Tracing Absence

Matthew Cummings, Marginalia, hydrocal, 2017, 12 x 16 inches
Matthew Cummings, Marginalia, hydrocal, 2017, 12 x 16 inches

We live in an age of information: economic and social relations are increasingly digital, dispersed, disembodied, and data-driven. If the internet once held out a democratic promise of access and full disclosure, today truth, meaning, and authenticity seem ever harder to get your hands on. Set within this context, artists Fafnir Adamites and Matthew Cummings investigate forms of information’s withholding in explicitly material terms.

Matthew Cummings takes documents released as part of the federal Freedom of Information Act (1967) and in high-profile leaks as a starting point to explore visibility and invisibility, contingency and comprehensiveness. Both the FOIA and leaks offer gestures of transparency. Yet these gestures are frustrated by what has been redacted or otherwise rendered illegible: blank white boxes masking “classified” material, the repeated marginalia of exemption codes, the loss of resolution over time as mechanical and digital reproduction (faxing, photocopying, scanning) degrades the clarity of the original. Cummings combines experimental printing and plaster pouring techniques to make page-sized wall sculptures that focus our attention on the material presence and patterns of absence.

Fafnir Adamites, A Record of Obscured Meaning, used tshirts and cotton thread, 2018, 25 ft x 2.5ft
Fafnir Adamites, A Record of Obscured Meaning, used tshirts and cotton thread, 2018, 25 ft x 2.5ft

Fafnir Adamites turns the focus inward. They explore embodied memory, how information is stored in – and suppressed by – the body, and how the effects of trauma and violence may be inherited across generations through subtle alterations in gene expression. Epigeneticists refer to gene expression through the language of legibility: how genetic information is “encoded,” “read,” “transcribed,” and “translated.”  Made from black and white t-shirts, Adamites’ monochrome weavings conceal their original sources, becoming increasingly illegible as the structures accrue over time. In The Presence of Absence, Adamites lays weavings into wet hydrostone before ripping them up when it sets, leaving behind fabric fragments and elusive traces. Adamites offers these broken pieces as a form of countermonument for traumatic events: impossible to fully know, process, or resolve.