When we emerge from this pandemic, we will have the opportunity to reflect on our experience of isolation, of loss, and of privilege in the freedoms we can once again engage with. This understanding, this liberation is one no other species on Earth can know unless we actively engage in allowing them the opportunity.
My work as an artist has taken me to many places and communities in search of poetics, of beauty, of some mystic truth waiting to be discovered. Through these experiences I have come to know the discovery of something is the most trivial and perhaps last moment it has before it becomes something else entirely. The moment just preceding this, of unsure revelation and potential is where the most profound truths lie.
In my time in Madison I have walked aimlessly down unfamiliar streets and came upon a series of repeated notions of loss, stamped and emerging from the earth as a rising monument to empty space. The dozens of rings in each mass of wood told a story of weathered endurance for decades longer than I have existed on this planet. The narrative I uncovered is a continuity in ruination. These stumps littered, some 50,000 across Dane County alone demonstrated pages of memory forgotten. Their canopy no longer offered shelter, their limbs no longer offered support to youth climbing and swinging in their arms. The carbon they stored, the water they pulled up from the soil are now released.
The effects of the Emerald Ash Borer on the Ash species have decimated the species in ways we are still discovering. The eventuality of its removal from our lives is no far way off, following the Elm and American Chestnut before it. But these stories are not unique, they are a growing truth in our reality at the hands of our unwillingness to take responsibility for the life all around us. One we have shunned from its natural habitat, pushed to the brinks of existence, muted out and used for every possible resource it may hold. But this type of isolation, of quarantined separation and inhibited growth is something we now know.
I have taken the opportunity to reclaim Ash from this community and give it a life in which we can engage and reflect. Withdrawn, a sculptural installation maintains the grain and history of local Ash wood while allowing the space between each page to highlight the participants, the potential to weave ourselves into this shared narrative of loss and growth.
Walking through the avenues of grain and vacant space allows for the memory and absence to be re-experienced. Spectators may enter the story and become part of the subject themselves.
Our histories are experienced only within memory, where the effect we once had on the world is observable. Pages forgotten no longer have consequence to the present, except in their absence of the future. Perhaps when we can see ourselves seeing, reading our pages as they are being written, we can take authorship of the story we live.
Withdrawn can be seen in person at the Garver Feed Mill in Madison, WI until April of 2021, and is visible digitally at www.matthewvivirito.com