Photo: (c) 2018 Jeff Cancelosi
Having come of age in a collapsing industrial metropolis, my work has been driven by a preoccupation with optimism and its aftermath.
As the dust still settles on the ruins, its particles are comprised of an optimism once trumpeted—in design, in industry—that advertised a Modernist narrative of utopian progress. Because my experience has been defined by the pairing of that progress with ruin, and idealization with imperfection, it is impossible for me to engage in a nostalgic embrace of the optimism of the past. Therefore it is my tendency to subvert nostalgia by revealing it as a corruptive force that distorts and creates illusory notions of stability and greatness.
I am however not guided by pessimism. Futurist dreams of achieving utopia move me, but having lived in the shadow of the abject evolution of the working class and socio-economic ruin, I am compelled to examine the fundamental absurdity of fantasies to achieve human perfectibility and the fallibility of structures engineered to halt entropy.
In my work, unrequited yearning for progress collides with the more complex realities of late capitalism, in which failure undermines expectation and shifts centers of power in an absurd cycle of hyped aspiration and subsequent deflation. These polarities necessitate social critique with the question of who is allowed to access dreams of fulfillment and what that yields. I return to a very particular convoluted working class inclination toward longing undercut by repulsion: the need for upward mobility combined with a distrust of what that success gains access to.
My enthusiasm for obsolete print ephemera such as comic strips, tabloid newspapers, postcards, catalogs, manuals and advertisements, is intended to highlight the fugitive value of authoritative cultural currency as it advertises our vision of the ideal.