By: Peggy Nelson
July 20, 2011

[Detail: Untitled #30, Matt Siber, 2004]

Here on the world wide interwebs we live awash in text. The code is written, our posts are written, our tweets are written; we are written. In the real world too, despite lip service to the power of the image, words are everywhere. I challenge you to look somewhere that doesn’t have a textual component. Nature, you say. I am out in nature! Sure — clouds, rocks, what have you. And… what’s that written on your t-shirt? On the rivets on your jeans? Is that an om on your shoulder? Etc.

But what happens when we take away the text? I don’t mean Modern Art, I mean erase the text from the spaces where it lives, but leave the spaces. What would that look like? Is it even possible? How would that read?

See for yourself. Matt Siber takes relatively unchoreographed travel shots, and excises the text, mirroring it to the right. As context: so labels. What is each without the other?

[Untitled #30, Matt Siber, 2004]

[Untitled #23, Matt Siber, 2003]

[Untitled #33, Matt Siber, 2005/6]

[Untitled #14, Matt Siber, 2003]

[Untitled #46, Matt Siber, 2009]

But there’s no need to stop the time. In this piece of brilliant editing by Valentin Spirik, His Girl Friday, the Cary Grant vehicle, clocks in at only 8 minutes — exactly what remains when all the dialogue goes missing. It’s worth noting that even in a genre (screwball comedy) defined by its witty repartee, the core remains. How much of language is movement? How much of communication is, literally, embodied?

Recent research has suggested that users of Botox might be chipping away at their capacity for empathy, as the mirroring of muscular micro-movements actually goes some way toward creating a state of empathy for the creature, or the communication, so mirrored.

[His Girl Friday: Between the Lines Edit, Valentin Spirik, 2005]

HiLobrow would love to see additional examples of the new silent cinema, should any reader feel so inclined… Tree of Life, anyone?

We have also featured the opposite tendency: write all over everything, especially where it is not expected. Where it is not confined to a page, screen, or other type of box.

[Jeremy Wood, “IF,” GPS drawing, 2002]

It doesn’t matter whether you take it apart, or put it back together in a weird way; what matters is manipulation. The world is no longer a given (if it ever was); it is up to us. But we forget. And artistic interventions like these jolt us into a crucial anamnesis.

Arrows, laughter, and other emoticons: OK.


Thanks to @StanCarey and Dimitris Polychroniadis for linkage.


Kudos, Read-outs