axial stones/drawings/language/video (Dorsky Museum)

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wall preverbs

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The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, 2007

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George Quasha: “art is” and Axial works in stone, graphite, and video
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June 23 – October 7, 2007
Sara Bedrick Gallery, SDMA
Curator: Brian Wallace

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The “Preverbs” installation is now in the collection of SDMA,
SUNY New Paltz

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DEFINITION (axial language as preverbs)

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A preverb is a one-line intentional act of language that invites configurative reading to become a singular event of meaning

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This language artist’s conception of preverb derives originally from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell [1790]) in which the traditional wisdom proverb (as in the Biblical Proverbs) is turned on its head, as it were, in the interest of breaking convention and reinventing “wisdom” as a non-dogmatic state of visionary perception; it subverts mind-control by originary verbal acts that bring one to one’s senses. (E.g., “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise” or “No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.”)  Preverbs project a state of language awareness previous to wisdom while honoring the wisdom impulse—the wish to state enduring truth. Accordingly a preverb embodies, say, an insight, stating it in alignment with a principle of variable sense and requiring engaged attention in discriminating meaning. This describes an axial principle in language, implying that meaning issues from choice and is impermanent.

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Proverbs traditionally are memorable and subject to frequent repetition; preverbs are resistant to memorization and repetition and attract further thinking. (Blake celebrated the Daughters of Inspiration over the Daughters of Memory.)

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The principle of installation follows the core preverbial principle of singular acts of meaning.

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INSTALLATION SPECIFICATIONS

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Lettering on walls: Previous installations have used vinyl lettering (Slought Foundation, SDMA). Color: charcoal has seemed optimal against white walls. Type: must be all lowercase; size is variable according to space and distance of viewing, and in medium size galleries has worked best as lowercase letters of approximately one inch height. A determining consideration should be maintaining a degree of subtlety that leaves the viewer free to discover (or not), and requiring some alertness on the part of the viewer. The meaning of the work is in part related to the freedom to “read space” in new ways and intensities, and there should be no feeling of coercion.

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Placement: Each preverb is to be placed discretely in a unique and anomalous location in the exhibition space, not so much a “picture on the wall” as a manifestation of message emanating from the space itself.  The aim is to create a felt sense of singular languaging that reframes the experience of physical space. There can be no strict method here; it’s an intuitive choice in each case. The artist’s approach is to meditate the space and language together and follow certain cognitive impulses, as much as possible in active dialogue with the curator.

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An example from the SDMA exhibition is:

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the trance in between is sudden entrance

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Placement above an “entrance” to a cove (where video work was being shown) emphasized the play “between” the parts (sememes) within the single ordinary word entrance (as entrance and entrance) and various possible meanings: e.g., that an entrance way is a threshold between different states (such as the liminal zone between ordinary consciousness and trance). Architecture creates separations between the physical embodiments of such states (eating, sleeping, playing, working, etc.), but ordinarily nothing points to the building as an array of thresholds. A gallery or museum is based on the presumption that there are finer, more charged and intense, perhaps even more beneficial states of mind such as art. So, the placement of the preverb might bring out this meaning of space disposition, perhaps suggesting that our attention to unexpected messaging (i.e., a somewhat cryptic statement in an anomalous spatial position) is the opportunity for entrance into transformative states.

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This approach to placement and understanding is quite site specific but not in the sense that the preverb was not created with such a location in mind; rather, the specific approach arose in the contemplation of the space.  One could comment on all nine of the SDMA-installed preverbs and placements in such an illustrative fashion, but that might over-determine future installations, particularly if the artist is not present.  The process of installation should involve original discovery based on contemplation of the polysemous potential of a given preverb and should be singular in its final installation.

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wall preverbs

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(axial language installation, 2007)

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(The Dorsky Configuration)

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seeing leaves a film

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things on edge disappear the surround

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the trance in between is sudden entrance

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the hand writing on the wall

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writing is reading only more so

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falling things land free

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map a land trapped underhand

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the space takes in as you read

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watch for wobble

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NOTE: The Dorsky installation was an exhibition of various kinds of axial work, including axial drawings, axial stones, and axial video. Illustrations forthcoming.

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