Does the past inspire the future, or does it haunt it? It would depend on whom you ask; just because people share the same physical space, does not mean that they share the same history, or more importantly, desires. Certainly the present contains layer upon layer of realities that differ; take for example how ranchers today tend livestock as data server farms loom just off in near the distance. Dustin Yellin weaves such compounded, if contradictory states of being into the fabric of The Politics of Eternity, 2018, a large-scale allegorical sculpture, which teases how our contemporary landscape, no matter how diverse, is frozen between an illustrious, if not imagined past, and a promised, yet uncertain future.
The artwork, a chevron shaped heptaptych comprised of 3-dimensional mixed media collage embedded into individual laminated glass steles, can be divided into 3 parts, or narrative acts. The first renders a fictive community gathered around a sacred ancient totem, which itself, is mirrored formally in the third act; there an as of yet born society donning jet-packs and space helmets buzzes around a techno-metropolis centered around a rocket ship. These two acts, which form the upper arms of the chevron, bookend a set of lower panels that more or less depict the march of modernity as tall ships and super tankers float in a central sea fed on both ends by waterfalls cascading out from the other two parts. Greater forms of parallelism abound, geological crystal hunters line subterranean ant-like tunnels near a Hades-like fiery underworld to hunt jewels for the first act’s totem, while the third finds workers exploiting ore and other resources in industrial mines adjacent to a pit where junk cars melt within a molten lava bath. Like sign posts, 3 celestial bodies loom over each act. The Sun marks the dawning of the past, while the rocket points toward a goal, the Moon. Mars, the symbol for war, broods over the flood of modernity as battleships dot a sea polluted with scraped cultural artifacts, and yes, there are monsters lurking in the water.
Was Paradise lost? If so, can it be regained? Is our current world awash, and if so, is this also a warning? Perhaps the rocket will take a lucky chosen few to the Moon? Perhaps, the worshipers seek other heavens instead? Let’s return to our opening question, does the past inspire the future, or does it haunt it? Both of course, it all depends on your position. Like the questions found in Paul Gaugiun’s painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? The Politics of Eternity can be read as a visual riddle on human existence that teases its viewers to probe its arcane and often ambiguous shapes and symbols.