PUNCTUATION

 

 

 

"We move about in listening." Ibn al - Arabi

 

 

"Listen my heart, as once only

holy men listened, so that the overwhelming summons

raised them up from the ground;..." Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

"The present is...holy ground." Alfred North Whitehead

 

 

 

In the current and context of contemporary art it will seem odd, perhaps, to begin an essay on the art of Christy Georg with a reference to the holy, albeit an oblique one contoured through the words of two poets and a philosopher. As apparatuses which conceive and carry the transmission of sound, Georg's sculptures appear more as instruments of calibration and ascertainment, less inclined to 'overwhelmingly summon' or 'raise up' by virtue of their mechanics; their industry presses the phenomenality of experience into the physical interface of art and science. Intent on realizing through metal, paper, glass and motor a rudimentary form of measure, Georg's sculptures limn an essential truth of matter, of materiality, within surrogate form. This truth, a reality which longs for the present tense of sound, returns to matter its intrinsic capacity to speak -as both a means and a measure wrought within human sensibility and proportion. "I believe that it is only as an artist that [human being] knows reality," wrote the renown mathematician Marston Morse.[1] In her recent art, developed while in residence at the Berwick Research Institute, Christy Georg situates epistemology within the visual and perceptual reality of sound, as a means and a measure toward the poetic. It is within this sensibility of the poetic that her subject, i.e. the present moment, may be seen to be 'holy', that is, deeply and dialectically incorporate.[2]

 

To advance a view of this dialectic of sound and the incorporate, one must see Georg's work as a form of research, a processive and interactive phenomenology in form, one which articulates the experiential as the experimental.[3] Rather than solely securing the discrete status of an 'object' as would a polished frame, Christy Georg's research centers within the 'subject', examining the present tense of sound as it affects the body through representative and mechanical means. When Georg writes of her interest in the machine as "a vehicle through which to amplify an experience of 'being',"[4] her words probe the obsolescent reciprocity of 'experience' and 'experiment', foregrounding in the memory of words the 'trial' of their corporeal dimensions. Dialectically representing the capacities of the body both as orifice and origin, Georg's 'experiments' accent the attentive consent of the body, its willingness to undergo (as in 'to suffer') an experience of listening, one which offers not only sound but the sounding of an interior measure, commensurate with its transpositioning between external and internal grounds.

 

In 'Experiment 2' it is the physical distance and curvature of a single steel rod which acts as the instrument for this reorientation of perception, from diffusion to infusion, from the constructed architecture of a room to the constitutive interiority of a body. Drawing upon the resonance and resource of both sound and body, 'Experiment 2' remembers and reminds of the exquisitely private dimensions of the ear, wherein a single point of contact is distilled from the surrounding spatial environment. Its mechanical means are minimal and mimetic, reiterating via anatomical analogy the corporeality of hearing and sight, even as it hones the represented into the unrepresentable - the present tense of experience. By inviting the viewer/hearer into the 'experiment' or 'trial' of the interactive, 'Experiment 2' refines sound through a chiasmus of distortion and clarification, from the recognition of an objective origin of the sound to the recognition of a particular and subjective origin within the flesh of the human body. Negotiating the epistemological within the physical articulation of a distance, a distance which funnels stimuli from an external and collective sense of space into a solitary interior, Georg's 'Experiment 2' affords an aperture into the experience of the moment, a moment punctuated in the coincidence of sonal and corporeal measure. Rendering an experience of sound and of its sounding capacity within the threshold of the human body, 'Experiment 2' accomplishes this punctuation through the liminal correspondence of sight and aurality, vision and 'word', outside and in. At once accentuating both the porosity and the density of the body, its achievement lies in its potential to concentrate the interactive subject through the impression of sound, heightening a consciousness of the body as membrane and filter, as enclosure and door. Aiming to crystallize time and attention in a process metaphorically akin to the sharpening of a pencil to a point, 'Experiment 2' offers itself as an active instrument for particularization, inscribing the viewer/hearer as a being subject to the capacities of the senses, a being punctuated through the penetrating frequency of sound.

 

In 'Tool' Georg dramatizes this penetration into sculptural form. Displacing metaphor with actuality, 'Tool' literalizes in physical dimension the potential violence of this particularization, this punctuation, and the transgressive allure inherent in aural desire. Making visible the paradox that 'to puncture' is simultaneously 'to open up' and 'to close off', to free and to silence, 'Tool' incorporates an awareness of the body as both barrier and means to the present moment. Within its latent ability to pierce there lies the pain of rending consciousness and the promise of access to an interior register wherein listening inclines toward an infinite proportion, recognizing the truth of a finite measure, present tense. In 'Tool', cork, metal and glass craft an eloquent pathos that belies definition, highlighting the affective consequence of perforating a membrane which occludes even as it protects. Intuitively engaging in a dialectic of revelation and concealment, Christy Georg's 'Tool' heralds notice of the 'trial' of representation itself, its disclosure of being is always a displacement of being, always a confrontation with the barrier representation erects in its effort to present a moment, afford an experience. Fraught with the peril of a desire for intimacy which at once denies the body and attempts to affect a radical permeability, Georg's 'Tool' silently enacts an essential dialogue between inside and out, self and other. By envisioning rupture, a violence unperformed yet garnering visibility under the aegis of desire, Georg's 'Tool' dares to interrogate the integral periphery of the body, thereby inferring its fragility and the necessity for its preservation. In its formal synthesis of the double bind at the heart of desire for self as other, 'Tool' recalls the ethical imperative intrinsic to engendering form, asking of paradox that it both clarify and disarm the barriers which deform listening - that particular listening which 'we move about in' and which distills desire into an attentive posture, into the ground of the present. This is, I offer, holy ground, presenting the poetic as being within an experience of listening, in Rilke's words, "to the wafting, the never-ending message formed of silence."[5] In her art, Christy Georg endeavors to inform and incorporate this momentary beauty, and in doing so authorizes access to the interpenetration of sight and sound wherein seeing is a form of listening and listening becomes a mode of punctuation.

 

 

M. M. Anderson

Cambridge, Massachusetts

February 13, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Anderson is an artist and writer currently pursuing doctoral work in Theology and Aesthetics at Harvard University. Her work has received several awards, including a Fulbright Research and Lecturing Grant, Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, New England Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Art Matters Artist Grant and residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts and the Ucross Foundation. Ms. Anderson is a Visiting Professor of Graduate and Critical Studies at Massachusetts College of Art. She lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Marston Morse, ³Mathematics and the Arts,² Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 15 (February 1959), 58. ; as cited in Robert A. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1993), 319. I have replaced the word Œman¹ with Œhuman being¹.

[2] The word Œincorporate¹ draw its etymology from the Latin incorporatus, meaning both Œembodied¹ and Œnot embodied¹ (rare).

[3] The common etymological root of Œexperience¹ and Œexperiment¹ is the Latin experiri, expertus Œto try¹¹, hence its cognate relation to Œtrial¹, Œperil¹ and Œexpert¹.

[4] Artist statement, October 2003 (http://www.berwickinstitute.org/Christy.html).

[5] Aber das Wehende höre,/die ununterbrochene Nachricht, die aus Stille sich bildet. Rainer Maria Rilke Duinesian Elegies, trans. Elaine E. Boney (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 5.

 

 

 

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