An Interview with Scott Rogers

Glasgow-based Canadian artist Scott Rogers delves into his current ODD Gallery exhibition, Meanders Into Nonesuch Place, with fellow artist Andrew de Freitas.

Meanders Into Nonesuch Place is on display until July 27. Read the review here.

AF: Do you ever make a point of wrapping yourself up in the stories that drive your projects? Would it ever make sense to distance yourself from the stories and avoid being directly implicated?

SR: In the past I’ve tried to make an effort to separate myself from my work. I’ve tried not to intertwine the work with my life. With Meanders Into Nonesuch Place I’m much more wrapped up in the story. I don’t really know how that happened. The project became an experience of walking in another person’s shoes.

I guess being implicated personally was part of what made the project possible. The historical information regarding Welzl is already available, and I wasn’t interested in just re-presenting his life in a traditional documentary format. To me his story is fascinating, but it seemed to be most exciting when I thought of it as a kind of score; a notation for the beginnings of a richer story.

Welzl’s life lends itself to an existential approach as well, so perhaps by becoming personally involved I could both understand his motivations and critique them. The eccentricity of some of the work in the show suggests both a sincere personal engagement and a cheeky removal from sincerity. I’m interested in the friction between those things, where the clarity of a statement starts to become muddy.

AF: Do you ever feel as if your work is making itself? Or, do you feel as if it’s a real slog, as if you are whittling away for hours to make something that, in the end, isn’t really what you hoped for?

SR: I often find that labour-intensive work becomes highly rhythmic. The repetition of a certain action (whittling for example) can become almost meditative. There have been many moments when I’ve sat in the studio for hours at a time and lost all track of other things I’m supposed to be doing.

In that sense the work definitely feels like it makes itself. It’s as consistent as the flow of a river. But, inevitably my body starts to weaken the longer I work. At a certain point my hands ache, my eyes are sore, my mind isn’t sharp. Then it’s very difficult to keep going.

I suppose that it’s a bit like going on a long journey. There are times when everything seems to rush by and you barely notice that you’re moving. At other times it’s a real struggle to continue.

AF: What do you think that Jan Welzl hoped that he could achieve with his machine?

SR: I think Welzl honestly believed that the perpetual motion machine he was attempting to make would work eventually. Or he at least believed that he could convince people that it worked. When you read his writing it’s clear that he was quite a practical guy, so I can’t see him undertaking a project that would be utterly hopeless.

At the same time, he was clearly fond of tall tales. I imagine that he also enjoyed telling people about the machine and making spurious claims about it.

AF: What can you say about your relationship with Jan Welzl? Do you feel as if you share something, that you were both looking for something similar?

SR: Welzl and I both share an interest in trying to discover impossible solutions. I’m a lot more skeptical about this than Welzl might have been. Nonetheless, it’s clear that he and I can both imagine a better world, a world where perpetual motion might be possible.

Welzl was looking for freedom and for the unknown. I’m interested in those things too, although perhaps I’m looking for them in regard to thinking, whereas Welzl was trying to make them physically.

I suppose Welzl and I are both convinced that there is more to the world than what we think we know, but how we get beyond the perceived limits is pretty uncertain.

Andrew de Freitas is an artist and filmmaker of New Zealand origin, who has been based in Montréal since 2009. He arrived in Dawson City after spending the early months of 2012 shooting a film in Catalonia, Spain.

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