Peter Rose: Witness

Thoughts on LightSpeech

Over the course of a number of years, I have developed the ability to speak in an assortment of invented languages, taking the word “language” in the broadest possible sense. A study of French, German, Japanese, Turkish, and Spanish has informed this facility, but the whole business lies as close to music as it does to semantics. I’ve subscribed to the thesis that the language one speaks inflects one’s experience of the shape of things, and that by playing at the edges of language one might enter into another relationship with the world.

Simultaneously, I’ve learned to be all too suspicious of the very possibility of making images. How difficult it is, after all, for an image to become other than a disposable, generic commodity that generates “meaning” through participation in a “text.” Can one imagine looking at anything in speechless wonder? Is this still possible? Isn’t everything visible no more than grist for some mill?

Further, the triumph of digital simulation technology has rendered equally suspect the notion of experience itself (as well as lesser issues like truth, credibility, documentation, etc.) As a “live-action” artist, I’ve been committed to the proposition that witnessing place, time, and event has some superogatory value. How can this still be? How can it matter that one was there, that an image was made by virtue of one’s physical presence in a context, rather than by the simulation of such?

If the visible has been thoroughly colonized by culture, then it is to the invisible that one must turn. And if one wants to subvert the technologies of simulation, one looks to pre-literate cultures, wherein touch, sound, and sense still retain their numinous impact. And if language is to be involved in order to give some shape to thought, it is to language as invocation, rather than denotation, that we must turn. My logic has led me to invent a novel form of performative image-making that integrates speech, gesture, sound, and light in order to conjure images through a kind of cinematic incantation.

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