Wednesday, April 06, 2005If anyone reading this happens to be a scout for the Macarthur Genius Fellowship Award, I would like to nominate my teacher, Joseph Grigely. I went to his lecture on the visual representation of sound on Monday evening and my socks are officially knocked off.
First of all, you need to know that this man has a Ph.D. in Romantic Literature and another degree in, I believe, electrical engineering. Or mechanical, i'm not sure which. He is an avid flyfisherman and played semi-pro hockey. He also happens to be totally deaf, and while he does have sign-language interpreters join him for every class session, on this past Monday he spoke vocally to us for THREE HOURS. Think of that. A man who can not hear his own voice shared things about himself, his artwork, his thoughts and his process for three hours. it was incredibly generous and kind, but also let me in on the ways that my approach to art making is overlapping with his.
Joseph makes work which is about translating memory--re-presenting instead of representing. Allowing the experience--the sensation or the words themselves--to speak through him, backgrounding his own ego in favor of giving us the bigger picture. For a period of years, this took the form of installations of small bits of paper on which he had had barroom, or kitchen table conversations with hearing people. These formed something like what Mikhail Bakhtin refers to as a polyphony, a densely populated space of many voices speaking all at once--only they are incomplete, fragmentary, ephemeral. It was impossible to piece together a continuous conversation from any of the fragments--they were all from different people--but Joseph was present, of course, in all of them, as the recipient.
I'm also trying to make work that presents a shared space of many voices, a field from which my voice, my presence can emerge without my having to direct that process too much. I have multiple selves, myself- this comes through somewhat in the "condition" pictures of my hair collected on the shower wall--but i also want to bring forth the voices of birdwatchers, whose Internet observation texts i am using to make a long poem. i'm hoping to achieve something of the immediacy and re-presenting of a fleeting moment which Joseph got at with his "conversation" pieces.