Last week we visited the Station Gallery in Whitby, a lively, program-driven public gallery. The building is a wonderful blend of historical railway station and modern spaces of glass and light, designed by Phil Goldsmith. A central reception “hub” guides all activity, and the gallery staff is freely informative and friendly. I also love the drawings of curator, Olexander Wlasenko – large scale cinema stills “painted” with finger and dry pigment.
The current exhibition, The Logic of Subduction: Grahame Lynch, is an installation work both visual and haptic and is spatially oriented in ways that often require the viewer to look and gather, and piece the fragments together into a poetic sense of time and place (artist’s words from the excellent show publication, of his own design). Grahame Lynch lives with three forms of visual impairment, slowly heading towards blindness. His installation gives the viewer a sense of how he experiences vision. His work is Inclusive Design, not merely illustrating the dread-filled loss of sight, but rather, making us see what it’s like to not be able to (from catalogue essay by Lorenzo Buj). There are rows of books pressed soundly together, their edges polished to a hard marble finish with words finely etched into the surface – requiring the aid of a magnifying glass. There are large overlapping page leaves precisely cut through with words above words, encased in archeological-like observation boxes. There are silent video images on white acrylic sheets facing rubbed out graphite words on framed black paper.
As well last week I listened to an interview on CBC’s Tapestry with a man who discovered his lifelong troubles in understanding language was because he is profoundly deaf (due to childhood scarlet fever). Although Gerald Shea became a successful lawyer, he spent years (with stomach ulcers) transcribing what he was hearing, because of what he was not hearing. He says, The partially deaf interpret what others say through “lyricals,” in which those with limited hearing register the wrong words, or nonwords, in lieu of what is actually spoken. It was fascinating to hear about lyricals, quite often poetic in their own meaning – an example he gives is “Be careful crossing the street” is heard as “Be airful washing the trees.” His book is called A Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway Through Life.
I remember past visions dimly and I see new ones brightly – both are heard (Dawn Pearcey)
These two experiential visits collided with my own sense of vision and sound, often a source of creative inspiration because of their inconsistent reliability. Whether a panic attack, a depersonalization episode, a depression, sight and sound can flicker, muffle, hum, recede, bellow, etc. I admire these artists who recreate their sensory world so others can briefly live it too – above all, this helps foster empathy. Grahame Lynch’s words brought past photos to mind:
…a constant desire to see places that few people have ever been – hoping these are the memories I will keep, even if someday the sense of sight disappears (Grahame Lynch)
…the bevelled glass in the front door that fragmented the view outside (Grahame Lynch)
Some of my earliest memories are of a world that constantly jittered, of falling down and staring the jitters into submission (Grahame Lynch)
I blink, waiting for the image outside to appear inside. So I can look at it more clearly (Dawn Pearcey)