The medium and the message
Currently, visitors to the Jenny Holzer show at the DHC/ ART Gallery in Old Montreal can compose their own truisms for display across town in the EV Building, outside of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FOFA) Gallery.
This project, called tickertext2: truisms are..., allows everyone to engage with Holzer’s aphoristic text-based work by completing randomly generated prompts on digital screens.
“They were looking for artistic tie-ins with the community,” explains Jason Camlot, Chair of Concordia's English Department, who developed the project; part educational opportunity, part literary puzzle, part history lesson and part collaborative poetry exhibit.
Confronted with text such as “work is never….”, or “a spoonful of sugar can…” anyone can go to tickertext2.concordia.ca to contribute a poetic pronouncement on life.
The project builds on a playful, interactive text-based communal art project first developed by Camlot for Congress last May. Cheryl Sim, assistant curator at DHC/ART Gallery, followed that project and saw the potential for a tie-in with the Holzer exhibit.
“We wanted to develop a public art project and find a way for people to respond to the show and contribute,” said Sim. “I talked to Jason before the Holzer exhibit opened and he really took it on.”
The original project was developed with a creative and technical team including computation arts students Mathieu Tremblay and Brian Li along with David Ward and Prem Sooriyakumar of Lab 6 ½, the team behind Congress’s Espace Recherche. With support developing an interface, Camlot repurposed the stock ticker LED screen in the lobby of the MB Building. The text shifted from financial updates to poetry provided by anyone who wanted to compose alphanumeric personal reflections of 140 characters or less.
Tickertext I melded the immediacy offered by Edison’s 1869 invention of a tape transmitting financial information with new media practices like Twitter. The resulting unspooling text, delivered in Twitter-sized bites, was a series of personal, poetic strings of letters and numbers intended to share an experience or emotion electronically.
“I wanted to let people shape something personal, something meaningful, but within certain defined literary constraints,” explains Camlot.
Rethinking tickertext for DHC/ART sent Camlot to the gallery, “I wanted to develop a constraint appropriate to the concept.” He began by jotting down words and ideas inspired by Holzer’s work. “I stood in front of one exhibit for an hour-and-a-half, just taking notes. I don’t think you’re supposed to read all of it at once like that.”
Camlot produced the beginnings of 1 500 truisms, a task not as daunting as it sounds, he says. “I started riffing on other things, well known aphorisms and sayings. For the most part, it’s just nouns and verbs.”
Using those prompts as an entry point, he worked with the same creative team that had helped realize the first iteration of tickertext, this time with translation by Études françaises student Esther Bernard. Camlot approached people he knew with an established presence in social media to get the ball rolling. They began posting and tweeting their own truisms, and drawing traffic to the web site.
Having the work displayed in the York corridor of the EV Building provides a nice connection between art production, creation and participation linking Concordia and the wider art community. Camlot worked with jake moore at the FOFA gallery to incorporate this project into this month’s programming which involves other text-based art. The screens will be on display until the end of the Holzer exhibit on Nov. 14.
For more about work currently at the FOFA Gallery, watch the video:
For more about tickertext phase I, watch the highlight video.
To contribute work to the new project go to the Tickertext site.