Scott Coffey | Echo Chamber

August 3 – 26, 2023

Opening / First Thursday Art Walk: August 3, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: August 12, 1pm

Conspiracy theories have become more and more relevant as part of our modern political discourse. Once a widely dismissed realm of fringe thinkers, conspiracist thought has cemented itself at the center of right-wing politics. From QAnon, Pizzagate and Obama’s birth certificate to putting chemicals in the water to turn the frickin’ frogs gay— these ideas have steadily come to dominate much of our news cycle. Algorithmically-driven media feeds use our human impulses to impose content on us that will get the most clicks, all to drive profits for the megacorporation that owns the platform. Besides increasing division and fragmentation in our general political discourse, this algorithmic cycle drives vulnerable people into conspiracy theories that confirm their fears, and guide them into larger, darker, and heavier conspiracies until the world they see is largely disconnected from reality. This show is an attempt to grapple with the serious contemporary implications of conspiracy, as well as the attention-fueled media machine that funnels people straight into conspiracism. 

Conspiracy theories are a pulpy sensibility, reducing a vast world full of complex people to black-and-white morality, with villains in shadowy rooms who craft secret plots and manipulate the populace to their evil whims. These theories form a sort of self-guided worldview, presenting all manner of evidence and saying “do your own research and make up your own mind,” allowing the reader to take what evidence speaks to them, discard the rest, and stitch it together into their own unique take on how the world actually works. This self-guided cosmology allows the conspiracist to project their own fears onto the world, making their terrors and insecurities impossibly large and stripping the humanity from anyone they deem to be villains in their grand inner narrative. With themselves as the protagonist, it can be a very easy leap to justify violence against those faceless masses on the wrong side…

I have long been interested in conspiracy theories, devouring all sorts of media about flat earth, lizard people, faked celebrity deaths, secret Satanic plots, and the people who believe it. However, after living through the rise of QAnon, COVID-19 conspiracies, and January 6th, it all became a lot less fun. And thus I began my attempt to seriously reckon with this way of thinking. I fell down the rabbit hole a little myself, and it only led me to more questions. How do you communicate, understand, and be understood, across a divide where you have fundamentally different grasp of truth and how the world works? Is it futile to even try when the other side can just scream “GROOMER” at you and stop listening? Is it ethical to stop trying when, left unchecked, these beliefs so often lead to violence? How did things get like this? What happens next? Who do we trust with the truth?

Scott Coffey, Echo Chamber, 2023, installation view
Scott Coffey, Echo Chamber, 2023, installation view

Gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am – 4pm and for special events listed above, face coverings encouraged (policy subject to change).


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Scott Coffey