Monday, October 20, 2008
Out of Context
My latest work from the series of Four Letter Words involves words taken Out of Context. If viewed correctly - or incorrectly, depending on context - it is my most obscene work to date.
The series of Four Letter Words is a challenge to the title. "Four letter words" is a euphemism for vulgarity, and vulgarity is typically thought of as those words George Carlin examined which could not be said on television (most of which were longer than four letters). This discourages the 3900+ four letter words out there (as deemed playable by the Scrabble dictionary).
The interesting thing with Anglo Saxonisms (another quaint euphemism) was examined by Diane Ackerman in her book A Natural History of the Senses. To paraphrase, "Why fuck when you can fornicate?" In one chapter, wherein she briefly explored a history of language, Ackerman suggested that the languages of Anglo and Saxon were considered brute and harsh when heard by the ears of the Gauls. As a result, the televised audience (in the US) will more than likely hear two four letter words replace once, because the sensors believe an audience would rather hear about couples who "make love."
To counter the brutality of our linguistic Anglo Saxon heritage, as a culture we have invented other euphemisms and colloquialisms for penis, vagina, intercourse, and masturbation. It is also a methodology for adolescents to speak outside the radar of adults. This tradition is older than The Bard of Avon whose phrasings were "wont to set the table on a roar" when such subjects were discussed.
When proposed for the Athenaeum in August, this was a series that was refused from the exhibition. The refusal was based on the grounds that the Athenaeum serves as a rental facility for weddings, events, and ballet classes. It is simple to empathize with that position, since display of that work would probably provoke some outcry from patrons as well as the city of Alexandria. It's also unfortunate. The three works that sold the best were the two series of Onomatopoeia - one because of its relationship to Roy Lichtenstein's pop paintings (blam), the other because they are monosyllabic nonsense that have acquired some sort of intelligible meaning (hunh) - and Currencies, though not as a complete series. I believe the latter did well because they were shiny (composite gold leaf and graphite). Out of Context would have sold as a series... and probably had back orders. Intellect aside, there is a repressed juvenile in us all.