In Other Words Exhibition at the Intersection for the Arts (San Francisco, CA)
Technology often conjures up images of mobile devices, machines, and programming. Yet, technology, according to Wikipedia, “...is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function”. With all the taxonomies and ever evolving nature of art, new technologies present themselves everyday. Yet, the barrage of images in the media are not the only thing that inundate us. Language is ubiquitous. What limitations do we experience when we're forced to use only 140 characters? What does this impact the way we communicate? Or how do we make sense of the words that make it into our vernacular in such a fast paced environment? In Other Words, showing at the Intersection for the Arts, showcases the work of contemporary artists interpreting our collective relationship and understanding of language. Kevin Chen, Intersection for the Arts program director, gathered artists looking at the written word to extrapolate human behavior and creativity, re-configurations and semantics of language, the tactile nature of typography and script, and the physical placement of text.
Imagine the networks and visual spaces we visit. What would those lines, images, and words look like meshed together? Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian answers this question through her visual metaphors of social media. Her work forces the viewer to realize that it doesn’t really matter where you look because it is all within the same space. The habit-forming behavior of constantly checking our e-mail, looking for new tweets, and compulsively looking at peoples’ photo albums online is the basis for this work. She shows how we open ourselves up to a world hoping to find something new but it is all the same material. The same people in different places. Harris-Sintamarian’s work is a testament to how our minds might synthesize and re-appropriate the world.
Christine Wong Yap’s work looks at Optimism and Pessimism in human behavior. Inspired by the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Yap's drawings are interpretations of his notable sayings and statistical analyses. The replication of scientific text through drawing and handwriting solidifies good habits in the viewer as well. Yet they serve as meditations for the artist. Her well curated info-graphics and carefully written text are worth the attention. In this digital age, people will find Yap's work refreshing because it serves to remind us of our capacity to create.
Katie Gilmartin Queer Words re-contextualizes the relationship between words and images. Although seemingly mundane and innocuous, words such as ‘bear’ may conjure a wild animal, yet take on a completely different meaning within the queer lexicon. The vernacular and pictures Gilmartin employs are humorous and overt. She plays into both our collective consciousness and gender constructs.
Speech and language take on a physical form in Alex Potts work while Cassie Thornton re-interprets the television as a form of purely textual communication. Past the main entrance, visitors see a spiral staircase with multiple white waxed cornucopias inviting the viewer to engage and experience space, form, and sound. Potts work with audio and feedback based on the participants’ engagement with the work is integral to comprehension of what language may sound like from one person to another. He creates the forms but relies on the active listener and participant to bring the piece to life. In Education Delivers People (2011), Cassie Thornton re-interprets Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman’s work, Television Delivers People (1973). Thornton’s piece seems to translate, to a certain degree, a similar message but tailored to a contemporary audience. Simultaneously, the work reflects history and how it relates to the current state of the economy. Through stand alone text, without all the images and superfluous media, the viewer becomes enlightened.
Textile work, “She wrote love letters in 1971”, by Julia Goodman, the viewer is left to imagine love letters. Goodman layered and folded memories together to create a simulacra of memories in a piece with very little text. The piece serves as a testament to how the imagination creates the stories, words, phrases, and tales perhaps much richer in the mind devoid of spell check. "Wear your biggest smile. (2012), by Annie Vought, is based on a collection of dreams culled from the Internet. She visualizes a particular order by precisely cutting away to reveal a translation of virtual to physical.
Lastly, physical engagement with text in space is seen in the work of Meryl Pataky. Your Company (2012) and Say It Out Loud (2012) made with steel, brass, and computer parts displays our digital waste and re-configures the refuse into physical three-dimensional language. The shapes and bends of the material simulate how we may perceive the world in which we work and find ourselves confined to. Pataky creates a bit of mysticism in his deconstruction. We see the words but don’t necessarily have to understand the etymology. We see them in space and that is all that matters. In contrast, Susan O’Malley sprinkles plaques throughout the venue coupled with larger sandwich boards adorning the center of the gallery space. O’Malley wants to lead the viewer to an experience of art through a playful hide and seek of text which serves as a metaphor to the hidden meanings of language we encounter on a daily basis. Overall, our relationship to language is multi-faceted and constantly evolving as seen in these works. Chen's selection of artists not only illuminate the complexity of language but evoke our senses and reactions to them.