You are here
There are human experiences which cannot readily be described in words; effects or phenomena which cannot be easily spoken or written. At a recent conference Sarat Maharaj gestured to such anomalies within any effort at translation.
Through the boundaries of culture and individual identity, art may attempt to translate the 'other' into an experience identifiable to the viewer. It is this continual mutability, intrinsic to visual discourse, which gives it possibilities outside the written or spoken language used to describe it. Maharaj created his own word to describe these experiences–'clitorality '–meaning experiences which may be culturally or socially specific and are therefore difficult to translate into universal meaning.
I was thinking about this as I looked at the moulds Jemima Wyman had arranged on a thin piece of clear perspex which was suspended from the gallery ceiling by fishing line. Pink Bits was a display of four moulds, each obviously taken from the same cast, but varying slightly. Cast in kromapan, their pink colour alluded to a bodily orifice of some kind. It was difficult to tell whether they were moulds of a vagina or a mouth. The hanging shelf was positioned at eye level in the middle of the room. The viewer was able to move around each side of the shelf and to view the objects from every angle, including looking up through the perspex from below. Whether Wyman's moulds were definitively vaginas or mouths seemed not to matter very much. It was the objects' obscurity that intrigued. Wyman set in play a confusion about the identity or origin of these strange moulds. This ambiguity of definition, the way at once familiar and unfamiliar objects and images may be translated in a number of ways, is one of the key preoccupations of her work. It is an anxiety to map and control space that gives Wyman's work energy. Projecting this map onto her own body the artist takes the internal and places it in a public and foreign environment. Resembling some form of forensic evidence, she separates pieces that constitute a whole, asking that they be viewed as individual or partial objects.
In a corner of the gallery a video played continually. The video showed the artist's head, repetitively placing objects into her mouth and then blowing them out. Through the use of time delay and sequencing, any sense of narrative became disjointed and the images were presented as a series of patterns mutating over time. As the viewer became entranced by the rhythm of the movement, the images blended into kaleidoscopic patterns. One was captivated by the act of viewing rather than the need to interpret.
Perspex squares, hung parallel to a white wall, depicted stills from the video. Presenting the images in static form, Wyman excluded the time element, to again separate pieces from the whole. With her mouth open, it was as though she was trying to say something. The silence of these images caused confusion as to whether it was the artist who was mute or the viewer deaf. Either way, Wyman articulated the multifaceted nature of artistic representation and interpretation. The mouth can be both an entrance and an exit to the body. These pieces highlight her struggle with extremes and her attempts to reconcile these polarities: internal/external, order/chaos and solid/transparent.
 Close Ties, The University of Queensland Art Museum, 25-28 March 1999