Art Trip: Walter Scott at The Pathos of MandyISCP, Brooklyn, N.Y.
In the book The Divided Self (1970), psychiatrist R.D. Laing attempts to make sense of the process of going mad by seeing the self as split in two. He posits that each person contains an authentic identity that is kept private and a false, performed persona that is presented to the outside world. When the two selves are in disagreement, there is a sense of internal alienation: the person cannot experience himself, or others, as “real.”
“Wendy is one version of me, and Mandy is another,” Kahnawá:ke-born, Toronto-based artist Walter Scott says of his new body of work The Pathos of Mandy – on view to March 6, 2020, at ISCP in Brooklyn – which consists of a seven-minute animated film and an accompanying installation.
Wendy, of course, is Scott’s cult-status comic creation, an art-world party girl whose quest for serious recognition is regularly thrown off course by temptations such as making out with guys in bands, getting wasted at parties and hangover-fuelled existential crises. (A new book of her adventures, Wendy, Master of Art, will be published by Drawn & Quarterly in spring of 2020.) Mandy is also an artist, this time a gay man, who suffers from writer’s block and other forms of self-sabotaging self-doubt.
Scott uses the character of Mandy to imagine what might happen if his legal ownership of Wendy was taken away. “Having my ‘self’ refracted into all of these different characters (and artistic mediums) is a way to self-consciously navigate through different modes of cultural production – institutional, aesthetic or political – and make that navigation a part of the work’s concept,” he says.
In The Pathos of Mandy (in which Scott himself is sometimes subtly visible, reflected in windows filming scenes on his phone), it’s revealed that when faced with this loss, Mandy abandons the narrative form, retreats from the public eye and turns to making quilts for the rest of his life. At a retrospective of his work set 40 years in the future, an observer remarks thoughtfully, “Artists are unknowable – even to themselves.”