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Reading The Unreadable

Posted by Jasia / November 20, 2009

Two artist run centres exhibit baffling re-interpretations of objects previously known as books.


At Articule Panayiotis Delilabros presents us with endless, un-interpretable (for us) lists of code in his installation When You Go Back, Nothing Is Real. Formulated based on codes used by his father, an outsider artist, Delilabros has repeated his father's process of drawing patterns out of the Bible. These lists of codes are also turned into frequencies, which are played by a speaker in the corner of the gallery. Dismembered and idiosyncratic, yes, but the use of a coding to evoke ghosts of the past seems like a specifically book-like quest.

Rob Kovitz presents us with more familiarly book-like object at Dazibao. In fact, Ice Fishing In Gimli is actually an eight volume tomb, so dense with visual and textual information that the reader is completely daunted as to how to scratch the surface of this intense compilation. Collected and assembled over the past 10 years, the contents of Ice Fishing In Gimli circle around madness, isolated landscapes and the mythology created in such places.


Neither of these text-works goes out of their way to be easily readable; both are filled with what would normally be considered problems for their potential readers. One is so daunting and inexhaustible that a complete reading (which if you had the wild urge to undertake would have to be done entirely in Dazibao as other copies are extremely limited) is nearly unthinkable, and the other is so self-referential that a direct interpretation of the code is impossible. In both cases, the source material was not generated directly by the artists/writers as much as pulled from other places.


Are these both cases of books-gone-bad masquerading as visual art? Does it matter that the 'entire' contents will never be available to the audience? That the artist have stolen rather than generated the contents? In both cases it is the atmosphere that really contains the stories rather than the texts. Instead of inviting a reading from A to B, both Kovitz and Delilabros create layers of impediments, which stop readers from understanding too easily or too quickly. So while I can't tell you what the point of Ice Fishing In Gimli is or what happens at the end of When You Go Back, Nothing is Real both tell their stories peripherally, demanding a method of reading well outside of the ordinary.

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