|9 Mar 2024
|18:30 - 20:30
|Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP
Join us for the exhibition opening, all are welcome! This event will include performances by some of the artists.
About the exhibition
The Expanded Librarian exhibition is the result of a series of collaborative artists’ workshops investigating different approaches to what the figure of the Expanded Librarian can be, and to add to the existing discourses of text & image – theoretically, methodologically and as artistic strategy.
Groups within the workshop have taken a different thread to follow:
- Text+Image Migrations: translation, transcription, transformation
- Text+Image Remediations: intermediality, reproduction, intertextuality
- Text+Image Interpretations: (creative) mis-recognitions & mis-identifications
- Text+Image Automations: constructed & generated content
The ideas around the exhibition fit with CRASSH’s mission of interdisciplinary approaches, because it has not only brought visual artists and writers together in collaborative thought processes but also integrated aspects from digital humanities, generative computing, visual poetry, translation as a creative strategy, reenactment as participative writing, choreography…
What you see in the exhibition are the initial ideas and works in progress made as part of this research. We invite you to consider methods used to create text and image relations in the works presented, as well as the relationship between these methods and the theoretical framework under which they were made.
Featuring a diverse group of artists, this exhibition is a captivating encounter with the evolving concept of the Expanded Librarian. Join us in this exploration of interdisciplinary approaches that redefine the boundaries between text and image.
Beverley Carruthers, Emma Bolland, Jane Glennie, Jane Partner, Laura Bivolaru, Laura Rosser, Nicolas Lambouris, Paula Muhr, Robert Good, Sarah Blair, Sarah Messerschmit, Sharon Young, Simon Tyrrell, Sylee Gore, Tom Rogers, Wiebke Leister
Beverley Carruthers: Fresh Quines
Sonic composition, text and photographs.
Emma Bolland: Three Building Writing Architectures: durational performance—drawing as writing, muttering, drifting. I am a multimedia artist researching rituals within female experience, using field recordings, generative text, performance, and photography. As an Expanded Librarian exploring text and image automations, I embrace the position of an activist, endeavouring to open the doors of the library to champion female knowledge. Knowledge that is often overlooked and dismissed. Within the archives and libraries scattered throughout the UK lies the concealed cultural history and legacy of the ‘herring girls’ — migrant workers, predominantly originating from Scotland. These resilient women accompanied Scottish fishing boats as they ventured southwards in pursuit of herring shoals, tirelessly gutting and preparing fish for the market. When the women weren’t gutting fish, they knitted ganseys — traditional hand-made jumpers with individual site-specific patterns worn by the herring fishermen off the costs of Britain.
The herring girls meticulously translated the knitting patterns, into jumpers, reminiscent of an algorithmic process following instructions to perform specific functions. I began to conceptualize gansey knitting patterns as a form of algorithm.
The intersection of female labour, historical narratives, and technological processes became a focal point of the work, highlighting the interconnectedness of past and present, manual and automated, in the tapestry of our collective history. As a poster, this iteration of the work brings together an image of Ruby Searles gutting herring in 1957 at the age of 15 with texts taken from oral history recordings of her and others in 2023, and the code of a gansey knitting pattern.
Emma Bolland: Three Building
Writing Architectures: durational performance—drawing as writing, muttering, drifting.
‘…a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order’ (Walter Benjamin: ‘Unpacking my Library’, 1931, trans. Hannah Arendt).
Maria Fusco et al (2011) described an art writing which affords ‘a possible form of the liberty of the image’.1 If I am a librarian of images, then I am glad to set them free. When working with images I am assembling and disassembling (image as process) and when working with writing it is an open-ended cataloguing of what the images might be. A consideration of representation without the burden of representation. When thinking through the spaces— total, porous—of the institutional buildings that figure in my project Three Building, there is order, but the order is that of the knowledge that the possibilities of cataloguing are endless. The patients inside these institutions drift, but this is not an asocial Borgesian drift, rather it is the drift of subterfuge: respite disguised as perpetual motion, space claiming as flux. In the 1990s the smoking room of Highroyds psychiatric hospital (windowless, its walls and ceilings gilded with nicotine), contained a bookshelf stacked with books that patients had left behind. During an extended year-long bi-polar relapse I had lost the ability to read. Words were now images, marks on a page. I learned to read again, slowly, painstakingly, from the many science-fiction paperbacks among its ‘collection’; like abstraction their representations releasing the narrative from the burden of the now.
Co-authored by Maria Fusco, Yve Lomax, Michael Newman and Adrian Rifkin as part of the syllabus for the MFA Art Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011, and published as: Maria Fusco, ‘11 Statements Around Art Writing’, in: Give Up Art, Los Angeles, CA: New Documents, 2017.
Jane Glennie: Polite Notice
Film and Sculpture (kinetic sand, cardboard, paint and perspex dome).
Expanded Librarianship is to be a small child at a buffet giving random items an exploratory lick, assured that something good will be unearthed. It’s roaming shelves, flicking pages, consuming or spitting out. Each, and every, library holds an array of interpretations, possibilities, and a whole host of material for our disposal. Yet, too, it is scary. I am also free to interpret or misinterpret, working from a position of knowing relatively little and (inadvertently) falsely concluding and filing away. The chief ‘librarians’ shelved me into Interpretations; and our group examined connections between our ideas on this and on translation. This led to my work deviating into areas that seemed a better fit with our ongoing discussions.
I was drawn to an archive languishing in my ‘stacks’ – a collection of ‘polite notices’ built up over five years. These seem, to me, to be such a strange, idiosyncratic, form of signage. With interpretation and translation in mind, I delved in, and researched politeness.
Politeness conventions vary internationally, but also evolve over time. Is our current collective ability improving or declining? Do we treat each other politely? In a truly considerate way? And not one masked in passive aggression? How do we deal with the assumptions that are made by everyone who is apparently ‘not judging but …’?
A sign on the vitrine declares: ‘Don’t assume to know me’ (a universal problem). Deeper inside a second layer of perspex is a jumble of ad hoc signs, erected in sand: a mess of my thoughts. There is, ostensibly, a tide of rules of politeness to comply with. But could I just say or ask anything I want, and relieve myself of responsibility, if I precede it with ‘Polite Notice’? Clearly not. Equally my work seeks to make the ludicrousness of ‘polite notices’ apparent.
Jane Partner: Expanded Poetry – The Cloud of Unknowing
Sculpture (aluminium, copper, solder, ink, paper).
What happens in your brain when you perceive text and image at the same time? This question is important for understanding how the experimental genre of visual poetry is shaped by differences between visual and verbal processing, and how it can be illuminated by perspectives that include neuroscience, attention studies, aesthetics, and eye movement tracking. One characteristic shared across the diversity of visual poetry is that it plays with tensions between looking and reading. Words are often broken out of conventional linear patterns so that we attend to their appearance rather than being absorbed in meaning. My work investigates these formal concerns through the idea of the network, which pervades contemporary culture as a model of interconnectedness from computer systems to neural architecture and social structures. Drawing on the visual/verbal hybridity of network diagrams, and on their mesmeric complexity, I map in visual poetry what happens when words move out of line into multi-directional webs of meaning. The image on my poster is correspondingly poised between being a diagram about visual poetry and a visual poem about diagrams.
As an Expanded Librarian, I use language in a spatially expanded field, creating non-linear text in visual poems, and remediating visual poetry into three dimensions. My maquette presented here is a sketch towards a network sculpture called ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’. This title is borrowed from a medieval mystical treatise in which the cloud represents the ineffable limits of what we know. This metaphor takes on new resonance in relation to the unseen, dematerialised functions of cloud computing, which sustains the internet using ‘neural networks’ that draw inspiration from the brain’s own structures.
The brain is a remediation device, turning ‘reality’ into perception, perceived images into words, words into memory. Transpositions between creative media respond to the nature of remediation as a fundamental quality of embodied experience.
Laura Bivolaru: The Common
Moving image, photographs, spoken word.
The Common brings together the artist’s own story of migration and adaptation to the UK with a reflection on the history of Wandsworth Common, a public park in South London. The work focuses on a nature conservation area on the Common called ‘the Scope’ – the former site of the 19th century Craig Telescope, the world’s largest refraction telescope at that time. Today managed as a wild area, the Scope’s woodland has been allowed to grow a rich canopy and dense thicket, transforming the once gorse-covered open space into a vibrant ecosystem where multiple species of insects, birds and vegetation thrive, while non-native, invasive species, such as the rhododendron, are regularly removed. The Common draws from the contradiction between human control and wilderness in order to bring into the viewer’s awareness the ways in which nature is constructed as a camera-mediated representation. Bivolaru’s text – a collection of anecdotes and reflections on the experience of migration – is a parallel exploration of the dialectic between the natural and the artificial. Disjointed from the visual subject, the artist’s polyglot thoughts mirror the migrant’s state of uprootedness when transplanted into a foreign place. They don’t seek to offer clarification, but companionship for the viewer’s gaze gliding on the surface of the images.
Bivolaru is interested in the Expanded Librarian network as a space where ‘creative nutrients’ are passed between artists as a way of nourishing a variety of ‘artwork species’, a framework borrowed from Suzanne Simard’s research into the role underground mycorrhizal networks play in connecting trees and facilitating communication and nutrient exchange. Being part of this project has allowed Bivolaru to challenge and expand her own ideas about how the sense of displacement can foster practices of adapting to new contexts through inhabiting interstitial spaces. As an Expanded Librarian, Bivolaru reconfigures the ecosystem of the Scope – on the one hand, as a library of interspecies relationships that an observer can contemplate and consult as a source of empirical knowledge; on the other, as a way to consider the limitations of nature as metaphor and ask how we can see it as a living system rather than as resource for human needs or a projection of human desires.
Laura Rosser: Enchiridion
Dot matrix print, detail from live print installation.
Laura Rosser’s language-based practice draws on expanded understandings of ‘error’ to reimagine our relationships with machines, systems, and online spaces. Working with her collection of 1980’s dot matrix printers and printed ephemera, she creates live text-based installations that embrace error as potential for unforeseen encounters, signalling a move away from conventions of logic and order. Her use of language and mistranslation disrupts – and interrupts – rational thought and digital structures; preferring the misadventurous and crooked path.
Considering new materialist thought, which suggests we must no longer consider ourselves as superior to nonhuman things (Bennett, 2009), and the post-digital condition, which proposes we question our relationship with digitality (Cramer, 2012), her work is asking if we should re-think our connection with machines, including the politics of machine-led or human-led labour?
The speed of the digital world and a persistent overload of information brings a tireless pressure to know more, to do more, to be faster. In the context of the Expanded Librarian project, she is considering if our re-imagined libraries push back at exhaustion to celebrate practices of attention, repetition, revisiting and spending time with. Rosser’s hand scanned texts explore ideas around automation, looping, returning and the cyclical. Sitting somewhere in-between computer code and online instruction sets, the work creates opportunity for diverse machine voices to unfold. Emerging from the in-between space between a human associated language and a machine clatter that is in a language not our own.
Nicolas Lambouris: Carnation Songs (To Death We Dance)
Archival pigment prints, found book plates, inkjet print on paper.
Carnation Songs (To Death We Dance) is an artistic project which investigates the social and cultural conditions of popular Greek entertainment rituals at live music clubs. Defining a particular phenomenon in Greece and Cyprus, where celebrations in a typical Mediterranean temperament weave exuberance, singing and dancing, against lyrics of anguish and destruction; a contradiction that raises the question of, why do we dance to death? The ‘stage’ or ‘bouzoukia’ (Greek jargon for nightclubs with live Laiko-popular music) are enchanting words among Greeks, as they allude not only to a distinct form of entertainment, the epitome of Greek entertainment culture, but also define an idiosyncratic practice with perplexed implications on every aspect of the social fabric. It is in these premises that Greeks find an outlet for emotional release, by singing and dancing along the headlining-singers, while performing another distinct ritual: the throwing of hundreds of carnation flowers onto the stage. The project reappropriates lyrics from several different songs (textual sign) that speak of death, violence, poverty and emotional despair, in producing another, extended poem-song on death. Operating between transcription and translation, the work attempts to establish alternative textual and visual associations between verses and carnations (visual sign). In interpreting, expanding, and unfolding the relationships between text and image (operating as an Expanded Librarian who collects, inserts, subtracts, affixes and retrieves), the work attempts to direct into new readings of this social experience. The resulting piece works as a constellation of various artifacts: archival photographs of carnation flower arrangements, newly produced photographs of carnation flowers in a vase (against digital projections of abstract landscapes), photographic fragments of carnation flowers thrown at Greek nightclubs, and a printed version of the new song for death.
Paula Muhr: NOISE
HD video animation.
The work NOISE combines text fragments and still AI-generated images to explore the transcriptive effects created by iterative automated (mis)translations between texts and images. First and foremost, NOISE approaches the Expanded Librarian topic of text-image migrations by focusing on recursive semantic transitions that transpire during successive steps of the translational process situatively enacted through hybrid human-algorithm interactions.
As an act of Expanded Librarianship, and to set the process in motion, I first chose four novels that feature idiosyncratic female characters: John Banville’s Shroud, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. From each novel, I culled a single sentence about a female character. I used each sentence, which becomes semantically ambiguous when taken out of context, as a prompt for a machine-learning image generator that created four images. Having selected a single image, I fed it into another algorithm that produced a textual description of the image as an alt-text, which I then used as a new input for the text-to-image algorithm. I repeated this process multiple times, selecting the semantically ‘noisiest’—i.e., most ambiguous—results to amplify (mis)translational slippages that occurred during the algorithmically driven undulating transmedial transformations between texts and images. By foregrounding the dynamic movement and processuality of such transformations, NOISE is not about what gets lost in automated text-image reconfigurations. Instead, NOISE is about meandering chains of text-imagejuxtapositions and the (in)felicitous semantic errors that reveal implicit stereotypes and cultural practices which underpin the vast archives of texts and images on which AI algorithms have been and continue to be trained. By enacting the automated image-text-reconfigurations derived from such archives, NOISE also makes apparent the stereotypical notions of femininity that are embedded in these archives.
Robert Good: Catatonic (Instagram)
Digital print and python code.
In ‘Ways of Machine Seeing: An Introduction’, Geoff Cox describes how digital technology is changing the way we see the world. Language too is changing in the digital age, bringing about a shift in the ways in which we now think about and describe the world. The problematic switch to short, provocative and factually tenuous texts to communicate information is well known, so my aim as an Expanded Librarian looking at Automations was instead to explore some of the meta texts such as subtitles, alt text and html code that describe online content and make its existence possible.
I began by looking at the design of social media apps. Their beguiling repetitions of squares, rectangles and lozenges had a minimalist feel and led me to attempt a catalogue of their visual taxonomy. I then looked at the code that runs these apps. The quantity, complexity and impenetrability of the text is immediately apparent. The phrasing, syntax and construction looks alien: it is another language, another discourse, and one that I am not party to. The result is an uncomfortable reminder that this is my web profile, and yet I do not know and cannot comprehend what is being done on my behalf. There are glimpses of besties and birthdays, friendship statuses and permissions. The currencies of the world are listed: the Honduran Lempira sits between the Hong Kong Dollar and the Hungarian Forint. There is found poetry too:
My poster reflects my investigations to date. It comprises the elegantly minimal and endlessly repeating frames of my Instagram feed, juxtaposed against the 90,000 words of code that are used to run my Instagram home page; all underpinned by the picture of a cat – that cute, kitsch symbol of digital brain-warp that is the unavoidable consequence of time spent online.
Reference: Geoff Cox: Ways of Machine Seeing: An Introduction, APRJA 6:1, 2017. Cat image credit: Pexels/Just a Couple Photos.
Sarah Messerschmidt: Epistolary Images
Photographs with text. Mixed media (lace-trimmed handkerchiefs, cotton thread, pencil, tissue paper).
Sarah’s project is interested in the confluences of cinema and letter writing. She takes inspiration from Roland Barthes’ concept of ‘aslant’, exercising marginalia, interpolation and citation as generative sites for the potential of image-texts and text-images. Her work evokes the concept of The Expanded Librarian as a cinematic method of collecting off-screen narratives, while also relating to the intimacies of epistolary exchange, which themselves call up that which occurs out of view or ‘off-camera’.
As a text and image remediator, her project also draws on the 1979 film Le Navire Night by Marguerite Duras, a narrative about the gaps between showing and telling. Sarah adapts this formula to her creative experiments in language by remediating fragments of her own correspondence, which she sets in relation to a dramatic yet documentary image of a factory fire. Identifying the photograph as displaying a romantic, archaeological ruin that is at once outside of time, while publicizing the aftermath of an actual event, she is interested in bridging the idea of scenic ruination in relation to epistles, writerly intimacy and cinema.
Duras uses the phrase !entre moi et moi’ to suggest that the self is in a constant state of in-between (between people, places, times, emotions). Le Navire Night references the telephone abyss, that yawning aural space between two speakers. Here, the phrase extends to writerly relationships, alluding to the in-betweenness, or aslant, that is natural to the epistolary. Does the self exist in an elusive space that writing tries to fill? Sarah’s project in The Expanded Librarian additionally contains a collage of salvaged lace handkerchiefs, a work of ‘remediation in progress,’ which draws fabric into the conceptual framework. Such pieces of cloth suggest intimacy—tending to the leaking body—while also alluding to a wider history of paper-making, in which lovers’ letters were written on what might have been their own clothing, pulped and transformed into paper.
Sarah Blair: a LANGUAGE & WEATHER mixture (poems found in a weather forecast)
Concertina of 12 visual-verbal poems, digital collage.
I think I have been an Expanded Librarian for some time, only this year ¾ in this collaborative experience ¾ noticing the phrase.
When I was seven, I made pockets for fictitious library tickets in all my books. No one other than me would take these books out but it didn’t seem to matter. I arranged them on the shelf and felt superbly in control. In the wider terrain of our house, my mother arranged the family library by colour, so I naturally tended to agree with the title of one of my father’s paperbacks, Books Do Furnish a Room. My mother’s logic meant that books of diverse size and shape, of different eras and perspectives, mingled in chromatic conversation. A little further on (historian, illustrator, teacher), I learnt that individual books in fact had multiple voices. Insights never stable, they bristled with noise, each generation reconfiguring the certainties.
Artists, of course, are experts at such up-turnings. They wreak havoc with categories. They change and break things. As librarians, they are not to be trusted. As expanded librarians, they enjoy trespassing in the margins, unsettling materialities, disturbing hitherto sacred properties.
A LANGUAGE and WEATHER mixture derives from a process of disordering types of language associated with the daily order: the humble weather forecast. An exercise in expanding and contracting words from a single forecast, here are 12 visual-verbal poems. A small stock of words ¾ care of the BBC ¾ are married with visual excerpts from archival material past and present: weather diaries, scientific attempts at naming, charting, gauging and coding, the evolving lingo of regular public weather-broadcasting. They are essentially playful variations on a theme, a re-casting of a forecasting. As a group, they try to speak of the magical ordinariness of the weather of all our days.
Sharon Young: The Cloud Collector
Large-scale photograph with text and risograph booklet.
As an artist, I work in various media, mainly photography, performance, film and writing with a particular interest in strategies of ‘writing woman’ (Cixous 1975).
I’m developing an idea of myself as an Expanded Librarian in response to Rosalind Krauss’ writings on ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ (1979). Sculpture doesn’t have to be what you think it might be – it doesn’t have to be a Barbara Hepworth or a Henry Moore. In the same way, a library can be an expanded collection of materials that might not just be books.
The Cloud Collector evolved from a series I began in 2016 where I developed a fictional character who used photographs of clouds from her personal collection as ‘evidence’ for a relationship she couldn’t pin down. During The Expanded Librarian I have had the opportunity to test different formats for this work. W J T Mitchell writes that the language of words and images are not only different in form but that in their difference, they are linked to power and what has been historically valued. For to see, to read and to speak all hold different relationships to self and other, to being and othering. I’ve been interested to find out how different versions of these images and words change the meaning of the work. The projections and spoken narration create an emotional, whimsical piece. In book form and through the style of text written in a ‘scientific’ mode the irony comes to the fore. In the poster the beauty and wonder of the image leads and the tiny text reads as a poetic undercutting of this ‘romance’.
This migration between medial forms has forged a library of in-betweenness – each iteration offering something different from the last.
Simon Tyrrell: Blueprints for Blasonneurs
Cyanotypes on cotton watercolour paper.
I’m a writer and artist exploring and celebrating the customary language, signs, artefacts and gestures that people use to present, protect and promote their community and make sense of the relationships, time and space they share. These communities might be technical, cultural, geographic: real or imagined. My work is research-informed, etymological, oftentimes bibliographic, persistently exploring intersections between poetry, literature, visual art and photography. I’m interested in expectations of visual literature since the advent of mechanical reproduction and distribution, and preoccupied with exploring the hierarchy of trust we place in the marks and materials that writers and artists use to render meaning.
The conceptual explorations of an Expanded Librarian are the very matters that define the inquiry that drives my practice, and the material with which my work is made. My poetic endeavour in the emerging work shared here aspires to liberate the potential energy of bibliographic archetypes taken from shadow into light, catalysed by the mystery of practice in transformations only available in an age of mechanical reproduction. Idea, text, image, object, remediated into three dimensions. Concrete poetry materialised in plastic artefact.
In methodology and material as much as in conceptual content, my ‘Blueprints for Blasonneurs’ stand for ‘illuminated manuscripts’ emerging from an exposure to the light of insight, revealing the techniques and tricks deployed by artists and writers to render meaning in mark. The mediaeval cleric and stained-glass artist, Renaissance painter, blazoning herald, concrete poet; all embracing both constraint and opportunity in matters and materials in the mystery of their making.
While traditionally fixed, my blueprints might instead also be participating in a more expansive endeavour, ‘expanding librarianship’ through recovering the reputation of ‘realia’ – those naturally occurring or human-made ‘real world objects’ failing to fit traditional categories of library material: non-documentary items not rejected for being not manuscripts or not immediately useful for understanding them.
Sylee Gore: Library Poetics & Cloud Archive
Library Poetics (I–XXIV): ephemera, ink, oil pastel, original colour photographs, sound recording, water-based paint. Cloud Archive Distillate: prints on 230gsm matte paper.
Library Invitation (‘Intermedial’): photosculpture. Inhale an image, exhale a word. Translate a tree into a video. Melt a book to paint a mirror. Reflect a song. Put a mirror where someone will find it. Let muscle overcome silence. Is image a language never in need of translation? Never ask why. Always recirculate. An aria is (not) an anagram of ‘archive’. Burn a book then mix ash to ink. Wait for fiction to be true. Sculpt silence to script. Here – catch it – the book you’d never buy. Exhale an image, inhale a word. Borrowing makes you new.
In her work, Sylee Gore is interested in capturing a point in time where the weight of the past and the potential of the future are brought to bear on a present moment. This temporality finds a home in the library: a space to materialize our constant recording, reproducing, and circulating. In order to destabilize the institutionalization of official archives, she explores ways to expand intertextual collections of experience and document the ephemeral through traces.
As an immigrant and expatriate with ties across Asia, the British Isles, Europe, and North America, the artist reads ‘heritage’ against the traditions and canons in which she was raised and educated. Gore offers strategies of repair within these histories, reappraising and remediating archetypes. She locates a reimagined terrain for belonging triangulated through invented landmarks, mottos, and temporary addresses. Her experiments with ritualized voice coalesce discordant sources to ceremonial polyphonies. Gore is compelled by the opportunities intermediality offers to forge a sustaining homeland.
Tom Rodgers: To Photograph Without Taking any Pictures / nothing
Archival inkjet and laser prints.
The work presented here sees the amalgamation of two ongoing projects that both aim to probe, and potentially surpass, the limits of photography, expanding the library of possible approaches to image production and interpretation. The pictures come from nothing, a clearly impossible attempt to photograph nothingness, while the text is taken from To Photograph Without Taking any Pictures, a practical exploration of the processes involved in making photographs, without making any photographs.
Small selections of text, absented from longer written reflections, seem to encompass what photography could be, whilst on the poster a mass of text remains largely indecipherable, absenting the possibility of comprehension through writing, yet further expanding the possibility of the visual.
Whether engaging in the performance of photographing, but with no film in the camera, or purposefully attempting to make pictures of nothing, both projects promote an absence that is more pregnant with possibility that photography can usually be.
The potential in what can be actualized is limited by what is possible. The potential of absence is unlimited through being beyond our control, and can be everywhere and everything – it is free and therefore more than what is possible.
The plane of absence is greater than the plane of presence. Being a part of the Expanded Librarian project has allowed me to further explore the relationships that exist between the potentialities of photographs and writing. Both are inherently ambiguous, hiding uncertainty, equivocality and incompleteness behind the appearance of assured descriptive totality. Bringing fragmented images and texts together heightens not only the ambiguity, but also the possibility of what mind be found in the spaces between them.
Wiebke Leister: Snakes’ Song Sheet (an sSss-Score)
Live performance with projection, spoken word, sound improvisation and performer.
My work develops a performative understanding how movement enters the structure of the still image, and how the liveness of viewing interacts with our interpretative processes. Building on my earlier research into the ambiguous character of the snake-woman Hannya in Japanese theatre, I am currently comparing contradictory Serpent-Symbolisms from different mythological and cultural contexts.
As an Expanded Librarian, I have been collecting and crossbreeding female snake characters, searching for ways to reinterpret them in a contemporary context. The work develops a visual canon of physical expression gestures alongside a score of hissing and hushing sibilant sounds with different kinds of ‘lisps’ that identify the motivation and motion behind each of their voices. In its current iteration, the text score combines three creaturesque voices – one wisely deceiving, two spittingly raging, three monumentally poetic – with the photograph of a body that is, in itself, half twisting tree and half winding serpent.