1. Lost & Found Wing
2. The Arcade
3. Dignified, Signified Sign Wing
When we assign words, sounds, symbols, to represent individual things, we create a sign. Signs have two components:
• A signifier: the form which the sign takes:
• The signified: the concept it represents:
You may enter the business.
Signs take the form of words, images, sounds, odors, flavors, acts or objects, but such things have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning. As modern culture becomes increasingly saturated with media images, new cultural forms and expressions, consumerist trends and needs, there has been a remarkable proliferation of signs. Many scientists, artists, psychologists, and philosophers have described the signifier-sign pattern operating in areas outside of language. Some very smart people have begun to wonder if the exponential pace of modernity is thrusting us so deep into the world of signs we might become trapped.
4. Research & Development Wing
5. Homeland Security Wing
6. Chicken Wing
7. Gift Shop Wing
8. Stage Wing
9. Gender Identity Wing
Why does a sad story make us cry? What’s going on in our mind when a good joke makes us laugh out loud? Can we possibly explain how the made-up sounds and marks we call words and letters have such a big impact on us?
We use language every day and rarely ever stop using it long enough to wonder at how strange and amazing its very existence is. While many animals and plants communicate, the system of inventing and assigning sounds and symbols (words) to things and combining them into sentences using a common structure (grammar) is uniquely human. The system allows us to convey complex ideas freely and easily and is, perhaps, our greatest evolutionary adaptation. It is the foundation of all human achievement, compassion, and altruism. It is also the means by which structures of power have oppressed, and a prison in which people have lost their minds.
Visual art is uniquely suited to examine something so ubiquitous as language. When we enter a gallery, we arrive prepared to stop and search its contents for underlying implications or personal meaning. And whereas some degree of experience and specialized knowledge are sometimes required for engaging with contemporary art, our shared experience of language–the very thing that makes it work– is a thread that includes us all.
It is with this focus on engagement that the artists in this exhibition have been charged to work out the beauty, weirdness, joy, and possibilities of language. Some have used text as a medium like paint, while others use it to both convey and critique meaning. Through a broad range of materials, media, and approaches, these new works give us the opportunity to pause and reconsider language for the odd, fantastic creation it is.
John Patrick McKenzie
Amber Jean Young
Date: July 10-27, 2013
Location: Root Division, San Francisco, CA
Exhibit Size: Nine wings.
Official Description: A visual arts exhibition featuring projects that explore intersections between the forms, mechanisms and meanings of language.
Unofficial Description: Group show curated by yrs truly.
Very Official Description: Drawing from a cross disciplinary group of twenty-six collaborators from across the country including writers, visual artists, and craftspeople, Character Profile investigates novel functions of language through a broad range of materials, media and approaches. Many of these works are dedicated to a spirit of engagement and play. The exhibition highlights art designed for direct interaction with visitors and work that provokes expanded meanings and alternative associations. These artists present language as both a medium and a subject, and deftly maneuver words to both convey and critique meaning.
Official Slogan: “The unconscious is structured like a language.” -Jacques Lecan
Official Motto: “Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Thanks: Amy Cancelmo, Michelle Mansour