“Nothing served to ‘assemble’ the different peoples and vernaculars more than capitalism, which, within the limits imposed by grammars and syntaxes, created mechanically reproduced print-languages, capable of dissemination through the market.”
— “Imagined Communities” by Benedict Anderson, 1983
I believe that contemporary art is too often informed by complacent cultural consumption. My aim as an artist is to question and even reverse my consumption of prefabricated cultural mechanisms. Instead, as a person socialized to relate to and communicate with other persons (as all persons are), my aim is to engage in actively and consciously consuming cultural systems of communication in order to bore into and unpack them, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of how meaning is made.
The process known as socialization has an efficient way of perpetuating itself by making cultural attributes and associations subliminal or subconscious. Cultural norms, which constitute the very bedrock of society, are the strongest when consumed and reproduced subliminally. For that reason, I need to know where every phoneme that I use comes from. For example, the sounds that make up the word elegant, where do they come from? What other words use these sounds?
Socialization works on one individual just as colonization works on a group of individuals. My work, then, is an attempt to re-socialize, re-colonize, and re-appropriate myself and in so doing, to create a potential model for a new (or at least different) culture.
My efforts are illustrated through the pieces that follow:
*leikw – Inheritance, Elegant, Election (phonetic connotations series), 2013
*leikw — is a video triptych of my mouth reproducing phonemes while exploring the many paths of alliteration by which meaning comes into being. These videos are simulations of the trajectory that phonetics have taken over time through the de/re-contextualizations resulting from human migration. For example, in “Elegant,” I start incessantly repeating the PIE (Proto-Indo-European) word *leikw —. The repetitions quickly morph into eleg- which transforms into the Latin eligere, subsequently transmuting into elegans – elegantis and finally the modern English word “elegant.” *leikw – is the Proto-Indo-European word for “inheritance,” which is phonologically closely related to the Latin root eleg-, meaning choice.
In this case, “phonologically related” means that the most distinctive sounds are the liquid alveolar sound l followed by a velar stop kw or g. The piece explores the notion in comparative linguistics that sounds using the same oral muscles or cavities are often interchangeable. These modifications happen due to cultural influences, migrations, linguistic assimilations (i.e., oral translations), and finally genetic mutation. *leikw – is an attempt to illustrate clearly the process used to identify key sound forms in modern languages in order to show how units of sounds that serve as building blocks to the words we use today have pre-determined meanings constructed through a long history. The central purpose of this exercise was the development of a new representation model for language and concepts.
Now, you may wonder, what is the connection between “inheritance” and the adjective “elegant”? To answer that question, we must try to transpose ourselves into the environment in which the Proto-Indo-European sounds originated. The experience is purely conceptual by nature, but it does yield a rather clarifying observation: Inheritance comes with privilege, which in turn produces the luxury of choice. In an abundance of choice there's a game or protocol that is cultural by conception. The ability to understand this game and work it, making the “right” choices, becomes a marker of elegance.
Three and Three Poems, 2013, prints
This piece is a triptych of prints of the same poem each in a different mode of representation. Each concept has been meticulously translated. It introduces Om (?), the Vedic concept for the sacred and eternal hum of the universe, as a verb. In highly reductive terms, the verb to om could be equated to a metaphysical aspect of the English verb ‘to be.’ The title is an homage and reference to Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs, 1965.
Syllabic System of Sounds Table 1, 2013, print
Syllabic System of Sounds Table 1 is central to the development of a new model of representation for language and concepts. The symbols listed are elements that when put together make concepts much like words and letters.
The first column on the left comprises a list of representations of single consonantal phonetic sound units. The top row is a list of single vowel phonemes, which are the unrestricted flow sounds (ah, eh, ih, aw, oh, ooh, and the diphthongs au and ae). Consonants provide a mold for unrestricted vocal cord movements, creating other phonological units such as syllables. All other signs on the chart are combinations of restrictions followed by unrested sounds, creating perfect syllables or a consonant followed by a vowel. For example the second row reads: B’, BA, BEH, BI, BAW, BO, BOOH, BAU, BAE.
Syllabic System of Sounds Table 1 represents the ultimate colonization and peak refinement of once finger-painted symbols in ecstatic performance based on ancient archetypal possession rituals and autohypnosis. Now the language has been completely codified, unified, and homogenized in order to propagate ultimate trust, however thinly veiled it may be as one-sided colonialist control. Matt Mullican’s process and craftsmanship serve as an important point of contemporary contextualization for this piece in particular.
“You Compare Branches with Arms”, 2013, print
Informed by Wittgenstein’s “Lectures on Aesthetics,” this exercise explores the relationship between morphology, syntax, and translation.
Anderson, Benedict R. O. Imagined Communities:Rreflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (London: Verso, 1983).
Kosuth, Joseph. Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writings, 1966-1990. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991).
Mallory, J. P., and Douglas Q. Adams. The Oxford Introduction to Proto Indo European and the Proto Indo European World. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Mullican, Matt. Subject Element Sign Frame World. (New York: Skira Rizzoli Punblications, 2013).
Weingart, Wolfgang, and Katharine Wolff. Typography: My Way to Typography; Retrospective in Ten Sections. (Baden/Switzerland: Müller, 2000).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. “Lectures on Aesthetics”. in Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics: From Plato to Wittgenstein, ed. Frank A. Tillman et all. (New York: Haddon Craftsmen, 1969).