Appropriating Language #6
Putting together Coers, Giorgetti, Montiel-Soto and Oehmsen was depicting in their artistic practice a common denominator, methods of collecting, copying, gathering information, writing, searching ways for fighting failures to remember, and also turning back to simple, analogue and almost archaic methods of writing and preserving such as rubbing or using a typewriter. The artists are not in the roles of legitimate registrars, neither is their system a rigorous attempt of collecting history and knowledge. In fact these artefacts are intimate returns to poetry, books and to the self as such.
Artistically rewriting the poem of Robert Frost or transforming the poem into a visual piece, in the case of Chiara Giorgetti, is probably a manoeuvre of breathing life to it, an act of recall. “Acquainted with the Night” (2015), whose poetical inscription appears in a rhythmical (aba bcb cdc dd) and repetitive (framing device) structure, is transcribed directly on carbon paper many times, making from the negative a positive; the silverish letters start from the scratch as an evidence more of the powdery darkness that blot the hands. And the verses themselves sound to be moving forward while echoing the past.
Hunter S. Thompson retyped Hemingway & Fitzgerald novels. He said I just want to know what feels like to write these words.*
In another object of the exhibition which is an artist’s book, Giorgetti is more determined about defining the words and their meaning. By bleaching partially black tissue paper she played with LIGHT compositionally and literally. Not only bright marks and letters appear from the black surface like sun would have broken through the sheets (light drawings), but the word LUCE (light) is simply “written” letter by letter straight and reverse in every page of the book. The format of the artefact recalls the books of hours, collections of prayers that accompanied the believer daily. Giorgetti’s artworks testify for the ephemeral aspect in archiving as a process. The stream of consciousness and carelessness, of the revealed, preserved and the hidden is metaphorically rendered by the play of lights and shadows of presence and absence.
“Stop the plane! I want to return!” (2011) is called the piece from Marco Montiel-Soto. These texts are written in long stripes of paper during the author’s flights. The artist (a traveller and an immigrant)** catches himself in the air, between earth and clouds. His mute call reminds us a dream we probably have had or a familiar feeling of insecurity, just in the beginning of taking off, wanting to immediately turn back. Montiel-Soto “archives” by articulating, by writing down his thoughts, fears and doubts of the human uneasiness of being not only on the road, but also divided between homes and halfway.
Looking at the artefacts we can still hear in our imagination mechanical and rubbing sounds as an accompanying act during the recordings done on / to the paper. An “Act sans paroles” says Giorgetti after Beckett. Paper rolls expand and develop from top of the walls (Giorgetti, Montiel-Soto) and create accumulations of scripts. The gallery space turns out to be a place of active reading and seeing.
Albert Coers represents his “Grammars” piece (2010-15). Rubbing, a simple technique of printing, was often used in archaeology for getting the text(ure) of surfaces with a relief, for instance letters on tombstones. Here it is applied to covers of books with embossed titles, a series of grammar of languages that the reader is unlikely to have heard of, that seem unknown or even extinct, probably of regions in Africa or Asia. By doing so, the aspect of preserving and archiving of the languages and the books coincides, whereas, the names of the languages develop poetry of its own.
The rubbings originate from grammars found in the library of the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, ZfL, Berlin. They will be combined with others that try to preserve the texture of books, transforming them from objects into images.
“selbstArchiv” - (Self-Archiving) - the last installation in the exhibition is that of Lena Oehmsen. It is a self-portrait - so claimed by the artist. A white box is meticulously filled with physical properties and information all related to her persona, such as height, blood pressure, hair color. The recorded items look like library card book plates with accessible and organised data ready to flip through. Nevertheless the source fakes an absolute openness. The viewer is not permitted to get a profound understanding of the artist. A glass cover prevents a deeper insight into the files.
*Kenneth Goldsmith “I look to Theory…” Poetry, April 2015
** Lisa Gelhard, text on “Stop the plane! I need to return.”