A Timeless Call for Empathy
If you’re going to spend your life communicating, you might as well find something close to heart to talk about. Not only will it make the message more authentic, but the work might enlighten yourself as well.
Scott Albrecht is a Brooklyn based artist who often uses his own experiences in his work, where he would distill them into more universal interpretation to allow the viewer to relate — and in turn showing how we are more connected by these shared events. His latest body of work, A Forgiving Sunset, which is largely rooted in typography, is a reference to the social climate and the growing gaps Scott was seeing among relationships — both on a cultural level as well as a personal level — and his own desire to return to something more connected.
Your latest work draws references from the growing gaps you see among relationships. Could you please elaborate?
I think within the US we are at a boiling point of how we see one another and it affects how we, on a very fundamental level, interact and trust one another. It’s a really unfortunate norm that we live in now. In so many cases it feels like there are two sets of “facts” that are independent of one another and people choose what they want to believe is true and discredit anything else. It’s unsettling because this starts to remove the commonalities and the way we can empathize with one another. If we don’t have the same set of facts to draw on, we can’t be a part of the same conversation, and can’t have a mutual understanding of what a center point is. I think where this has been leading people over time is to see people more and more as only a “liberal” or “conservative” or a “this” or a “that” and ultimately as an opposition versus an individual.
A Forgiving Sunset is based on your own wish to return to something more connected. How does your work help you connect?
For me personally, because of the way that I work, the process winds up being a form of long-term contemplation on these ideas and issues. In that respect, it helps me consider a situation to better understand it instead of being more reactionary, and ultimately informs my path forward.
You've stated that during the process of making this exhibition, you develop a habit of listening to the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (1927). I’ve never heard it before, but found it extremely touching and beautiful. Do you remember the first time you heard it?
It is and I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I had originally come across it by chance as part of a monologue track by Mos Def, and I remember feeling like I found something I didn’t know I was looking for.
You describe the poem as ‘a fairly timeless call for empathy, compassion and understanding’. Is this something you are calling for with your latest work as well?
In a lot of ways yes. I think the work is leading towards those values as an end goal. Some of the works are a little broader and looser in interpretation, but I see all these pieces as snippets of the same story — some are more at the beginning of the story when you’re figuring out what it’s about, (e.g. “A Series of Moments”), the middle when you recognize the problem or opportunity (“From You” Light & Dark) or the end with a potential outcome (“A Forgiving Sunset”).
Pieces like the “From You” set probably align most literally with the values mentioned. The words are taken from the sentiment “different from you” which I think serves as the foundation to a lot of the fear and bias towards other people. It is a reaction that diminishes people based on their difference, while ignoring their own difference. The pieces show almost identical forms based on the letters “From You” in an inverted color palette. On the surface it would appear that they are two separate pieces, however the colors pull from the same palette just balanced differently and the structure of the forms are almost identical. In the end, the pieces have more in common than what the surface suggests.
How can people connect with the world through art and design? Is this something you think designers should be more concerned about?
I do think about this a lot. As artists and designers, we are creating our own languages and systems within our work that are meant to interact with the public. Being aware of who is on the other side and what their situation or environment may be, is a part of being a good communicator. On some level, I think all designers should be considering this in the work that they do or the work that they could be doing or want to do. I think it’s also important since designers and artists are the ones presenting the conversations, to find meaningful things to connect about.
All your work is inspired by an ongoing observation of the situations happening around you — that you want to create something worth being reminded of. Could you try to explain how you find the topics of your projects? How can designers use their surroundings better?
I wind up doing a lot of writing prior to working on anything at all. It’s a practice that allows me to surface things that I may subconsciously view as important but haven’t had the chance to verbalize or get out yet.
I think it’s important to find what is important to you and unabashedly let that to inform the work you want to do. Being authentic and allowing your voice to come through is more important than trying to do something that is on trend or cool at that moment because that will inevitably become dated if it’s only surface level. I also think a lot people tend to look at the way something might be received as justification to even doing a project or a piece (or a reason not to) and that’s not the point in my eyes. In that instance, you’re making your own work the client for other people's interests beyond your own. I would much rather look back in 10 years and see work that I’m proud of that I did, regardless of whether it was received well or not.
A Forgiving Sunset is exhibited at First Amendment Gallery in San Fransisco until July 28th.