Curatorial Projects > In Other Words (2012)

In Other Words

February 1 - March 24, 2012
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

A group exhibition featuring work by Katie Gilmartin, Julia Goodman, Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian, Susan O’Malley, Meryl Pataky, Alex Potts, Cassie Thornton, Annie Vought, and Christine Wong Yap.

In Other Words is a group exhibition that looks at language and its capacity to clarify and confuse, convene and separate, inspire and discourage. Language can excite our spirit, comfort our feelings, and inform our intellect; it can also extinguish desire, destroy confidence, and cloud perception. Influenced by Intersection’s relocation to the 5M Project in downtown San Francisco, where we operate amongst a number of partner organizations and companies working in different fields – including filmmaking training, real estate development, social entrepreneurialism, local manufacturing support – this exhibition explores this new chapter of Intersection’s history alongside broader themes of the impact and evolution of language in our lives. In Other Words is organized around four main areas:

1) The obscurity of terminology utilized within specific fields and industries, such as the arts, business, social service, and manufacturing;

2) The ubiquity of technology altering how we communicate and its impact on written language;

3) How language can be psychologically internalized, generating either optimistic attitudes and positive interactions or pessimistic points of view and negative situations; and

4) How language is understood according to the definition ascribed to it by either the speaker or the receiver.

By approaching these areas through humor, interaction, and sincerity, the artists in this exhibition demonstrate through a wide range of media the many ways in which we strive to communicate to each other.

About the participating artists’ work in In Other Words:

Katie Gilmartin presents work from her series of linoleum cuts entitled Queer Words. Although several words in the collection (dyke, fag, faerie) remain venomous epithets in some contexts, they also simultaneously function as fiercely chosen and hard-won terms of pride. To the extent that they become the latter, their power to function as slurs diminishes. Whether retooled epithets, secret codes, or witticisms, each word and phrase carries in some way the traces of the collective struggles and resistance of the queer community, referencing how language is understood according to the definition ascribed to it by the user.

Julia Goodman works with paper pulp to create sculptural surfaces. In 2009 she came across a collection of 19th Century letters from local families, many of which were written using the technique of cross-writing. Commonly employed to conserve limited paper resources, after a page of writing had been completed, the writer turned the page 90 degrees and added a second layer of text, perpendicular to the first. Goodman presents a series of cast paper works employing this method of writing, shedding light on the disappearing act of handwritten letters and the consequence of the ways we currently communicate through technology.

Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian lives between two diametrically opposed cultures, from growing up in the totalitarian regime in Romania to living in the U.S., which emphasizes individuality and information. Her large-scale artworks convey a sense of fragmentation and tension that mirror her conflicted sense of identity. She creates new work that utilizes language and graphic imagery borrowed from architecture and cartography to chart the experience of immigrating to this country, and the way language has defined how she has navigated through each chapter of her life.

Susan O’Malley utilizes simple and recognizable tools of engagement to offer entry into an interaction of everyday life, creating moments that universalize the human experience. She creates new text-based sculptures, posters, and installations, highlighting different aspects of language utilized by the numerous organizations and companies inhabiting the 5M Project. Amusing, open-ended, and provocative, her pieces call attention to how we use language to communicate simple ideas and complex concepts in the fields of contemporary art, social entrepreneurialism, filmmaking, and business.

Meryl Pataky is a sculptor who works in neon and steel, employing words in her pieces to convey the poignant emotional space that exists between ourselves and others. She presents two wall mounted scultpural metal pieces. One comments upon the tumultuous landscape of start-ups and the ongoing practice of companies moving into offices and having to re-brand the space with new signage and language. The other is a new series of hand-bent metal words spelled out in phonetics, causing viewers to verbally sound out the word, prompting a physical internalization of language.

Alex Potts creates a new interactive language association installation entitled I Understand, utilizing voice recognition software and online language algorithms to explore the associative nature of language. Centered around a wall of speakers, viewers speak a phrase into a microphone, which is broadcast through the speakers. The phrase is simultaneously looked up for associations and then read aloud on top of the original phrase, and this process is repeated several times. Rather than cacophony, the growing number of voices are filtered such that they result in a harmonious choir of speech.

Cassie Thornton is focusing research on student debt, and identifying creative ways in which debt can be removed from government oversight and private student loan regulation. The amount of money Americans owe on student loans recently exceeded the nation's credit card debt. Inspired by a video produced by famed sculptor Richard Serra in 1973 entitled Television Delivers People, a seminal critique of popular mass media as an instrument of social control, Thornton deftly replaces select language from Serra’s work to recontextualize the video’s message to critique debt as an instrument of social control.

Annie Vought is well-known for her recreations of old, handwritten letters in meticulously handcut paper, where the focus on text, structure, and emotion of the letter explores properties of penmanship and expression. She continues this method of artistic exploration through a new series that looks at the growing quantity of inspirational, optimistic, and hopeful messages seen in public and online. In an age of global financial and political uncertainty, she looks at how language can reference the mood of society at large and help provide a framework that counters the daily cycle of bleak and despairing news.

Christine Wong Yap presents a series of ink drawings that illustrate various quotes from psychological studies by authors such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Martin E. P. Seligman, and Yi-Fu Tuan on topics such as learned optimism, creativity, and happiness as applied to the lives of artists and those working in creative industries. Initially interested in what keeps artists motivated and resilient in their careers, she began researching the discipline of positive psychology. She shares ideas that might help artists and creatives maintain optimistic outlooks and provide opportunities to better understand the creative process.

- Kevin B. Chen