Language is unavoidable, how obvious… but this week it is particularly so, and seems to be a deliberate theme in Windsor art-academia. Of course I am speaking of BookFest 2012, which for the most part I am not attending due to a viral upper respiratory malfunction. Nonetheless, there was the Messagio Galore take XII performance. During the BookFest panel discussion “WORD to IMAGE” at Artcite Inc., with Amin Rehman’s exhibition "A is for…" as a backdrop, Alana Bartol performed as “Slow News”, which was a gesture in the slowing down the flow of news headlines to the bodily speed of handwriting and listening through a tin can. The one ten park windows are adorned with new installations. Doubtless, I am missing something... only reiterating what has been directly at hand, of late. Does this mean I am lazy?
I must say I was disappointed in the panel discussion, though it was a worthy effort. I find that such structured public discussions, in general, only gloss over the surface of the proposed topics. It takes an hour to state the platform, to situate the “kinds” of things that everyone has assembled to discuss. After this, just as a discussion begins to unravel, the time limit has lapsed, the audience disseminates.
Perhaps to insinuate a “kind” of thought is the point, and I am taking it for granted because digging, unfolding, rearranging, is a second-nature habit for me (though fleeting and often ineffable, especially linguistically) and might not be for others. This disappointment I speak of, is not necessarily a criticism, because I myself also love to generalize, and I also love failure. I have acquired two degrees by intuitively skimming through books, dropping names, referencing ideas that I am drawn to but have no thorough understanding of. For this I was rewarded with scholarships, good grades, praise. I get rewarded for misunderstanding? I only sense I understand something-or-other, approximately, maybe… but then again, my learned trade isn’t all text, it is mostly doing, thinking, responding, taking, throwing away… battling with time and matter.
Or, perhaps this aforementioned disappointment speaks to the innate difficulty of language itself, its limits, its incestuous self-love… Even for academics and poets, who devote their lives to the activity (with the exception of bodily and emotional priorities: their self-love), it is difficult to articulate and extricate ideas. People are quite powerless to language. The mechanical mental investment that is required to make something that is beyond the self, and beyond the word, into something communicable to a group of people - is immense.
Also there is the decision of whether or not to begin the investment at all… What’s the use? Failure is certain (or at least as certain as anything can be). What’s next? Such is the labor of naming, of negotiating between the realm of inner self-awareness/intuition/enlightenment and the realm of collective facts/known systems/languages. In my unreliable opinion, the two realms are actually interchangeable, like an equation, and behave accordingly. Hence the reluctance, or rather the inability to… what, say what you mean? The moment a word escapes, it is on the other side of the equation, referencing nothing but itself, equating with its own reflection. [I don’t quite know what I’m talking about anymore… Do I sound convincing enough? Do I get an A?]
But I sense this is not unlike the self-referential nature of painting, of images.
Amin Rehman’s exhibition A is for… at Artcite Inc. (October 19 – November 17, 2012) is a fitting example. This kind of equated duality and conflict can be seen in the embodiment of the juxtaposition of conflicting phrases. The sets of phrases, as narratives, reference a kind of battle – with/in history, with/in meaning (what history? what meaning?).
“we just see more of the
same yet we continue
to do the same
why should not we leave
they continue making
the case for staying”
“there is no intuitive
when the head
certainty until you
burn; if you desire
the whole body
sit down on the fire”
[above are transcriptions of two vinyl lettering pieces, not true to font, appearance, or function.]
|Amin Remin, from A is for... (Image courtesy of Artcite Inc.) [more here]|
The works in this exhibition, although of different media (vinyl lettering, neon sign, encaustic painting, and crisp sculptural plastic letters), generally function in the same way. The words, the letters, the meaning of the phrases, is transformed throughout the process of reading. There is a point in reading the work where it makes no sense, the physicality of what the letters are made of takes over, just as you realize the collision of meanings, a kind of unrecognition where “everything” falls apart... time without past or future, the “=” sign. In my experience this psychosis lasts only for a split moment, due to the systems of language - including social composure (the wearing of clothes, keeping oneself upright, etc.). Maintaining a norm includes this automatic evaluation of whether or not something is worth emitting an emotional response for (emotional responses also have a language)… And most things around us generally are defined as not worth the trouble of feeling. This is taught to us since infanthood, in order to survive through society, to learn how to function, and it becomes instinctive, natural. At the moment when something that's intrinsic to this constructed system falls apart, we immediately and unwillingly identify as a computational malfunction, and language glazes over. Need I elaborate on the value of computational malfunctions? I am not sure if I can, and I feel at this time that this is not the place.
Like the aforementioned panel discussion, this blog post too follows certain time limits, social constraints, and personal insecurities. I am even wondering if this is worth posting at all… Well, what the hell, I’ve invested enough time typing this up, even if it says nothing.