Liverpool-based artist Imogen Stidworthy works largely with video and sound installations, often interrogating our relationship with language and how we produce and locate our own identities within and outside of it.
Her hi-def video I hate (2007) created for documenta12 leads us into an intermediate zone of speech, sound and image. It portrays the photographer Edward Woodman, who lost his power of speech in a cycling accident in 2000. The video focusses on Woodman presumably afflicted with aphasia (the cognitive disorder causing an inability to understand or produce speech), and his attempts to try and speak. All of his attemps walk the tightrope between clarity and unintelligibility in ways that are by turns visceral, heady, sensuous and whimsical when he trys to prononce eight and not hate.
This video work is part of a group exhibition about the inability to communicate with the title Itself Not So at Lisa Cooley on the Lower East Side, New York curated by Rachel Valinsky. Itself Not So ushers in the moment of enunciation where the voice is heard but the word does not pronounce itself. Or, alternatively, the word is transmitted, but its meaning not understood. The project aims not to culminate in aphasia universalis—the total loss of power to use or apprehend speech, total silence—but rather to interrogate partial losses and silences, forgettings and unlearnings, piecemeal understanding, inchoate signification, and possibilities of communicating, however haphazardly.
The sensation of halting, unclear thoughts is visualized to striking effect in Fia Backström’s “An-alpha/pet-isms…” (2014), an installation consisting of sheets of clear vinyl film hanging from five standing steel frames, upon which letters of the alphabet float like obscured, distorted ghosts amid inky clouds, blurs and blots.
Itself Not So continues at Lisa Cooley (107 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through August 29.