John Mathews Artist Project: Rip it up and Start Again

This series of photographs is compiled from a range of work over the last eight years. Many of the peripheral locations that I photograph often result from pedestrian explorations of urban space. These investigations identify a number of concerns including social histories, ephemera, the nature of collective memory and the way we order our environment. As I wander through all of these places, I also try to reveal the uncanny that exists within the everyday and draw attention to these fragile and intimate undertones. In a range of ways these images express a certain kind of longing for both the past and the future.

1. Security Desk. Diefenbunker, Carp, Ottawa. (2005) This underground 4-storey bunker was built in 1959 as the site of the Emergency Government Headquarters in the event of a nuclear strike on Ottawa. In 1994 the government decommissioned the bunker. The site was eventually sold to the local township that currently runs it as a museum. In a number of rooms within the bunker there are mannequins strategically placed in an effort to animate the space and the past.

2. Prime minister’s Bedroom Diefenbunker, Carp, Ottawa. (2005) When the Diefenbunker was decommissioned by the Government of Canada in 1994 a majority of the buildings contents were either sold or destroyed. Over the following years the custodians of the site have been gradually purchasing back Canadian Civil Defense paraphernalia from a range of sources such as eBay. Period photographs are placed in a selection of rooms in order to compare the existing reassembled version with the past version.

3. Canteen, Diefenbunker, Carp, Ottawa. (2005)

4. Recreation Room, Diefenbunker, Carp, Ottawa. (2005) These landscape murals were often placed in communal areas within many of the Diefenbunker’s. The purpose of these murals was to alleviate stress and fatigue relating to a total lack of daylight while being in a confined space for a long period of time.

5. I love the girl in the blue top. (2004) From a series of photographs taken inside a public library in Belfast, Northern Ireland. These messages and slogans were inscribed into study desks using ballpoint pens by teenagers studying for their exams. These anonymous messages shouted out a range of deep-seated emotions from within the confines of a silent public space.

6. He left without a word. (2007) This image was taken underneath an overpass on the Bedford Highway in Halifax NS. This location is in the centre of a predominantly industrial and suburban environment. The location is a type of negative space that has been appropriated by local teenagers and is used as a graffiti and hangout area.

7. Dear catch out spot. (2007) This photograph was taken in a hobo jungle in the outskirts of Halifax NS. Many people write messages onto scrap cardboard boxes to pass the time before jumping a train. The text reads “ Dear Catch Out Spot, Summer’s supposed to be a time for hanging out and not gettin’ buried and smothered by clutter and nostalgia. It’s a good thing for trains. I can’t wait to start again. The one with no alias”

8. Our memories will be lost like tears in the rain. (2004) From a series of photographs taken inside a public library in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I think this is a quote from the film Blade Runner.

9. Untitled (2000) In 2000 I worked on a series of photographs taken within a relative’s house and projected these along with a short black and white super 8 film of my parents ball room dancing in the backyard at night. I became interested in removing a series of objects from within the rooms and photographing their absence as a way of exploring the nature of memory.

10. Future Nostalgia. (2006). Time Capsule from 1964 New York’s World Fair which includes: 50,000 microfilm pages, tranquilizers, one chequered bikini, credit cards, a fifty star American flag, tektite, Beatle’s record A Hard Day’s Night, birth control pills, plastic food wrap, material from Echoe II satellite, Kent filter cigarettes, detergent, freeze dried foods, irradiated seeds, a plastic heart valve, an electric toothbrush and desalted pacific ocean water. The Westinghouse Time Capsules are two time capsules prepared by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company: Time Capsule I, created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair; and Time Capsule II, created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Both are buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows Park, a former garbage dump that was used as the site of both world’s fairs. Both are to be opened at the same time in 6939 AD, five thousand years after the first capsule was sealed.

11. I no like the future. (2002) A road sign painted by Moscow Joe McKinley of Carnlough, Co. Antrim. Moscow Joe ran a milk delivery business for around thirty years and upon his retirement he began transforming his roadside property into an altar of free expression. The entire facade of his house was collaged with mythologized found objects and hand painted signs that contained anecdotes and insights on his worldview.

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