Julie Phillips Brown
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Testimony by hand
Ann Hamilton’s myein
in Mixed messages
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Brown examines Ann Hamilton’s tactile, visual, and aural translations of key source texts in myein, the 1999 art installation at the Venice Biennale. Myein consists of three rooms, each covered minutely in Braille encodings of excerpts from Charles Reznikoff’s 1934 book of documentary poetry, Testimony. As a fine fuchsia powder sifts from the edges of the rooms’ ceilings, the Braille gradually becomes more visible as the barely audible sound of a recorded whisper emanates from an invisible source: the words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, rearticulated in international alphabet code. On the floors of each room, scuffs and trails in the fuchsia powder trace the footfalls and hand-markings of visitors to the Pavilion. Brown argues that myein reveals, through the body’s interaction with a materially transformed and translated language, a critical view of an American history in which the abstract Democratic ideals of the early nation state, paradoxically enough, have laid heavy consequences on the actual bodies of its subjects. Arguing that one can only ‘read’ myein through tactile and multi-sensory engagements with its various surfaces, Brown explores the synaesthetic moments of contact the installation initiates, examining the implication of the artwork’s visitors in its obscured histories of American violence.

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Mixed messages

American correspondences in visual and verbal practices


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