We present a group of works by Anna Barham, made using the language she produces collaboratively with other readers and computer processes in her live production reading groups. The framed works are made from pages of the score from one of these reading groups which used texts about various porous boundaries - interpersonal, physical, sonic, verbal, chemical, psychological. The frames incorporate small objects, drawings and images made either directly onto the pages or by printing or etching images onto the perspex glazing. Barham uses these objects and images to punctuate and annotate the texts, obscuring or underlining different words, making notes and associations.
Some of the images resemble actual punctuation marks or common annotations - a scanned oyster shell circles the sound change from ‘oyster’ ‘to voice that’. Other images make further associations with the words on the page - fungal mycelium of Ergot, the cause of Ergotism and a precursor to the synthesis of LSD, look like sets of brackets and are laid over a text which describes Freud’s early experimentation with drugs. Other images refer to previous motifs in Barham’s work like the mimicry of squid skin or to the relationship between speaking and listening.
The voice over of the video Light Swathes Crossing was developed from passages from Judith Butler’s Precarious Life and Gustav Flaubert’s descriptions of St Anthony’s hallucinations in the desert in The Temptation of St Anthony. The visual confusion of St Anthony’s hallucinations, where one thing becomes another by looking like it, echoes the way that words are transformed in the reading groups by sounding like another. Barham used this psychedelic description of St Anthony’s dissolution of self as a kind of anti-structure to work with all the versions of the different texts - editing and combining them to draw out rhythms and repetitions, surprise associations as well as themes that resonate with the originals. The result is a deluge of language that washes over the viewer.
The image - slowed down footage of rushes blowing in the wind - is mesmerising, its successive waves mimicking the rhythms of the text. The stems blow backwards and forwards, doing the same thing over and over but always differently; and the slow wipe of the image over itself, creates a further repetition, but one which gets lost as the edge of the frame disappears within the structure of the image.
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