Document Dust, 2017-08-11
I’m drawn to words because they are human and because they are data. As a human, my world and imagination focus on information. As a professional, my work requires me to manage the records of a large and sprawling government bureaucracy. As an artist, my worth derives from my interest in information, how information systems fall apart, how the signal from a message can be muffled, fragmented, and even totally lost.
As an archivist and records manager, I police the records of the state courts—ensuring we save them for as long as we must and destroy them when we can. Most of my current art revolves around repurposing tiny fragments of old records that have fallen away from their documents during a century in inhospitable storage. Rather than discard these, as I originally had, I now fill found bottles with these fragments of the archives or glue them onto rocks, shells, and driftwood. These fragments vary in size: Some carry no more than a single letter, some only the handwritten swoops of otherwise vanished words. Most carry a small string of words, yet never enough to show the story. When I bring pieces from various unknown documents together, I create a new document that flows visually while always breaking against the word.
My art is an information art that extends to the detailed database, which documents the source of all the materials in any piece I make, which is how I police the meaning and sources of my works.
The major series I am working on is Third Life. The title comes from a concept in archives: records have a first life supporting the work of an organization, but those saved for their value beyond that work have a second life as archives. In this series of works, these archival documents had been stored in hot and dry storage conditions for over a century, so they had become brittle and fragments had flaked off them. I collect those small fragments and place them within bottles and upon stones and other found objects. This project brings these discarded pieces of the world (the paper fragments and the carriers of these) and recontextualizes the pieces, not to recreate the past, but to show how the past and language itself degrade over time, become less and less knowable—just as these artworks will continue to decay and become unreadable.
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