Time Telling

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SOS
loss,death, decipher, mortality,found objects,Mauritius,multi-media, conceptual art,non-traditional materials,technology,verbal/non verbal communication, crisis,Morse Code, transitions,installation,woman artist,locked-in syndrome, The Diving-bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby,memory, place, language, emotions,sculpture,mixed media, installation,shower curtain,
description

SOS is one component of a three-part  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  Viader Knowles presented at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 2003. The three works presented in that exhibition were prepared for a particular space within the gallery. They carried an underlying theme of loss, death and mortality, and they intimate how these experiences affect individuals and their actions. In his review of the exhibition Jack Anderson wrote,” Working from an event which must be considered both the most intense form of human crisis and the most ineluctable and inexpressible of all human experiences - death - Viader Knowles’ images here what various types of death are like.” (Anderson, 2003)

The title, SOS, reminds us of the Morse code (…---…) version of ”Save our Souls”, words that are used to communicate crisis. In her  artist statementA commentary by an artist on an artwork, and exhibition, belief system, or any other topic.  about her work, Viader Knowles states that the  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  SOS is communicating ideas related to ‘crisis and communication‘. She references the method of communication constructed by a journalist named Jean-Dominique Bauby, who after surviving an automobile accident in 1995, awoke mentally competent, but experiencing locked-in syndrome. He had become a quadriplegic only capable of moving his left eye. In an attempt to communicate with the world he devised an alphabet where the letters were arranged according to their use in the French language. A caregiver would say the letters and he would blink at the appropriate letter. He and his assistants compiled an inspirational biography titled, The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly using this laboriously slow method.

start quoteThe kind of work that I make is often called time-based work and so like video and like film, it reveals itself over time, like telling a story.end quote -- Rachel Viader Knowles

The sculptural component of Viader Knowes’ installation has the appearance of a wheeled stainless  steelAn alloy of iron and carbon capable of being tempered to many degrees of hardness. (Artlex.com)  hospital gurney, but it is narrow, and implies only a small section of the body. It is just wide enough to contain a small, embedded three-inch LCD monitor mounted within a mirrored frame on the top surface. The monitor is located at one end where an eye would typically be located on the human body. The video loop playing in the monitor documents a Viader Knowles’  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  artwork, where, using Morse code and her left eye, she blinked out the Biblical message “What Hath God Wrought” (Numbers 23:23). This alludes to the first telegraph message sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 and also refers to the failing health of the determined yet hopelessly crippled Jean-Dominque Bauby.

The bed-like form is surrounded by a transparent curtain. On the curtain are mirrored letters and code symbols used in the Samuel Morse message. The viewer is encouraged to enter this subdued and intimate space and to interact with the work. Viader Knowles involves her viewer by including mirror surfaces that reflect the viewer‘s image into her installations. From the interior position and looking out through the curtains the viewer observes a blurred and distorted exterior reality.

Viader Knowles balances emotionally difficult ideas with materially clean and sharp images. Her work is researched extensively, and concepts related to the human body and emotion, memory and language, place and time are all explored. Viader Knowles compares herself to a director as she mixes and arranges text,  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  and manufactured objects, mirrors, curtains, atmosphere,  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  imagery, video and  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  to achieve her artistic goals. About SOS Patricia Deadman states: “…the exhibition evokes desperation, lack of control and anxiety in the viewer. Time seems agonizingly long when one is trying to break the code, yet fleeting if one images what may occur between life and death.“ (Deadman, 2003)

The work SOS is the only  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  piece Viader Knowles has ever sold.

additional resources Influences
Duration: 1:49 min
Size: 7963kb
SOS
Duration: 2:22 min
Size: 10399kb
Starting Into Art
Duration: 2:25 min
Size: 11032kb
The Story of SOS
Duration: 2:18 min
Size: 10215kb
Viewing Her Work
Duration: 2:11 min
Size: 9128kb
Things to Think About
  • Time is a personal and unique thing. It can move quickly or slowly depending on the experience. The past is known, while the future is a mystery and can unfold in many ways. The present is here and now, but sometimes the past can be triggered/evoked by a particular smell, sound or image within that present state. Think about ideas related to time.
  • If you were to redesign the English alphabet yourself, according to the frequency of use of the letters, what would be the first letter, middle, last? Design your own alphabet based on letter usage.
  • Many people purchase lottery tickets weekly in the hope of winning. The chances of winning are about as good as the chances of getting locked-in syndrome. Think about gambling and its implications for society, and discuss these issues with fellow students and teachers.
  • What is the brainstem in the human body and how can damage to that area affect the body?
  • With classmates, decipher code or use code to make a cryptic message. For a simple code, use the previous letter in the alphabet instead of the correct letter for your word, for example, ‘Save Our Souls’ would read ‘Rzud Ntq Rntkr‘ and ‘What Hath God Wrought?’ would read ‘Vgzs Gzsg Fnc Vqntfgs?‘.
Online Activity
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Word Jumble - Unscramble each word below (some letters have been inserted to give you a head start!)  The correct answers will be revealed when entered.  Then unscramble the circled letters to solve the phrase puzzle at the bottom. (HINT:  Think about Viader Knowles' artwork when solving the phrase puzzle!)

In addition:

  • Check out this Word Games website for fun games and puzzles you can challenge yourself to complete and solve: http://www.wordplays.com/p/index.

  • This Playing with Time website has many references to time for you to explore:


    • First, click on the Features: to see and do link.

    • Next, click on the A Place in Time link at the top of the webpage. From here:

      • Observe an eye blinking by clicking on Blink.

      • Observe the changing seasons in rapid time by clicking on New York Forest.

      • Watch the changing land formations by clicking on Cape Beach.

  • Here is a website that has codes and mysteries to solve, from the Smithsonian American Art Museum: http://midnight.si.edu/default_flash.html
Studio Activity

Biography without any “E’s”

  • Read Rachelle Viader Knowles biography. She used only words without the letter ‘E’ to write this.

  • Write a story or a few sentences about yourself, but when you write do not use any words containing the letter ‘E’.  How frustrating did you find that?  How does this activity make the tale you write more creative and interesting?

What does it mean to be human?

One of the activities that Viader Knowles was challenged to complete in art school was to ‘visually communicate what it meant to be human.‘ At the time she had to think about relationships, her own body and mortality, her present, past and future and methods of communication. She still uses these ideas in her work today.

  • Use this art school exercise as a starting point for a work of art where you explore the topic of what “being human” means to you.

Metaphorical reference to the bathroom

Much of the work Viader Knowles produces has a metaphorical reference to the bathroom. It is a place where we are naked and can scrutinize our appearance. It is often a sanctuary, or it can be a reminder of our primordial roots and our need to be unceremoniously cleansed and to expel waste.

The bathroom was also the place where Viader Knowles’ father died. In her work from the SOS  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  I wonder what he saw lying there… Viader Knowles includes images like the bottom of the sink and toilet tank and contemplates the belief that the last thing you see is imprinted in the eye. Certainly these images are not what we humans would hope to see as we end our lives.

  • Look around your bathroom and find some interesting images of objects used there.

  • Use one or more of these objects to metaphorically communicate another idea.

Videotape ordinary activities and self

Work with the ideas of legibility and illegibility

Comic Books

Check out the Time Project at Young Tate (the Tate Gallery).

At this site fifteen students looked at artworks in which the artists explored the topic of time. The students talked about time and decided to make comic books related to the past, present and future. Check out what they made and then  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  your own comic books based on your ideas and interests related to time.

References

Anderson, Jack. ‘Language Only One Facet of Ourselves.’ Regina Leader Post, August 13, 2003.

Deadman, Patricia. Rachelle Viader Knowles: Save our Souls. Exhibition catalogue. MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2003.

Knowles, Rachelle Viader. Save our Souls 2003. Exhibition notes. MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan. Retrieved from the Internet on April 5, 2008 from: http://uregina.ca/rvk/sos.html

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning