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Everything Touches Everything

Everything Touches Everything

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Published by Joseph Nechvatal
Art review :: Everything Touches Everything: Matthew Rose’s Suicide Specials
Art review :: Everything Touches Everything: Matthew Rose’s Suicide Specials

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Published by: Joseph Nechvatal on Jul 16, 2014
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Everything Touches Everything: Matthew Rose’s Suicide Specials

By Joseph Nechvatal
Published at
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm
“Our whole purpose was to integrate objects from the world of machines and industry in the
world of art. Our typographical collages or montages set out to achieve this by imposing, on
something which could only be produced by hand, the appearances of something that had
been entirely composed by a machine; in an imaginative composition, we used to bring
together elements borrowed form books, newspapers, posters, or leaflets, in an
arrangement that no machine could yet compose.”
-Hannah Höch on Dada Photo Montage
Hannah Höch, “Love” (1931)
Matthew Rose’s collages do not point me at Hannah Höch’s machine world, nor at the
organic world, but rather, towards the full nothingness that I have discovered in cyberspace.
It is neither surprising nor coincidental that Rose has picked up on epistemological changes
in art and art theory that follow connectionist developments inherent in hyper-media.
It is a well worn cliché by now that we live in the era of information overload.
Rose’s perspective on, and use of, the vast pool of connected-yet-unconnected free-floating
pop images around him, allows him to question the legitimacy of commonly held beliefs and
the forgone conclusions established concerning the theoretical issues of sexual politics,
multiculturalism, gender studies, and the far-reaching heterogeneous philosophical critique
of the cultural mechanisms of representation which have preceded it. Familiarity may not
always breed contempt, exactly; but it does tend to inspire complacency. We are tempted
to overlook, to take for granted, what has become blatantly familiar, no matter how odd it is
in itself. We may look and register the presence of something without really seeing or
understanding it. Isn’t that a basic working premise of pop collage?
It is clear that for Matthew Rose, like Höch, collage is still synonymous with some
imperative promise of liberation: not only aesthetic liberation, but social, political, and even,
it seems, what I might call metaphysical liberation. But what about Rose and pop collage as
an enchanted form of psychoanalysis? No. What about Rose and pop transference situated,
not on an analyst's couch, but within the imitative gestations of collage? No. No. What
about Rose and the noisy yet dreamy flow of pop images conjured up by the global
enthusiasm for digital communications and their visual free floating signifiers that circulate
by interface? Yes.
The personal computer has created for us all an affinity with fragmented visual and textual
vignettes linked by nothing and everything. Rose, has picked up on this nomadic attention
and, by scanning and plucking from the spread of visual representation around us, takes
advantage of today's virtual image saturation; a saturation so dense that it fails to
communicate anything particular at all (except perhaps it’s overall incomprehensible sense
of ripe delirium) as the reproduction system pulses with higher and higher, faster and faster
flows of representational images to the point of near hysteria. Networked computers offer
collage the promise of a near mythical future in which anything and everything will be
immediately available to touch anything and everything else.
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm
Specifically, in Rose’s small format collage on paper series Suicide Specials (2013), he
seems to offer me an appropriately decadent regard on our social media environment. This
collage series, for me, embodies the arbitrary nature of all signs grouped with other signs.
Here he subverts the socially controlled systems of meanings, and so, offers me the
opportunity for the creation of applicable anti-social signs (absurd anti-signs) which may
continue to mentally move and multiply. Thus his Suicide Specials provides a fundamental
antithesis to the authoritarian, mechanical, simulated rigidities of the controlling technical
world. My experience of them, as a group, has an almost transcendental dimension. They
appear to me ritualistic. I would suggest that perhaps beneath the collaged established signs
that Rose selects and makes touch each other, another deeper discourse is at work which
recalls a time of sacrificial phenomena.
Suicide Specials seems, to me, structurally located as an activity that abstracts from a
material order an aesthetically disembodied spirituality. It lifts the spiritual from
institutional authority to individual disposability. This happens beneath the interplay of
their precisely delineated distinctions. Rose brings sacrificial similitude to the sign that
ultimately erases assigned singularity. His series title Suicide Specials suggests as much, and
to me, it seems clear that he invested the life or death of human imagination in the outcome.
Suicide Specials evokes body and void, corporality as simulation - meaning Suicide Specials
has signs of withdrawal from the direct circumstances of their original presentation and
portrayal. This paradox accounts for much of the naked potency of his art.
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm
The Suicide Specials series is elaborate, heady, intricately composed, grotesque and
artificial. It makes the familiar world of the simulation seem chaotic; annihilating the
rejected, the external, the given, in our minds with Nietzschean slyness. It is an art of
circulating forms that represents the de-centered ideological space inherent in the
postmodern sensibility. These hybrid and perplexing sacrificial compositions open up a
territory of arcane spiritual signification and de-territorialized meanings. They act as ciphers
of the harrowed mind.
The collages suggest the ritual potential of social re-configuration that subsumes our
previous world of simulation/representation into a nexus of touching-linked observations of
the outer world with extractions of deep human mentality. This is what I appreciate most
about the collages of Matthew Rose in our time of a widespread surveillance, our sense of
staleness, futility and artistic disenchantment. They have an almost romantic reference to a
deep time; a shadow life of nonverbal existence that moves me internally, beyond my own
place and situation, and allows me the possibilities of fresh insight into art and life. I can
imagine his art as a place of asylum. Or it is a place of metaphysical solidarity with
everything. It is a world of glue and seduction.
Suicide Specials collages have misleading existential claims as their sentential surrogates (or
general proposals which lack specificity) and therefore remain only sentential. Rose
consciously exploits unfulfilled expectations by elaborating existing representational
tradition to the point of apparent dissolution. As a model of conversion, Rose visualizes
change with his employing of existing convention on one hand, and it's negation of them on
the other; denying normal grounds of interpretation and reception.
With the Suicide Specials collages, I see a groundless surface as the dominant image. They
have become terminally polluted with the collapse of once fundamental distinctions, the
collapse of meaning (and the subject) through over circulation, and loss of meaningful
context. Depth in such a surface-based art as collage, survives and becomes condensed and
enfolded behind and beside the flat picture plane, granting me an aesthetic experience
vertical in nature.
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm
If what I have said sounds metaphysical, it is metaphysical only in so far as it is memory,
intensity, and stratosphere all working together in making up an internal model of the self.
As we know, a sacrifice is for expressing thankfulness or atonement.
In our era of frenzied late-capitalist circulation of signs, Rose’s Suicide Specials create for
me an almost erotic transference of voluptuous reverence that takes place beyond the point
of consumption. These are spoiled images.
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm
His symbolically spoiled and sacrificial collaged images cuts up the corporal in a private
ceremony that glues delight to the grave. So, for me, there is an intimate psychic elevation
here by means of the sensual. There is an invocation to the life force here, codified through
the physical actions of cutting and pasting. These cuts and pastes symbolize an often
cryptic and fugitive strength that is fundamentally reflective of what I widely understand as
sprit. This dual commitment to corporality and abstraction is what gives the work its
In the Suicide Specials, Rose mixes and weaves composition into a rich mix of contending
elements, the order and significance of which can be recovered only through an effort at
comprehension. The works are embodiments of texts (in the Barth sense). They call upon
me to interpret the various elements of the composition, reading the chaotic and conflicting
details. Although I can almost draw their parts into a coherent whole, they still retain a
provocative discord or irritation; tantalizing me towards something (a meaning, a resolution)
withheld in the work.
The work’s cuts and pastes theorizes principles of linkages, of connectivity, and the
intersection of everything; giving rise to theoretical production and creativity. Quite the
opposite of making me consider suicide, these assemblages of appropriation suggest an
almost decipherable meaning that transforms their pop form in favor of a higher
psychologically and spiritually grounded subtext. My mind is stimulated to aspire to a
unity of ideas that is only implied in the work of art. Only by penetrating the significance
of the various details, does the organization of the compositions make some sense to me.
Rose’s Suicide Specials are a rejection of the contemporary world and it's values. Perhaps
that is suicidal. But it represents, to me, a thrusting beyond all existing boundaries.
The Suicide Specials are complex and asymmetrical, mirroring my own fleeting impressions
that constitute the movement of my consciousness, the perpetual weaving and unweaving
of myself. My own cuts and pastes.
Additionally, his work captures the complexity and turbulence of our age, as it is not a
reductive concept or practice, but a diagnostic one. His is the revelation of a higher order
hidden in the overexposed pop image.
Rose’s Suicide Specials emphasize for me joy, death, tantalization and provocation. They
seem to dwell upon the joyful pain and longing that is symptomatic of our time where no
state is permanent. All is open to rearrangement in a society where there is no distance
between categories of images any longer. Rose’s Suicide Specials emphasize this outlook
while forcing on me an intellectual re-creation of form in my mind. Indeed, to my eye,
within the borders of his collaged spectacle, Rose’s tottering and circuitous fabrications
automatically hasten my own elaborate visual irrationality. Consequently, Rose’s collages
lead me to a teeming process of rational expurgation through visual excess. They lead me to
scenes of elation mixed with tremendous dread, and can, at times, be ethically evasive, as
they seem more concerned with the unfathomable, the sublimity of pessimism, the
disappointment of failed rationality, the horror of a bottomless human nature, and the
wonderful terror of the empty fullness around us.
Matthew Rose, “Suicide Special” (2013) collage on paper, 51.5 cm x 34 cm

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