In the subversive and imaginative spirits of Alfred Jarry, Alexander Trocchi, and the political artist collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), the work of Matthew Shultz is a pataphysical provocation of the highest order. Schultz works in multiple mediums with the commitment and facility of an artist who specializes in each one. His decades-long musical work, his sculptures, photography, illustrations, and design objects are woven together in thematic and conceptual works that are the product of extensive historical social and political research. Nowhere is this better seen than in his major work, The History of The Division. From wax sculpture humans, secret military kits, a range of visual iconography, and a functional motorcycle exhibition piece, Schultz is undeterred by the conventional borders of technical art forms. His provision of clear and accommodating texts, musical scores, and web design, all participate in an overall production quality that would impress anyone as “world class.” Far more importantly, his work is a critical theory, raising deep questions about history, culture, and political dangers that are present and among us. Schultz’s work is on the edge, it is a confrontation, and it takes courage. It is work that perhaps takes as much courage to take in as it does to create. The official art world does not ignore Schultz to its peril, but to its shame.
-- Richard Gilman-Opalsky, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Political Philosophy, and Chair
Political Science, University of Illinois at Springfield
Author of Unbounded Publics, Spectacular Capitalism, Precarious Communism
Almost all types of sacred clowns combine trickster spirit with shamanic wisdom to create a kind of sacred tomfoolery that keeps the zeitgeist in check. Their methods are unconventional and typically antithetical to the status quo, but extremely effective. They indirectly re-enforce societal customs by directly enforcing their own powerful sense of humor into the social dynamic. They show by bad example how not to behave. The main function of a sacred clown is to deflate the ego of power by reminding those in power of their own fallibility, while also reminding those who are not in power that power has the potential to corrupt if not balanced with other forces, namely with humor. But sacred clowns don’t out-rightly derive things. They’re not comedians, per se, though they can be. They are more like tricksters, poking holes in things that people take too seriously. Through acts of satire and showy displays of blasphemy, sacred clowns create a cultural dissonance born from their Crazy Wisdom, from which anxiety is free to collapse on itself into laughter. Sacred seriousness becomes sacred anxiety which then becomes sacred laughter. But without the courageous satire of the sacred clown, there would only ever be the overly-serious, prescribed state of cultural conditioning.
-- Gary Z McGee
The History of The Division is a multi-media exhibition that chronicles a fraternal order similar to the Freemasons. The entire narrative is the construct of artist Matthew Schultz. The overlying theme of the project deals with belief and belief in systems. One of the main focuses of the order is their fight against authoritarian and fascist regimes. It is this main theme that makes the exhibition so relevant today.
The History of The Division begins by guiding the viewer through its creation myth and moves through the different cultures and histories that have maintained a belief in The Division. The exhibition of the The History of The Division has over 50 items. All the works were created by hand over the past several years by Matthew Schultz. Yet many objects are faux deteriorated in order to challenge viewers’ expectations and beliefs as to the authenticity of the works. Much of the exhibition questions how art becomes artifact and how histories are created. The exhibition of The History of The Division also features magic. Yet these are referred to as Matgick kits. They are used today with surprising effectuality.
The exhibition of The History of The Division is meant to challenge viewer expectations and beliefs. Some of the question it raises are: Why do people believe in religion? Why do some people believe in magic and others don’t? What written words should we believe in? How much of the Internet is believable? For that matter, how much of the media in general is a lie? Along these lines, The History of The Division also deals with information delivery. It asks at what point does the voice of authority lose credibility and become propaganda? With that said, the exhibition is replete with text plaques that explain the history and works. There also are two audio tours. One is a standard “authoritative” version and the other is a “guerrilla” version. The latter audio tour is from a young girl’s perspective and makes fun of the exhibition. Ironically, it supplies a different angle and analysis, and explains the work in a humorous manner. Both tours last 18 minutes and viewers are initially unaware of which version they have. Also available is a support CD containing Division Mantras. It is a full length CD released by Lens Records and is the first in a trilogy of CDs relating to The Division.