Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to announce Flow My Tears, the Mueller Report Said, a show of new works by artist Michael Waugh that sets the scene for our current crisis. The show’s title is based on a Philip K. Dick novel in which the right-wing has won a second U.S. civil war. The work in the show presents a fable of dystopian arrogance – Arrogance that says ideology is more important than facts, that humans can control the natural world, that money should decide politics.
The show is anchored by a series of four works in which animals are plotting against human labor. After they destroy a bridge, touches of green return to the poisoned landscape. It’s a scenario that has become familiar to us all; when Covid-19 forced us to pause our lives, the smog cleared from over our cities.
For over fifteen years, Waugh has been constructing such politically infused scenes – made all the more biting because he composes them out of text. Using the ancient calligraphic technique known as micrography, the artist laboriously copies hundreds of pages of historically significant documents, corralling that text into delicate representational forms. The destroyed bridge, for example, is composed out of words from Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, which ushered in the environmental movement.
Other works in the show are even more closely tied to our current political moment. For Citizens United, Waugh copied the text of the Supreme Court’s decision of the same name – the decision that granted extra political power to monied interests, most of which aligned with Donald Trump in 2016. The image Waugh composes out of these words is of a pack of hunting dogs standing around confusedly – while a seagull and a canary seem more aware that something’s not right.
For the largest work in the show, entitled Redacted, Waugh copied over 350 pages of The Mueller Report. The report laid out definitive evidence of corruption and criminal activity within the 2016 Trump election campaign. Through Waugh’s hands, those words coalesce into an image of a nest of baby birds, with mouths expectantly open; But a swarm of wasps hovers overhead. As startling as this image may be, the real emotional weight of Waugh’s work is held in the intricacy of his handwriting, in the months and months of isolated labor it viscerally represents. It’s another aspect of Waugh’s work that we can all feel more deeply since the lockdown.