Combining photography with an immersive video installation, the solo exhibition Terrible Beauties by Douglas Scholes encourages reflection on our collective relationship with waste: trash, litter, rubbish, garbage, debris, detritus, refuse, junk, or that which was desired but is now discarded. Within the work, Scholes is present as a persona called The Rubbish Picker who through humour and a subtle sense of futility, shifts the lens through which we experience things by collecting and interacting with the unwanted, used, and discarded stuff that amasses within various landscapes, including roadside eddies, or wastescapes of active, decommissioned and clandestine landfill sites. Collecting in distinct places, yet also found in every community, town, or city, the once associated value of these terrible beauties is removed, placing them in a meaning void, one often steeped in shame, guilt, and uncertainty about the object status. And yet, beauty is also evident in the shape, colour, setting where discards are found. Like curious crows, colourful fragments call for attention.
The sublime complexity of our interactions with these objects and spaces define the exhibition structure. The first space holds the clean portraits of material fragments as framed art photographs. With a focus on colour, shape and texture, the litter is transformed, like an historic relic of a by-gone past, into a once-more desired object. In contrast, through the curtain to the second space is found various sized monitors and screens that invite the viewer to join the Rubbish Picker in his wanderings through various landscapes of accumulated discarded materials; journeys from London, UK, to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, the Magdalen Islands, Ste. Therese, and Sherbrooke, QC. Although each video highlights actions in distinct wastescapes, it is clear that such scenes are but one of the ubiquitous manifestations of similar spaces that exist and mark the anthropocene.
The dual presentation is not meant to rarify or elevate trash. Instead, the objective is to recognize those things which have been discarded as fragments of shared experiences that form the aggregate of people living together, the visible (yet unseen) world around us.
Douglas Scholes uses pragmatics through poetic and romantic acts of play to decode and reveal a syntactical reality of things and the unarticulated imaginings found in the things we take for granted. A graduate of Université du Québec à Montréal (MFA, 2001), Scholes has had exhibitions and residencies in Canada, the USA and Europe. Scholes is represented by Robertson Arès Gallery in Montreal.
The artist acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
The McClure Gallery thanks the Conseil des arts de Montréal for its financial support.