(c) Statement by Jolanta Lapiak
My video work below as a part of the MFA exhibition
and/or (2007) investigates the meaning and concept of reading, speaking, and writing. It destroys logocentric dichotomies and creates complementarity -- the simultaneity of reading, speaking, and writing.
Screenshot from 1.39 min video loop, 720x480px. Installation: large blank sketchbook, data projection system.
This installation speaking, reading,
and/or writing is a video projection of a tiny black figure in motion onto an open sketchbook. The black figure is speaking manually in Ameslan (or American Sign Language - ASL) as it moves in lines across the pages of the book.
This work critiques phonocentrism in language and philosophy and explores an experience of:
writing without writing,
reading without reading,
speaking without speaking.
and the complementarity of these statements.
Arche-writing: James Elkins uses an open-ended term graphein, which means "to write, draw, or scratch.. when the divisions we are used to did not exist... picturing and writing are both kinds of 'scratching' -- that is, marking on and in surfaces."
French philosopher and literary critic Jacques Derrida discusses archi-ecrit. E.g. photography (writing with light on surface) is one of many forms of writing. Even, vocally speaking is writing in the air.
Arche-reading (coined by the author/artist): The work of art challenges a distinction of reading and looking when perceiving an object; the opposition between looking and reading correlated by distinguishing image from word, and art and architecture from literature.
Elkins points out that "everyday reading and everyday looking... are not pure acts... Any act of reading relies on a finite number of customs and strategies, and they are often at work in looking. The converse is also true: We look at images in various ways... those ways of looking often come into play when we read... so there is 'reading' in every image and 'looking' in every text."
This piece of work "Reading..." oddly presents a double level of reading -- one is reading the language Ameslan in black figure (space) and the other is reading the lines (time). However, as language becomes unintelligible with the tiny scale of my body, it creates an experience of reading without reading. In a similar vein, one experiences reading without reading the invisible lines.
Arche-speaking (also coined by the author/artist): Speaking of the term speaking, my work above breaks the phonocentric notion of speaking as being central to speech. Rather, language is a function of embodiment. Like arche-writing, writing is speaking -- the act of expressing.
Neurological studies show that classical linguistic regions of the left brain activates in native visual-manual speakers when speaking ASL (Broca) or listening (Wernicke) the same way found in vocal-auditory speakers when speaking or listening. This suggests that the left cerebral hemisphere, which is assumed to be responsible for spoken language, is not solely ruled by speech or phonetic writing.
In addition, studies also show that linguistic activities in the left brain co-exist with visual-spatial activities in the right brain in Asian character readers and visual-manual speakers.
What this video illustrates is that the act of speaking (manually), writing (in the form of print), and reading are simultaneous. It dismantles separation of image from word and other dichotomies. This video/installation attempts to undermine that mentality by destroying dichotomy and creating complementarity.
These are some ASL lessons, tutorials, and tips that ASL students and language enthusiasts can explore and learn some ASL on their own relaxing pace.
Seeking some challenges? Try some stories, fables, and others in ASL storytelling and poetry. Study a complex system of subtle eye gazes, role-shifting, classifiers, sentence structures, and other linguistic features as well as poetics.