#270 Avant La Lettre
84x64 cm | Filler, oak frame
The phrase is used for something taking place before the term for it is coined. For example, some may say Jesus was a socialist "Avant la Lettre". Literally, it describes an illustration in the early days of print that left a blank space for translation of the caption.
Can we think of a conscious human mind before language? Maybe self-awareness is a product of communication itself. Julian Jaynes proposes in his book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" that human consciousness evolved just 4000 years ago. Before that, the atomised subject didn't exist, and instead, we heard a multitude of voices inside of us. This is, of course, just a theory, but while complex life is most certainly possible without consciousness, it is hard to imagine the use of elaborate language without awareness.
This work describes the loss of language. It is the emptiness beyond figuration and even beyond distinction. It is monochrome in the sense that it is an image that shows itself as an object. There is no opening, no point of view, it is completely sealed, but as such, it is also fully present. Language and awareness detract from the feeling of presence, from connectivity with the objects in the physical world. Only outside words, without the possibility to discriminate, can the gap between the subject and the world be bridged, and the emptiness is turned to wholeness.
To the mind, a word is always also an image. In that sense, understanding words function no different than normal perception. When we see, images are constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is an interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as understanding words.
However, to use language, we have to speak or write it. We have to realize it. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. But how words are inserted into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through, and how we shape it, reflects on who we are, it can reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.
Humans inscribed the first written words in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future, to protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must initially submit his or her attention to the message. No matter how insignificant, its meaning will always in some way change the receiver forever.
There is a constant tension between language and reality as matter. The human subject is defined by an individual will, as opposed to the strict causality of nature. This will strive to be expressed through language. Maybe self-awareness is a result of language at use. Language as a way for the ego to invent itself, to inscribe itself into the world. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers, laws or inventories — different ways of trying to influence and master reality.
Tablet series is part of Template, a compilation of works made by using pieces of wooden plates as templates. They function as a mould or matrix for the finished work.
Reminiscent of Richard Serra's Verb List I try to use simple and clearly defined actions to shape the filler in my works. This method ensures there is always non-cognitive aspects of the production process.