"Last summer I was on a dig in Germany and I discovered artifacts that point toward the existence of an ancient Texas civilization," artist Joshua Goode says. "It was pretty amazing to find the remains of a Unicorn T-Rex that I determined by the saddle was domesticated and ridden."
We're talking about his newest exhibit, Artifacts form the Burial Site of the Unicorn T-Rex, which opens at RO2 Art's downtown gallery this Saturday night. speaking by phone because Goode is the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Tarrant County College and he teaches classes on Thursday mornings. Of course, this means I can't see his face as he goes on to explain the pygmies, giants and dinosaurs that he discovered in his dig. A day later, I would tell you that I didn't believe Goode's story for a second, but it took me a minute to work up the nerve to ask, "So you're shitting me, right?"
"The answer is obviously yes," Goode chuckles. "As an artist I'm always thinking about the question how do you preserve something? And I've been concerned with how we construct our histories. When we put something in a museum, we're going to deem it as art and as important and we'll match it with some sort of historical narrative."
The 33-year-old Goode earned his BFA from SMU and his MFA from Boston University and his art has been exhibited throughout the world. His preoccupation with the practices we use to create history led him to an interest in archaeology so years ago he began tagging along on archaeological digs.
"I was observing the methods of these archaeologists and I found it so entertaining to hear their opinions about one tiny artifact," Goode says. "To me it was nothing, but they would spend all this time arguing about it to match it to their version of what history is telling us."
For Goode, one of the many distinct differences between him and an archaeologist (besides the very large distinction that he is an artist and they are archaeologists) is that when he sets out on a dig, he already knows what he's going to find. He writes his own descriptions and provides his own context. So, as I point out to him, they're not doing anything remotely similar.
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"But it's not that far off, really. You see something in a museum that says something is thousands of years old but how do you even know it's really that age?" Goode asks. "I have aunt who still believes that this is a real T-Rex and I don't have the heart to break it to her."
Goode is clearly pointing to something much larger than his mythical horned dino. With television shows like Ancient Aliens and Animal Planet's mermaid special, it's clear that there are people who will believe anything. If Goode wants you to know one thing about his exhibit, it's that he didn't actually discover a unicorn T-Rex.
"But I don't want you to disregard it at first," he says. "All of this could make real sense if it were presented by someone you respect in a very serious manner. But I want you to be in on the joke with me. I want people to know they're supposed to laugh at this."
His next adventures take him to Croatia where he will conduct another dig. And, you guessed it, he already knows what he'll find there.