Post #1074 • October 16, 2007, 1:45 PM • 3 Comments
Newport Beach, CA - A split-screen video projected large on the wall at OCMA depicts a chorale doing its choral thing. Yet something is amiss:
Deaf since childhood, artist Joseph Grigely explores the nuances between seeing and hearing a musical performance in his new installation, St. Cecilia. The project, named after the patron saint of music, features two single channel videos with footage of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society singing three traditional Christmas carols with new lyrics written by Grigely to convey what he calls "lip misreading" - identical lip formations that produce dissimilar sounds.
Hence "Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens" becomes "Piney cold salad and warm wooly missus," et cetera.
Not long ago I proposed that art that attempts to engage in essentially literary activities (here, to make the point that communication is difficult and the hearing don't fully appreciate the world of the deaf) ought to bear comparison to other literary forms. As it happens, last night Supergirl was watching "Clerks II." I can only take Kevin Smith movies for ten minutes at a stretch, but there was a funny bit about one character's confusion of Anne Frank and Helen Keller (he thought Frank was the blind and deaf girl), and his friend's futile attempt to correct him. This makes roughly equivalent points and was genuinely entertaining.
Of course, there aren't really "nuances" between seeing and hearing so much as obvious differences. The video doesn't hold up under even this much scrutiny, though. Likewise for Grigely's We're Drunken Bantering about What's Important in Life, unnotable even by standards of handwritten notes arranged on the walls as art, a genre in which no one as yet has outperformed Danica Phelps. Whatever art asks of us, it's a shame to see it ask us to think about it, but not too hard. Fortunately, much stronger stuff is up at OCMA, and I'll take you through it this week.