Thursday, September 23, 2010

Getting down to business

Here is an image of my studio space, graciously provided by NIU:

Thanks to everyone who helped me outfit this space - Loni Diep, Dani Markova, David Soukup, Lung-chen Wang, and Zoe Bare. Almost the entirety of the furniture was given to me for free, which I deeply appreciate! Also, the former resident left behind their drafting table. I haven't used it much yet, but I'm sure that it will come in handy. This is one of the first times I have ever felt truly organized, and it is a huge relief to have all of my art supplies in a separate location from my home. I come here, and I can work, without distraction. There is plenty of space on the other side of the room (where I am standing when I took this photo) where I can try out some sculpture ideas.

I have been devoting almost the entirety of my time to a project about my stuttering, the working title of which is "I Had a Disparate Nature; My Nature is Disparate Still". From the ages of 12 to 17 I had a debilitating stutter that rendered me almost incapable of communicating. I have been combating these memories through an exploration of paper and watermarking, using abaca as my chosen fiber.

Here is a small test sheet I made to visualize the effects of the watermark:

I first did some stream-of-consciousness writing about the feelings provoked by the struggle of the stuttering. I then recorded myself reading the text aloud, once incredibly fast with confidence, and also mimicking the stuttering as it would have sounded had I attempted to read the text during that period. I then made a computer file underlining the text, and left blanks under the words that I could not recite without difficulty. I then transferred that computer file into a watermark made of 1/8" white foam, cut it out, and placed it on the mould.

I knew I wanted the ultimate paper to be quite large; unfortunately my first attempts to do this failed. The initial large mould I was using was made of a metal mesh, which the watermark did not want to adhere to. Also the mould was far too large for any of our vats to accommodate it. Through some trouble shooting I tried to use the mould and deckle as a deckle box instead of a traditional mould that one would pull from a vat; this would have worked ultimately, but the watermark ended up being ripped off through the force of use. So... back to the drawing board.

I scaled everything down to the next largest mould that we have here at NIU, and began again. This mould was made of a plasticine mesh that held the watermark far better, and I was able to produce the sheet that I wanted. I then wrote in the words that I could not recite over the blanks, writing the text in my hand-writing through hole-punching with an awl.

The image of the sheet on a light box, complete with hole-punching.

I also made a perfect sheet of abaca, and one in which I deliberately caused issues within the paper: holes, unevenness, wrinkles due to air bubbles, etc. I strung the three together and presented them in front of florescent lights. Each sheet is approximately 23" wide x 18" tall.

I am still working through this piece and by no means is it finished; the question of how I will present the sound files to the viewer has yet to be worked out. I also intend to make the paper much larger, and to resolve the presentation of the paper in front of the lights. The lights will ultimately work in conjunction with the sound, so that as I fail to speak a word without difficulty, the lights turn off.

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