John Scott

Mercer Union

This simple, untitled installation—John Scott’s sincere-biker-esthetic memento mori—invited reflection on the transience of life, virility, and fossil fuels. It consisted of 20 skulls-and-crossbones on paper warped to accommodate a light bulb placed behind each image that was, in turn, hooked up to a tape recorder. All the light bulbs flickered, feebly and brightly, in response to the sound of the artist singing Kurt Weill’s “September Song.” This matrix of drawings with lights connected by black cables recalled some of Christian Boltanski’s installations, which used similar means to memorialize the dead and mourn the passage of time. Just as in Boltanski’s work the overt connection of some of his pieces to mass violence (like his rephotographed portraits of Jewish schoolchildren in France in the ’40s) creates an excess of dread and horror that spills over to inform his more benign works,

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