Victims of Circumstance - by Elliot BurnsOur news media is not what it used to be. 2016 was the year Michel Gove stuck it to‘expert opinions’, and in 2017, Kellyanne Conway really put the nail in the coffin byvalidating ‘alternative facts’ (fuck ‘em both). What we once relied upon for its authenticityhas been called into disrepute, with both reporting and reported information being suspect.The result, news, ultimately, becomes another fictional fabric akin to the narrativecomposition of a painting. It no longer relays facts, rather an impression, a collage ofinformation that viewed in thirty minute sittings infers a notion of the world. And so, if newsis now an assembled artwork, then surely the inverse is true, that an artwork can act asnews? In the case of Wasp Elder (aka Sam Worthington), a muralist and painter based inBerlin, this is true.Elder’s solo show at 1963 Gallery, Victims of Circumstance, brings together a set of recentpaintings, depictions of nondescript scenes that are reminiscent, yet conversely entirelyfabricated fictions. Each painting begins life in a process of “drag and drop” that will befamiliar to many. You sit for hours in-front of a computer screen Googling subject aftersubject, collecting image after image until “a digital nightmare” has accumulated on yourdesktop.Out of the chaos of news reports, film stills, protests, rituals, horror scenes, catastrophesand history, Elder emerges with a choice selection that appear “painterly”, that resonatewith a worthy quality. Two or three images are taken into photoshop, arranged, rearranged,contrasted and experimented with, until the correct form is found, a paintingwaiting to be put to canvas, hidden in a incalculable sum of combinations.When the images emerge Elder has created scenes that convey a universal despair. Thefigures that populate his paintings aren’t those that have saturated the daily news features,refugees passing into Europe, they’re everyone, unified by a sorrow expressed in thebriefest glimpses of their eyes. The people are desperate, impoverished and transitory,caught in the wake of political calamity, or trapped in unseen experiments. At othermoments they are fighting against these powers, masking themselves, adorningcontemporary tribal decorations, and rebelling against authority, ready for battle.Whatever the case, the subjects are “blurred out of context”, always indistinct. We cannotever truly know where they are from. The effect, is that we, as viewers, need to employ ourjournalistic tendencies, the same skill set we are developing to tackle today’s chaoticmedia ecosystem. Our imaginations push at the images, trying vainly to work out fromwhere they originate, to penetrate through the paint, back to the source material. Theseinvented spaces call us to “constantly question” what we are being told; but they refuse toanswer.Like the news from which they are drawn, Elder’s images contain fragments of a truth, rearrangeduntil the reality is obscured and made “absurd”. However, there is onefundamental difference, the materiality of each media: paintings need to be “experiencedphysically”; the texture conveys a realness that the artificial glow of computer or TV screennever can. And so in a way, the fiction of a painting holds the potential to take ussomewhere more truthful than the fictions we get from the 9 O’clock News.