If you are anything like me (which, for your sake, I hope you are not), then your first inclination upon seeing Matt Johnson’s sculptures, was to laugh out loud—more commonly known as LOL, LMAO, or the more obscure: LMMFSAOMMFASMF. Kurt Vonnegut once aptly said that “a joke is the only way [one] can enter an adult conversation.” And, I get the sense that Johnson couldn’t agree more.
On the surface, his sculptures look like nothing more than good ol’ U.S. of A. novelty art—perhaps, Christmas stocking fodder or the perfect gag gift for Father’s Day. In short, their sole purpose seems to be to evoke laughter, not provoke thought. But, on the contrary, laughter is just part of the equation.
Though I’ve written about it before, I think irony deserves further discussion. Irony is not finding 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. That is just bad luck and also a lack of resourcefulness. Irony is also not writing a song, entitled Ironic, that is devoid of irony. That is called, in many academic circles, stupidity and idiocy (And, that is called redundancy). For a better example of irony, consider Johnson’s “Malus Sieversii” (pictured above). This particular work alludes to M.C. Escher’s “Relativity,” which alludes to Galileo’s notion of relativity and Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity.” So, on the one hand, we have an artistic representation of scientific theory, specifically those pertaining to gravity and perspective. On the other hand, Johnson’s work alludes to the forbidden fruit—you know, the one that blossomed from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The name of the work “Malus Sieversii” (which means “the evil one” in latin) is also the name of a particular apple that is indigenous to Mesopotamia, the region that is typically thought to have housed the Garden of Eden.
In short, Johnson has created quite the anomaly. In science, Gravity is God—without it we would cease to exist. In the Christian tradition, God is God. The apple represents temptation and Eve exemplifies our inability to resist it. So, what commentary does this add up too? Is Johnson suggesting that science is the result of that temptation? Is science the evil one? Or, is science God?