home life and my view is clouded by restrictions, walls, regrets, contingencies, impossible feats and contradiction. Appropriating once coveted domestic symbols of beautification and success such as wallpaper, upholstered furniture and porcelain ware, I survey the cost and absurdity of social climbing through material veils. Careful extraction of every adornment neutralizes the distinctive qualities of the selected materials I engage with. These altered objects and manufactured spaces seem double edged; dreamlike scenarios that are both familiar and foreign with a frequent shift in mood, a neutered utility, a composite make up, or a hidden hollowness.
— Elizabeth Alexander
Remembrance of Things Misunderstood and/or Non-Existent
Replacing the community, imaginary connections form through collections of disposable fetish objects— devices that offer something like dreams, but serve to supplant memory and wonder. The feeding of this addiction drives a trash economy. A raft of worn, stained, and matted emblems will eventually choke the gills of the organism that spawned it and provides the means for survival. This parentless modern phenomenon disarms the resourcefulness rooted in our primitive selves.
Motions recorded from wired sense-devices mesh with archival sound to reflect a turn from intellectual processes and the collection/preservation of the actual [history, science, facts] to the anecdotal, allegorical, and emotional—dulling the empathetic sense, but through protection of the means of satisfying this imposed desire, preserving those emotions most base and primitive: hate, reaction, and violence.
— Todd Evan Bowser
Elizabeth Alexander; Let Him Speak First Wallpaper positives (detail); Wallpaper, adhesive, wood; 96” x 100” x 60”; 2018
About the artists
Todd Bowser is a Librarian, Sonic Atmosphere Maker, Ill-Tempered Pacifist, Future-Primitivist, and Bassist living and working in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He primarily collaborates with Elizabeth Alexander.