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Stammer and Rustle, 2007

Title after Roland Barthes                

Spiral on floor made of porcelain letters, the public can walk through it to centre and make new words from pile of letters

20’ diametre

Exhibition: Ex-Teresa Arte Alternativo, Mexico City

 

Interactive element: The public walks through the spiral and, upon arriving in the centre, can make words out of the pile of porcelain letters found there

 

The spiral spells out a quote from Michel de Certeau’s text on tactics vs strategies. The letters are made of natural white porcelain with a clear glaze, each letter measuring about 15 cm high. The spiral is large enough to permit an adult to enter and walk to the centre of it. The spiral form alludes to tornados and their all-consuming action, which I compare to the power of language, meaning and communication. In contrast to the possible devastation of such a natural phenomenon, the porcelain letters emphasise the fragility of the institution of language. I am in the process of adding an auditive element so that the delicate sound of porcelain clinking together—similar to the rustle of wind—will bring light tinkles to the harsh words spelled out in the phrase (stammering), as if the letters had a voice with which to calm us (rustling). Text spells:

 

"Speech is irreversible. What has been said cannot be unsaid, except by adding to it: to correct, here, is, oddly enough, to continue. In speaking, I can never erase, annul; all I can do is say ‘I am erasing, annulling, correcting,’ in short, speak some more. This annulation-by-addition I shall call ‘stammering.’ Stammering is a message spoiled twice over it is the noise of language comparable to a motor that is not working properly. Similarly the good functioning of the machine is displayed in a musical being: the rustle. The rustle is the noise of what is working well. The rustle denotes a limit-noise, an impossible noise, the noise of what has no noise; to rustle is to make audible the very evaporation of noise: the tenuous, the blurred. It trembles and rustles: in short, it works, and it works well and this rustle signifies that something, collectively, is working." (BARTHES, Roland. The Rustle of Language. Trans: Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1986, 76.)