Words Take the Place of Meaning

4″ x 4″ x 84″

wood, ultrasuede, cast handmade paper, plaster, audio

This piece has a sound element, activated by opening and closing the case. The recording is an accumulation of voices, blended so that the individual words lose their shape.

This piece is from a series of carrying cases for words. My process began by taking molds of the inside of my mouth as I pronounced the phonetic structure of words. These molds are the volumetric imprints my mouth leaves as I form speech. I bite into gelatinous alginate and form a phoneme – ‘ph’ – the physical, tangible shape of a sound is formed and what is normally perceived by one sense, hearing, may now be perceived by other senses, sight, touch, smell, taste. The act of making the solid shapes of words reduces verbal articulation to basic primitive gestures, creating an exotic, visceral language that engages a physiological response.

The body, in its capacity to sense and describe, is a machine of meaning, forming postures and forming words. Language is a physical force, striking the eardrum as sound waves which our body mechanism translates into the recognizable form of words, words that ignite, entice, nurture or engulf. The mouth is the primary opening of the body cavity. It is the organ which physically forms speech as well as the organ which takes in and breaks down food. It is the source of communication and nourishment, actively and directly connecting us with the world.

Words describe and identify abstract ideas and feelings making them tangible intellectually and emotionally. Words surround meaning, trace the periphery of meaning. Never existing in the same place, time or form, words remain separate from meaning and act as tools. The mechanism of words shapes the way we perceive and articulate meaning. Words can act to distort and disguise, or to clarify and reveal. They can be abrasive and sharp, or soft and lulling, sweet, pliable or foul. By giving words physical form, they can be combined with such materials as wood to make musical instruments – instruments of speech describing the kinetic effects of words. Words can be piled, calipered, hung and strung, strummed, wrinkled, wet and warm, vulnerable – having to exist in a protective environment. They may be biting or gagging, extyrueded or extracted. They can meander, wiggle, become lodged, fill voids or be specially wrapped. There are gaps between them.

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