The eighth piece in Jason Kofke’s exhibition “EVERYTHING TOGETHER ALL AT ONCE” displayed at Midtown’s Beep Beep Gallery is a letterpress print called “1938.” Composed entirely of text except for the small image of the moon at the bottom of the paragraph, “1938” tells the story of how, as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon for the first time in the summer of 1969, he allegedly uttered the words, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!”
According to the narrative the print provides, Gorsky was Armstrong’s childhood neighbor. When Gorsky requested that his wife perform a certain sexual act, she told him, “Only when the kid next door walks on the moon!” Kofke would have it that this ribald neighborhood exchange occurred in 1938 (giving the print its title) a full 20 years before Dwight Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This particular explanation for the words “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!” (and even whether or not Armstrong ever said them) has been largely dismissed as urban legend, but “EVERYTHING TOGETHER ALL AT ONCE” gives the viewer the distinct impression that Kofke doesn’t distinguish between fact and fiction as such. Instead, he perceives reality through the lens of so-called scientific “fact,” personal memories and collectively inherited cultural narratives.
In his artist’s statement for the exhibition, Kofke writes, “This exhibition is assembled from a global history. It is likely to survive a hundred years into our future, when our culture is profoundly altered and the structure of the society may be vastly changed. Of the 18 million days of human language, records, images and cultural universals, some – perhaps many – may be recalled as indicators of our future selves.”
Kofke presents contrasting dynamics, which range from the familiar span of a day to the unimaginable vastness of 18 million days, and in the process displays a profound tension at the heart of his work. In what terms can we articulate what it means to be human? Is it best viewed through the comfortable inscrutability of mathematics or the ineffable tranquility of intimacy? Is there an image, an equation or a turn-of-phrase capable of sufficiently capturing the world in all of its vastness and mutability, much less our place in it – either as individuals or as a collective civilization?
Kofke’s “Human-Earth Narrative” juxtaposes various images of human existence on this planet, appearing to aim towards cohesiveness but ultimately shying away from the totality of a meta-narrative. The top-half of the piece places the image of a scientifically prototypical man and woman, the latter of whom carries a child in her womb, alongside three chronological pictures of the geographical changes through which the supercontinent Pangaea transformed into the current arrangement of seven continents. A map of the solar system lies below it, detailing each planet’s distance from the sun with complex exponential equations. There’s precision and there’s particularity, but is there objective truth in the sense we would expect (or at least hope) there would be?
In “EVERYTHING TOGETHER ALL AT ONCE,” to believe in science requires faith, but it also creates doubt. Perhaps it is that the overwhelming simultaneity of life – the oppositional pressures of the past and future, the dual sensations of separation and connection with each other – would not be navigable without both of these tools, which, despite their obvious differences, beckon for collaborative use.
– By Logan Lockner
Photo by Logan Lockner