For his debut Los Angeles exhibition, Westfall presents a new body of work consisting of installation, sculpture, and painting that collectively operate as a set of proposals on the cultural and societal function of violence.
The exhibition brings together a diverse set of philosophical, anthropological, and literary perspectives in an effort to assemble a composite structure capable of accounting for violence as a kind of cultural imperative, and through which current and historical events (most significantly the ongoing civil war in Syria) can be addressed. At the same time, Westfall explores practical mechanisms for mitigating and/or offsetting that imperative or, as an alternative, for maximizing the cultural and sociological utility of violent acts once they have occurred.
(per the artist)
This body of work is operative as a format. Each work stands as a node of information density, which is collectively linked to or interlaced with each other through any combination of channels to create the overall experience of (consideration of) Terror Function. Of particular significance to the development of this body of work:
1) The theories of Rene Girard, Eyal Weizman, David Joselit, Hannah Arendt, and the foundational principles of Judeo-Christian theology; the literature of Leo Tolstoy, Cormac McCarthy, and the Bible; and the work of artists Antonio Lopez Garcia, Vasily Vereshchagin, and Eyal Weizman.
2) Despite the assertive tone of the title, the exhibition is not intended to present a definitive statement, or set of conclusions. Rather, it is an open framework of associations, connections, and intuitions within which these different philosophical positions, ideologies, and events can resonate against each other; and within which the often surprising patterns and coincidences of their forms, origins and operations can be appreciated. In other words, the works of art in this exhibition are networked components working for the accumulation of collective content.
3) In seeking to account for the function or operational imperative of violence, it is not my intention to “rationalize” or justify that violence in any way (It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!) but, rather, to create a field within which that violence can be comprehended not as something alien or external, but as an inevitable outgrowth of a set of historical, cultural, and societal conditions within which we are all enmeshed and, to that extent, complicit.
4) In dealing with this subject matter, the exhibition also seeks to address the role/position of the artist as ‘witness’. Despite the best possible intentions, the artist’s witness is problematized by the fact that it is also an exploitation of the spectacle of violence. The artist presumes that they have the right to seek knowledge (self, philosophical, societal, spiritual) and prestige through the observation and presentation of the violence and suffering of others. On the level of culture, this is an acceptable practice (seeking to learn or convey learning without having to experience directly) and is precisely the point of storytelling, religious practice, moral principle, etc. On the the level of economics, however, it is like a kind of microcolonialism, in which the privileged gather in resources/rewards from places, experiences, labor, and sufferings which are not their own.
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