The artists in Out of Hand deal with issues of language and legibility. Their projects arise from divergent motivations, yet each navigates a space where the clarity of a text or artistic idiom is confounded by a multiplicity of forces. Whether the subject is a novel, digital photography or an email sign off, the works compel an expanded awareness of language and add a surfeit of meaning to our understanding of authorship and comprehension.
Hemingway wrote standing up and Proust, in bed. The labor in writing is usually described as cognitive; any physical activity it might require is deemed beside the point. As an artist who also has a practice as a writer, however, I have a hard time not using the insistence on material particulars that is the best lesson of my first trade to scrutinize the invisibility of physical gesture and process that is the given of my second. To this end, my video Typing imagines using a keyboard as a series of gestures that require the whole body, and my video Letter C pictures the formal concerns involved in my deciding how to sign off an email as a physical process enacted on tangible objects.
Digital Guide(s) to Photography is an expanding series of books generated with custom written software. The software generates every combination of pixels for a given grid size and set of colors. The project is working toward generating every combination of pixels possible on a modern digital display, thus producing ostensibly every digital photo that could ever exist. This set would even include the image of you reading this text.
Luke Stettners works rely on concealed narratives, metaphors and processes for their legibility. In his wall painting, Cant See the Forest for the Trees, the artist stencils the words of the familiar aphorism over top of each other, creating an unreadable text that visualizes the meaning in its title. Fore & Aft: NY Skyline, May 1st, 1938 contains a black-and-white photograph captured by the artists grandfather when he arrived in the New World as an emigrant from Europe. Mounted so that the photo back faces the viewer, the original image is visible only in reflection. For Untitled, Stettner encased a tape player in a clear Plexiglas box. The transparent barrier muffles the sound of a looping cassette containing the last recording of his fathers voice. Each of these pieces is a silent carrier: an object to be approached with care, in order to understand its real scope as a constrained and disconcerting form.
As we type and edit our attention jumps from paragraph to paragraph and from program to program, leaving a trail of disconnected phrases and commands. Much of what we type is deleted before the final product is saved, but the data have not disappeared. Sic: Notes from a Keylogger is the record kept by a keylogger installed on my computer. Since the keylogger records every key pressed, the data contain information best kept private, but the range of information is so great and cluttered with such noise it remains impenetrable. Sic is ongoing and chronologicalit is a strictly linear record of non-linear processes. From a step back, the many colored key-commands and black phrases of text illustrate an abstract and personal topography of thoughts and actions. The illusion of Sic is that everything is displayed, but the reality is that without the final products of the labor to compare, the record will always be incomplete, and will remain pieces whose sum is less than the sum of the whole.
Ethan Greenbaum is a New York based artist and a co-founder and editor of The Highlights, an online arts journal. Selected exhibition venues include Anna Kustera, NY, Circus Gallery, LA, Shenghua Arts Center, Nanjing and The Suburban in Chicago. His work is currently included in a survey of New York based artists at Syracuse University. Ethan has upcoming curatorial projects at The Suburban, Chicago and Marvelli Gallery, NY.