The photographs that make up Be Good or Be Gone chart a deeply introspective path through the recollection of a disappearing childhood at the threshold of all the attendant probabilities of independence and adulthood, and an imagined and somewhat halcyon idyll is subverted over the course of the pictures. A number of the photographs are deeply metaphorical, and allude not merely in tone but in figure to a sense of one’s history as passing irrevocably into oblivion, of decomposing and – in the process of doing so – of undermining certain fixed truths upon which a mesh of comfortable beliefs have been constructed over time. In tone the pictures undoubtedly have the air of a lament, but their mournfulness is not thoughtless or untempered by some sense of resolve, of willingness to embrace or at least to confront an uncertain future. The photographs address the manner in which memory is an imprecise and unreliable measure of our history, and find their clearest expression of purposefulness at those points where Matt’s subjects appear poised in some thought as to how to proceed, as opposed to some obsession over what has already occurred. We know that the forest contains many secrets, but have the feeling on the strength of these pictures that continuing to look is as good a place to start as any.
Matt Warder’s work in this project is part of a widening body of undergraduate work that in some way addresses directly the profoundly destabilising effects of the Financial Crisis – and the several interlinked crises that have preceded and followed it – on the instinctive and automatic expectations held by youth about their future. If the past decade and its history managed conclusively to establish any new beach-heads in our common thinking about the world, what it established was an abiding uncertainty: about the necessary conditions for a fact to be considered a fact, about the efficacy and validity of political processes, about our shared economic and ecological future, about our place within the interlinking dynamics of geopolitics and climate, and about the viability of existing solutions to act upon these pressing concerns. These questions are not specious, and they are of particularly urgent importance to those just now heading out into the world on their own. One of the strengths of these pictures is the manner in which they evoke these questions without describing them literally – the way these concerns manage to animate the work without overwhelming it, so that they are present more as a spectre than a focal point.