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Date
Title
Source
Description
Tags
-3959
20.05.2011
Wall - Jeanne Friscia
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"Wall" is a text-based installation of each of George Bush's State of the Union Addresses alphabetized and shown in consecutive order. The project is unfinished because I have only printed one of the speeches and have not found a venue interested. In ...

"Wall" is a text-based installation of each of George Bush's State of the Union Addresses alphabetized and shown in consecutive order. The project is unfinished because I have only printed one of the speeches and have not found a venue interested.

In 2003, I was watching George Bush’s State of the Union Address. About halfway through the speech, I wondered if the speech would retain its meaning if the words were re-ordered. I downloaded the transcript for the 2003 speech from C-SPAN and put the words in alphabetical order. I quickly ran into issues that begged for a standard for my process. Was I going to keep hyphenated words together? Separate first and last names? Separate names of places that contained more than one word? Initially, I left proper names and certain phrases together, but I needed to see it off of my computer, so I wrote the list in columns in pencil on my studio wall to ruminate the logic of what I was after.

I quickly realized that I was making subjective decisions, so in the end I separated all words and phrases with the exception of hyphenated words. My standard was born.

Each year I downloaded the speech and alphabetized it. I have printed one of the speeches – 2002. I chose it because it was his shortest speech at only 3829 words and because was the Address that followed 9/11. I had it printed on inkjet material made for light box, so that it could be backlit with the notion that the language and its context was communicated through media. The print is 55 in. by 48 in. It hangs in my apartment entryway and is quite arresting. The words are printed 14 pt. Times New Roman in 22 columns.

My intention was to see each speech printed in this matter, or on one continuous 35 ft. long print with the speeches in chronological order. The experience of the piece I was looking for was akin to surveying the columns of names on a war memorial as if in lieu of the symbolic ceremony of mourning and remembrance, we are presented with the re-contextualized ideas behind a memorial-in-the-making.

When I peruse the columns of language, I find controlled vocabulary of the original source. By stripping it down to it’s linguistic basics we witness repetition, presence, absence, where the narrative becomes an index of fear, forgetting, and diversion. The linguistics of time, place, people define the narrative of the piece.

Time is very important to the work because of its unrelentingly progression from year to year, emphasizing the revisionist representation of history. In 2003, we see Saddam Hussein’s name show up nineteen times, yet in 2006, he is not mentioned once. Osama bin Laden is not mentioned at all until 2006. In 2004, “steroids” comes up twice and never mentioned before or again.

Then there are the first names sprinkled throughout each speech representing the personal stories of American perseverance and achievement -“Julie”, “Shannon”, “Michael”, “John” – reduced to words in the list, these names become ghosts of our own complicity.

When you see “Korea” in a list by itself or “Middle”, “North”, “South”, “East” or “West”, our history of borders, war, land, and violence becomes palpable.

In the end, I felt that I answered my initial question, that the context of the speech is so determined that the politic of the words trumped the need for narrative structure. Looking at these columns of words, tells a strong story of the first eight years of this century America. But I know it goes beyond the obvious contention and political immediacy of its source and includes how we come to know our own history and our own selves.

"Wall" is a text-based installation of each of George Bush's State of the Union Addresses alphabetized and shown in consecutive order. The project is unfinished because I have only printed one of the speeches and have not found a venue interested. In ...

"Wall" is a text-based installation of each of George Bush's State of the Union Addresses alphabetized and shown in consecutive order. The project is unfinished because I have only printed one of the speeches and have not found a venue interested.

In 2003, I was watching George Bush’s State of the Union Address. About halfway through the speech, I wondered if the speech would retain its meaning if the words were re-ordered. I downloaded the transcript for the 2003 speech from C-SPAN and put the words in alphabetical order. I quickly ran into issues that begged for a standard for my process. Was I going to keep hyphenated words together? Separate first and last names? Separate names of places that contained more than one word? Initially, I left proper names and certain phrases together, but I needed to see it off of my computer, so I wrote the list in columns in pencil on my studio wall to ruminate the logic of what I was after.

I quickly realized that I was making subjective decisions, so in the end I separated all words and phrases with the exception of hyphenated words. My standard was born.

Each year I downloaded the speech and alphabetized it. I have printed one of the speeches – 2002. I chose it because it was his shortest speech at only 3829 words and because was the Address that followed 9/11. I had it printed on inkjet material made for light box, so that it could be backlit with the notion that the language and its context was communicated through media. The print is 55 in. by 48 in. It hangs in my apartment entryway and is quite arresting. The words are printed 14 pt. Times New Roman in 22 columns.

My intention was to see each speech printed in this matter, or on one continuous 35 ft. long print with the speeches in chronological order. The experience of the piece I was looking for was akin to surveying the columns of names on a war memorial as if in lieu of the symbolic ceremony of mourning and remembrance, we are presented with the re-contextualized ideas behind a memorial-in-the-making.

When I peruse the columns of language, I find controlled vocabulary of the original source. By stripping it down to it’s linguistic basics we witness repetition, presence, absence, where the narrative becomes an index of fear, forgetting, and diversion. The linguistics of time, place, people define the narrative of the piece.

Time is very important to the work because of its unrelentingly progression from year to year, emphasizing the revisionist representation of history. In 2003, we see Saddam Hussein’s name show up nineteen times, yet in 2006, he is not mentioned once. Osama bin Laden is not mentioned at all until 2006. In 2004, “steroids” comes up twice and never mentioned before or again.

Then there are the first names sprinkled throughout each speech representing the personal stories of American perseverance and achievement -“Julie”, “Shannon”, “Michael”, “John” – reduced to words in the list, these names become ghosts of our own complicity.

When you see “Korea” in a list by itself or “Middle”, “North”, “South”, “East” or “West”, our history of borders, war, land, and violence becomes palpable.

In the end, I felt that I answered my initial question, that the context of the speech is so determined that the politic of the words trumped the need for narrative structure. Looking at these columns of words, tells a strong story of the first eight years of this century America. But I know it goes beyond the obvious contention and political immediacy of its source and includes how we come to know our own history and our own selves.