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A video installation by Emma Jean Anderson
March 15th – March 30th, 2013

Emerging artist Emma Jean Anderson will present a video work that contemplates identity, not as a constant essence, but rather as a contingent and evolving complexity. This project is the final iteration of the first cycle of Toon’s Kitchen presentations.

Commissioned essay written by Bart Gazzola

Liquid Braille is a study in contrasts: this is what makes it so interesting, and why I can watch it over and over. This is a form of mimicry of the “star” of the video by Emma Jean, Preston, as he swims “forever” and the video loops endlessly.

This is a work that you can almost step into, like wading into a pool. It’s installed in this space as a projection dominating a wall and presenting a figure that’s sometimes smaller than the viewer, and other times dwarfs us with his movements. Liquid Braille is somewhat hypnotic, filling the room.

There is no audio component to this work, and its silence is a sharp fracture to the activity of Preston, swimming and swimming and swimming. Preston is blind, and this is a purely visual experience he can never share – but perhaps that’s standing in the wrong place, and “looking” at this work incorrectly. Perhaps Liquid Braille isn’t about us, but about his experience in that space, and Emma as the observer (or recorder) of that happening, watching him, and passing this on to us. We need to think of this environment, the room and the silence and the narrative on the wall, as trying to communicate something to those of us who suffer from the “oppression of the visual”. Remember Tiresias, who though blind, seemed to know enough to make the Greek Gods uncomfortable….

The familiar tiled flooring of a massive swimming pool appears occasionally, all blue and reassuring, hinting at a stable location. This is challenged by waves of smothering black and brilliant flares of white that obscure our vision in Liquid Braille. There’s gestural marks that are both blocky and delicate (in form and in their brevity of appearance): this is the atmosphere that Preston moves through like a fish, self assuredly, confident and clear in his purpose. It’s like he’s almost flying, and swimming is, after all, an activity that – unlike many sports – doesn’t privilege sight.

A past work of Emma’s also played upon ideas of motion, and interaction: her BFA exhibition played upon notions of dance, and the familiarity and intimacy of dancing with a partner, where, to steal a wonderful phrase she used in describing this work, “other people leave their fingerprints upon us.” The conversations we’ve had about that work, and this work, have only helped make me experience Liquid Braille as something that has nuance. She’s deliberate and considered in her choices, in this vignette of her friend. It’s almost like this is a translation of his experience– and getting the words and sentiment correct are necessary for our understanding.

Emma’s words, in conversation with me about this work illustrate this. This is very much a portrait of Preston, and a means to position you in another’s place and experience their world. Liquid Braille is “me trying to understand how he experiences space, and also the way thoughts and perception work… like flashes of insight. An awareness of yourself, your environment, at once and yet separate. I like the idea of impossibilities made possible through metaphor…”

Experience Liquid Braille: it washes over you like water, and in the reference to Braille in the title, reminds us that vision is just one of our senses.