Lara Joy Evans
Ronald Rose
Elisabeth Brandauer

NEW GODS OF CHAOS

For her new series of images developed with photographer Ronald Rose, artist Lara Joy Evans talks to Elisabeth Brandauer about her fascination with mud, alchemy and chaos theory, and what the fall of the Roman Empire has to do with covering yourself in soil.

How did you start working with mud?

I’ve always played with mud when I went outside as a kid. I would build miniature mud ecosystems for bugs and analyze their movements and behaviors. Working with mud now feels similar playful, something I stumbled on by accident through childhood exploration.

You told me that mud reminds you of processes of chaos: mixing things and sticking them together, just to watch them fall apart and change again. Do you see a link between the chaos of mud and the current social climate?

Confusion, unknowing, bipolar politics, magical technology, draining the swamp, fake news: we’re stuck in the mud. The way that chaos techniques have infiltrated mainstream scenes has made me think about my own engagement with mud, alchemy, religion, the myth, the cult and the medieval. I like to fantasize about the myths that built this muddy present. There’s a loud collective chant coming from the belly that is digesting all these fragmented interests and thoughts. You can see the evidence of a collective brain emerging from the small ripples of visual, audio, and narrative content. It’s interesting to look for evidence of this in the art world, where different artists put out similar works to reflect our oversaturated present. The attitude of the 20th century was one of I know, the belief that science will guide us to progress, stability, and truth. But now it’s 2019 and more than ever, we know that we don’t know.

As of late, there is a specific magical-chaotic undertone to it all. The idea that’s floating around is that things are out of control, escaping rational analysis. Former media and government titans like Forbes and Henry Kissinger proclaim that a major change is upon us: the “New World Order”, the “End of the Enlightenment”, a “New Golden Age”, a “New Dark Age”, or simply an existential crisis. If it’s true that we’re in some pivotal moment of history, I’d regard is as old gods transforming into new gods. In 2016, Kissinger referred to Trump’s inauguration as “ushering in the new St. Augustine”. St. Augustine was a prominent figure that helped spread Christianity during a time where there was a major shift in powers. At the end of the Roman Empire, at the beginning Christian supremacy, people too broke off into tribes, “bubbles”, echo chambers. So have we come to some kind of end or some kind of beginning? A spineless and disjointed, blob-like creature could be the mascot of our times. I find myself thinking about how can we navigate this muddy present while coming up with viable narratives for future timelines.

Your work with mud also invokes the myth of the Golem. How do the stories surrounding this creature influence your work?

The golem is a character from medieval Jewish folklore, an AI made from mud, words, and a god-quest. In the fable, he often becomes uncontrollable. The little programmed man continues on his rampage into the dark, its creator becomes unable to predict its actions and outcomes. The idea that “man was made from mud” is seen across pretty much all cultures and creation myths. People have been contemplating the practical and ethical implications of this concept for a long time.

Is the mud a constant companion in your work?

Not the substance itself, but the format and approach of how I make my work tends to resemble “the mud”. My process, interests, and influences are all fragmented. I don’t have a constant in my culture, no solid ground to keep me stable, which can be extremely chaotic. This muddy approach to things seems more prominent in people that grow up with an array of fragmented windows onto the world. Younger people who were born into the internet seem to be better at associative or non-linear thinking in comparison.

Where do you find mud holes like the one in your video?

I had to climb through rocks, bush, and huge piles of flaky, decaying pieces of tree to get to this part of the river, down in a small valley. I was stepping through light grey rocks, when my eyes darted downward slightly to see where my foot was going to land and there was a huge dark brown snake, and I immediately jumped straight into the air and a few rocks back to where I came from. It was only a split second that i saw it, it retreated quickly out of my sight and away from the shade of the rock. It could have been an illusion because it happened so fast. I question if it actually was a snake, but there was no log or long shadow in its place when i slowly inched forward to see if it was still there. I passed it and just continued on down to the river.

Have you been to the dead sea?

I did visit the dead sea but I just floated. I didn’t touch any mud that time.

Your work draws on alchemy and the natural world as much as on socio-politics, technomyths and the surreal. What is the link between these polarities?

My fascination with mud ecosystems, homunculi, mixing weird chemicals and words all come from a drive to build worlds, worlds that capture and parallel my own. I have questioned whether this comes from a desire to escape and disassociate, play god, dabble in narrative transport, become immortal and experiment with various possible timelines, or a conglomerate of it all, or if it’s a sincere attempts to interpret the world in order to change it. All of these pursuits are alchemical though, attempts to find transhumanist immortality or the elixir of life. I want to find out why, which leads me on my manic quests to map and chart cognitive terrains, develop new operating systems.

Interview by Elisabeth Brandauer
Photography by Ronald Rose