Samara Scott: Offsite

Los Angeles, reclining between the Pacific Ocean and the Mojave Desert, hosts one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. But budding biodiversity is not what colors the city; an inverse does: LA is shaped from and with porous, pliant, toxic plastic and tar. Cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills, latent celluloid testaments in Hollywood, and nearly a thousand miles of blacktop suggest that the city will forever be hostile to vegetation—that any future surrender to a verdant overflow would be at best a dream, at worst a nightmare, a green asphyxiation.

Artist Samara Scott made her LA debut in November 2016 in an off-site exhibition organized by London’s The Sunday Painter gallery and hosted by the Mid-City project space Four Six One Nine. The show featured Marshes (2016), a recent series of liquid works made exclusively with materials that Scott was able to find and source during her time spent in LA—discarded clothes, food, appliance parts, and decorations harvested from sidewalks, lawns, and scrapyards. These decaying objects are assembled and coated to create sites of contamination that host and introduce infection—used drain nets preserved beneath exterior sheens, where the contents thaw and transmute, but never quite crystalize.

Outside, Scott covered Four Six One Nine’s storefront with viscous black vinyl, pressed down to adhere to various bits of trash, entrapping them in arrangements resembling something you might find in a high-school biology textbook—a cross-section of a plant cell’s interior, with a cigarette ribosome penetrating the membrane, orbited by potato lysosomes and Golgi bodies made of molding oranges and dried pasta, the end of an outdated power adaptor standing in as an endoplasmic reticulum.

The interior was foggier. A few hollowed-out mattresses were spread evenly across the floor, each one lined with plastic tarp spilling over the sides and holding a pool of liquid. Under these works’ distorted surfaces, brightly colored wires snaked through metal grids, office supplies, a hobbyist’s pack of commercial clay, crushed lime halves, confetti, cotton swabs, and old supermarket mailers. Glowing blue-, white-, and amber-hued lights lurked at the bottom of the pools, to emit a weak phosphorescence beneath a thin skin of poly film that separated the electric lights from the laden ponds. There is a logic to the arrangements, which are sorted: stockpiles of primary-colored spiraling telephone cords, red plastic netting that once held oranges, single-use Allen key screwdrivers, and plastic spoons all wait to be dredged out of Marshes II. Marshes III contains overlapping metal grids—over racks, kitchen sink parts—which form a bed of neat lines interrupted by the occasional curvature of a clothes hanger, and flaxen globules floating atop the liquid like drops of oil on dishwater.

Scott drowned these installations in water during California’s depleting drought, embedding them with the products of technological progress credited with climate change—temporary glossing agents, and wrappers from takeout containers that never seem to actually decay, but continue at a different sort of pace of disposal. Moving from trash can to dumpster to landfill, plastics such as these will eventually resurface from their shallow burial. When this material evidence inevitably floats to the top, as they do in Marshes, what is ruined is not the substances themselves, but the myth that whatever can be hidden can be obliterated—and, perhaps, the glittering plastic fantasy of LA’s potential abundance.



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