THE APOSTLE AND RELATED WORKS
The work of Mitchell Anderson is characterized by multifaceted reactions to found objects, images, situations and their circulation. He recontextualizes the symbols human culture uses knowingly and subconsciously to contain memory and narrative in order to examine their veracity. At CONVERSO Anderson adopts the capabilities and dualities of the history and architecture of the space as the primary content through which his sculptural and video works are informed. That the spaces were created for indoctrination (the church, the convent) through a form of visual entertainment (the baroque decorations) is at the center of this split exhibition which calls into question conjunctions between innate belief and external logic.
The main exhibition space is dominated by a large, low lying, circular sculpture against newly black flooring. Riffing on the cheapness of the spiritual fallen to earth the plasticy puddle is a large inflatable of the Earth’s moon filled inside the church and now deflated. Reminding of our moon as the first spiritual entity and theories of it as the earliest screen humans were entranced by, Anderson calls upon it as referent, and failed competitor, to the decadent images that decay throughout the church. These pictures sought and succeeded for centuries in replacing the wonder of the natural worlds with a sect of magical storylines and authoritarian rules. Aggressive in its scale, yet empty of most else, Anderson’s moon, produced as decoration for festivals and events, now operates as a symbol of an abstracted astronomy transformed to defeated ornament.
In opposition of the grand now empty is the artists exploration of the hollow as monumental. The rear space, originally built for the attached convent’s nuns, centers on a human scaled video, The Apostle (my mother professing QAnon), a one hour single shot of the artist’s mother animatedly proclaiming the far-right conspiracy theory of the work’s title. The content proffered focuses, without evidence, on coded leaks made on message boards by Q, a supposedly high ranking American official, exposing a liberal deep state conspiracy against America, its current president and involving topics including child trafficking, cannibalism, weather control and time-travel. It is popular with a significant part of the public who feel their voice left outside of mainstream cultural platforms. Appearing similar to the YouTube videos the plot may be transmitted by, but filmed as a double portrait video call between mother and son, the work pairs constant proclamation with a reception of exhaustion and humor in a way that is larger than family and politics. In its title it makes reference to Saint Paul, the Christian apostle who altered and spread Christianity as we know it today in the 1st century and for who the San Paolo Converso is named after. In its installation the artist questions how he draws on this far-right content, one traditionally denied in contemporary cultural fields, without aggrandizing it. Viewing this online sect as similar and related to the self-sealing religious cult the exhibition space was built for, the film’s volume is mandated at a minimum allowing the vaulted space, with its painted depictions of equally absurd stories of Saints and miracles, to retract the platform given.
The other sculptures that hide in and dot the space are humble in form and creation, objects found and purchased as is. A shelf of empty holy water containers from outside a Catholic pilgrimage site continues a series Anderson began in 2015 where he purchases entire souvenir stands off the street of touristic centers. Other works of arcade tokens purchased online and displayed as shipped look towards physical locations of chance, lost value and public assurance. In the space’s library a new painting from a series based on templates for early campaign buttons continues Anderson’s and this exhibition’s ongoing research on the blank, the empty and the emptied. Each of the works on view interact with and against each other as original symbols of transmission and engagement voided or negated. Reflecting on the space of the Catholic church as an exhausted one, Anderson appraises the search for connection and higher meaning as an empty and ludicrous expedition that leads towards societal ills. Civilization continues to search for mementos and creeds to tie itself together as it always has, from the celestial sky to narrative imagery and currently by an internet that allows geographically vast communities their own control over the truth here and beyond. The former tends to inform the latter and Anderson, here, picks up the breadcrumbs left along the way.
Ph. t-space studio