In learning from distant pasts we examine not only the treasures left behind by earlier societies, but what the people threw out in their daily lives—searching for clues to belief systems literally in the trash bins of history. It makes for a fascinating guessing game of how future societies, if there are any, will consider us.
In artist Brett Holmes’ exhibit Ignominious Refuse at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, there's little room for error in understanding the artist's beliefs about the yarns it could spin. The title says it all. He's embarrassed for his species in this leg of time and looking at the contemporary world through atomism and epicurean ideals and the ways in which one creates a record.
Holmes spent two years documenting his life (objects, landscapes, architecture, urban areas, desert trash) with a Polaroid pack camera and collecting artifacts from walks in the desert, including remains from an old landfill, photographing some of them exquisitely and hanging the large-scale prints on the wall—an inverted Theory of Forms of the real and true object.
The Polaroids, hung perfectly spaced and grid-like on one wall, present the documentation and draw the viewer in to assess the contents of the world. Created and printed within the event, the images become artifacts of their own, a “string of objects” representing Holmes’ own history and daily life.
Ruins of Doric columns are covered in graffiti text and Roman symbolism nodding to the brutal yet much idealized and inevitably present and future Rome. A flattened shopping cart hung on the wall becomes the "real national emblem." A faded, chipped and broken Styrofoam cornucopia and other long-ago-discarded mass-produced items, posed and photographed individually, flip the Platonic idea that the original item is true and perfect. "Most of these objects are things made in factories," he says, "but when you leave them in the desert for 10, 30, 40 years, they are altered dramatically. We are the objects of the species. We've come so far away from that original format to the extent that even someone from 500 years ago would look at us and say, 'Well, that's odd.' "
But rather than preaching, Ignominious Refuse and its somewhat satirical tone welcomes viewers to glimpse the possible inevitable and leap from there.
Ignominious Refuse Through March 11; Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (opening reception January 29, 5:30-8:30 p.m.).Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive, 702-455-7340.