Order gives way to chaos in John Adelman's "Fardel" (2008), a multilayered stenciling of words and definitions from the 1979 Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary. Systematically overlapped and woven together to form a fabric of letters, the words are almost completely unintelligible. After spending several minutes trying to tease out distinct words, I gave up and gave in to the mesmerizing richness of the work's accumulated language.
Words are destined for obscurity in Christopher Baker's notable installation "It's Been a While Since I Last Wrote" (2008), in which a wall-mounted thermal printer generates the title statement (which is also the first sentence of every LiveJournal blog post I ever wrote) in a casual, handwritten scrawl on receipt paper. The paper travels through two subsequent thermal printers, which proceed to black out the sentence. The process suggests the brief and disembodied lives of digital communications: how a blog post, tweet, status update, or news headline hovers before our awareness for only a few seconds before it is replaced by something else. This installation and so many other works in the exhibit disrupt this incessant stream of content by providing new and unexpected contexts for us to encounter and engage with language.
Non-Text is on display at the EMU University Gallery through December 11. Leave your reading glasses at home. UPDATE: according to a reader, as of December 6, the exhibit had closed.
[Originally published in December, 2013.]
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