Aphasia, a brain dysfunction resulting in the failure of comprehension of language, is the starting point of Lisa Cooley’s summer group show Itself Not So. Curated by staff member Rachel Valinsky, and titled after a poem by Susan Howe, the selection grabs this condition as a metaphor for the disconnect between mind and speech, examining the possible fractures causing intellectual and emotional failures regarding the self. The exhibition argues that, with the corruption of the harmony among sound, thoughts and speech, a possible chaos and detachment brings an individual’s functionality to a standstill. Both intellectual and emotional, social and biological, this turmoil challenges the autonomy of those inflicted.
The artists included in the show suggest intact territories, urging the need to reinvent the tools for comprehending sound, mind and eventually, human speech. The works aim to illustrate that when thoughts are not able to be produced into words, or when the recipient of these words fails to comprehend the language used, the disarray forms new structures of communication and accordance from the core of the chaos.
James Hoff’s two highly abstracted works on aluminum, for example, Struxnet No.5 and Concept Virus #1, silently embody moments of turmoil and tranquility through turbulent color schemes and references to the subliminal. Julien Bismuth’s nearby participatory installation, A train of thought is composed of four wooden sticks, each with four sides in different colors, and leans on the wall, waiting to be rotated every day in order to create all possible color arrangements. Renowned poet and novelist Aram Saroyan’s silkscreen work, Lighght, combines the elements of minimalism, poetry and linguistics in the frame of a misspelled word on a blank page. The word “light,” with its connotations of sun rays and reflections, is turned into an abstracted representational form, echoing the ray of light within the word’s physical appearance.
Letterpress prints from Susan Howe’s series Tom Tit Tot and Frolic Architecture are the outcomes of the artist’s meticulous research on English and American poetry, composed of rearranged footnotes, excerpts, indexes and other side texts from various books she cut out and taped together eventually to form her own literal work. Blurring the limits of poetry, language and content, Howe’s poems articulate on the fluidity of words and their interchangeable materialistic presence on paper. Fia Backström’s An-alpha/pet-isms… is an arrangement of see through vinyl films with ink-jet prints of blurred letters hanging from steel structures, challenging the viewers’ physical and mental spaces with their intricate and obscure guise, absorbing them into a system of visual and expressional uncertainty.
In one room, British video artist Imogen Stidworthy’s I Hate portrays the photographer Edward Woodman’s struggles to acclimate into day-to-day life after he lost his ability to speak. Woodman’s observance of the world passing around him, especially pictures as the tellers of life, comments on the metaphorical tangibility of speech. “If Your Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me,” reads a text on the gallery wall, inviting the viewers to participate in artist collective Research Service’s questionnaires conducted on the phone upon the submission of name, phone number and ideal time to receive a call. The participants answer questions addressed by a recorded electronic voice on the phone, and these dialogues are broadcasted throughout the duration of the exhibition. A day before the exhibition closes, Research Services will present a performative lecture based on the collected results of these interviews.
Itself Not So is on view at Lisa Cooley through August 29, 2014.
— O.C. Yerebakan
Lisa Cooley [Exhibition Page]