Introduction to A Sudden and Violent Change
Jon Murray, Curator
A Sudden and Violent Change is The Hub’s first art project of 2010 and the most ambitious exhibition the gallery has undertaken since its inception in 2008. Unlike the usual method of simple concept representation through a particular artistic medium, the process strives to move further and discuss not only the concepts behind A Sudden and Violent Change, but to re-present those representations in a different medium.
We have aimed to critique society, and by extension the tools we use to communicate these criticisms—two different yet deeply intertwined artistic disciplines—the literary arts: words; the visual arts: images.
A Sudden and Violent Change—featuring the works of twenty diverse writers and visual artists—demands the disciplines to engage in a symbiotic partnership to produce ten diptychs. From this cross-disciplinary relationship the diptychs become not only a space where the literal and conceptual content or subjects are explored, but also a playing field in which the disciplines themselves can actively dialogue and critique one another as relevant and appropriate forms of communication.
In this way the project chooses to draw attention to the mediums and how their nature and relationship with one another affects our understanding of the world around us. In particular, their role in maintaining the past, creating the present and implementing change for the future.
Therefore, what must be considered while participating in this exhibition is not only the connection between violence and change both locally and globally, but how the concepts themselves manifest within us through the translation expressed by these specific mediums.
In 2010 the possibilities of language are still continually expanding. In contrast to George Orwell’s 1948 thriller, 1984, language is not simplifying but becoming more complex, particularly in the realm of images and how they relate to words. Thanks to the technology of photography, film, TV and related media, our definitions of language, of communication, are changing to encompass a range of possibilities no longer limited by the product of pen to paper, finger tip to keyboard. At the beginning of the twenty-first century we are now in a time WJT Mitchell describes as “the Pictorial Turn”, where spectatorship can be considered as complex and as problematic as reading.
The project’s pairing of Keisha Lynn Ellis’ “In The Dark” and Holly Parotti’s “90%” shows the mediums cross referencing each other’s content while engaging with the qualities that define the mediums. The work can stand alone, work together or contradict one another and cause the viewer to reevaluate what the other’s intention is.
Ellis’ written work, “In The Dark”, follows the inhale and exhale of the protagonist, the specific positioning of the protagonist’s body and the protagonist’s journey away from God. These elements conjure a very physical, visual and spiritual experience felt by the reader, but only as a third party, never as the subject themself. A connection is made, but maintains a detachment, allowing the reader to engage with the subject at a distance.
To then view Holly Parotti’s “90%”—a video re-presentation of that work—and to be able to no longer visualize, but see the subject—as though these pictures are evidence of the incident itself—brings a new way of connecting, interpreting and problem solving. The work as a diptych becomes textured and multi-faceted with complex exchanges arising from the writer’s use of imagery and the artist’s use of words. These connections are strengthened through the artist’s use of the outside world, the light, the darkness and the silhouette, the narrator and the camera lens, the devil and the voice of God .
We live in a society saturated by media and advertising, a constant back-and-forth of words and images, but we seldom stop to analyze what living with this complexity means, and how it affects our understanding and perception, what we think and what we feel.
Although there is much this project can contribute to the discussion of the disciplines it is important to be aware of the central concepts that compose A Sudden and Violent Change. It is no coincidence that the subject of change is coincided with one of communication. When looking at social change, how are we to move forward? This question asks us not only for the ideas that will propel us into the future but also what form these ideas will this take on to be most effective at creating change.
The ideas and concepts of A Sudden and Violent Change are located in the pages of a book and the images on the gallery walls, but we must remember that the real change comes from concepts being put into action. 1950’s New York art critic Harold Rosenberg once described abstract expressionism as “an arena in which to act—rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined… What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.“ This event Rosenburg speaks of cannot be contained by the canvas, it spills out. It is constant and powerful and is all around us, everyday. Every moment is “an arena in which to act”, and we must never forget that art is communication, and communication is a tool; but a tool is only a means to an end.
(1) Reference to Voice of God Narration. The term has developed to describe the use of voice-over in documentary films.