Hoaxes, falsehoods and fictions are at play in Scott Billings’ new body of work, pseudo-here. The Vancouver-based artist draws from a seemingly fathomless pool of mathematics, physics, art, and popular culture to fake and make meticulously constructed objects embedded with intriguing histories and questionable truths.
History abounds with charlatans duping impressionable believers into trusting absurd claims and outrageous lies. These deceits often rely on the support of a prop, a false-artifact that gives credibility to the deception (it sure looks real). Billings asserts that the substance of a hoax lies not in the false-artifact but in us, the storytellers – and it is cultural consensus that completes and perpetuates the hoax. By what other means could a pie plate have become a flying saucer or a narwhal tusk have come from a unicorn?
Through his convincing constructions, Billings guides our attention to the process of faking and making. A teeter-totter outfitted with the seats from a 1992 sports car owned by Billings’ father, who purportedly once held the world record for longest continuous time on a teeter-totter, rises and falls subtly; an industrial robotic arm gripping a narwhal tusk performs an uncanny choreography; a video depicting Billings walking across the perilously busy Places des Pyramides in Paris, is scarcely missed by speeding automobiles (the very location where the artist Alberto Giacometti broke his foot in 1938); and two data generated 3D prints, made from light and heavy matter, emerge from the dark. One feigns a perpetual escape from its grounded material state using a motor, a strobe, and a little Fibonacci trickery; and the other descends from the heavens, as if materialized by the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) collision data that unearthed the God particle, glowing with celestial promise.
The way Billings works with physical and virtual matter obliges us to consider how we think about it. It is material yet immaterial, weighty yet almost weightless, here and yet not quite here. Billings proposes the notion that the essence of the 3D printed object “remains trapped within the computer, even though it appears to be resting in the palm of your hand.” His engineering background and ability to construct extraordinary objects provide the gravitas that lays the foundation of any good hoax. Billings’ exquisite renderings — concrete and cerebral, poetic and humorous — tell a persuasively good story.
Scott Billings is a visual artist, engineer, and designer based in Vancouver. His sculptures and video installations frequently centre on issues of animality, mobility, and spectatorship. Billings holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia, a BFA from Emily Carr University, and a BASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo. He teaches at UBC and Emily Carr as a sessional instructor.
Scott Billings is represented by Wil Aballe Art Projects.