(un)making sense

Dimensions variable, performance, installation, 2016

This project is an environment for the rearrangement of language and using recitation as a medium. Much like momentary thoughts swirl around in our heads, this space holds sound: amplifying ephemeral thoughts both sensical and not. By using words and phrases as contextless fragments, new arrangements create new meaning. I began by typing 200 fragments on individual index cards. These cards sat on a tall pine table waiting to be handled by participants. The public was encouraged to handle these cards, rearrange them, switch them out, scramble them up, and edit them - making/unmaking phrases and meaning by placing them on a slender shelf. To document these changes throughout the duration of the project, the words were spoken aloud and amplified, adding to the composition of sound. This sound is live; its made and then its gone. Periodically, once a viewer arranges a phrase, I retrieved it and gave it to the readers. The readers took turns, following precise rules and arrangements, much like a musical score, reciting them aloud. The rules they followed included: repetitions, codas, crescendos, decrescendos, duets, frontwards, backwards, and unison.  

Before the readers spoke, they waited for me to sit down at my Smith-Corona typewriter. Once my fingers were poised, much like an accompanist, I began to punch the keys as they spoke. I typed as fast as I could to record what the readers were saying. This transcription acts as an artifact of the performance of the readers and also it captures the arrangements created by participants. It grew increasingly difficult to transcribe what they were saying as their recitation rules advanced in complexity as they spoke different words at the same time. Once the readers completed their arrangement of rules, I stopped typing. The readers and I paused until a viewer made a new arrangement of fragments on the shelf. During this quiet pause, several audio speakers could be heard. They were placed both high and low, forcing viewers to stretch and bend to listen. They looped different voices reciting more fragments. Seemingly serendipitously, the viewer could hear specific words live from the mouths of the readers and also pre-recorded from the speakers, like an echo across time and space.

The last element of the installation was a pile of words typed on paper. Participants were encouraged to use the provided words and pin them directly to the wall creating poetry/phrases/stories by addition (much like novelty magnetic poetry sets for refrigerators). Throughout the project, this piece grew in size as words were continually added. 

*Many thanks to readers, Kate Gordon and Caroline Bugby