“We cannot truly see something until we allow it to disarrange us.”
The artistic practices of Tessie Word, N.B. Aldrich and Louise K. Wilson allow for a kind of beautiful ruination to unravel and be revealed. Rather than momentarily titillating, their work invites a grounded beauty to enter the conversation when we consider loss, secrecy, uncertainty, chance.
There is pain experienced when one recognizes that the place where one resides and loves is under immediate assault. This is solastalgia, a cobbling together of divergent words into a neologism. It is a form of homesickness akin to nostalgia, except that the victim has not left their home. A decade into the term’s usage further illuminates a relationship of the ‘new abnormal’ of our shared environmental collapse or military actions at odds.
Each artist was asked to ruminate upon another word used by the early 20th-century French poet and essayist, Francis Ponge. The term disarrange also sounds like a neologism, or perhaps a traitorous translation. The notion of disarrangement, however, has been with us far longer than solastalgia, but the level of confusion, disarray, tumble and dislocation are inherent in both words. Each artist implores us to listen to that which allows us to truly see our world: to face the melancholic and imagine the action that will negate it, that will perhaps re-orient ourselves.
These artistic practices are varied from each other in style and genre. They are linked in new ways here through sound, but also, through the tactility of site. Tessie Word’s tsunami-focused artistic documentary, (Convergence, 2014), is composed of tales and realities about a place and a potential disaster. It’s different stylistically from N.B. Aldrich’s chance-based and artful reconstruction of a vocalized text detailing survivors of a very real disaster (Hiroshima, 2004). Louise Wilson’s looped soundscapes, compositions and site-specific performances, (A Record of Fear, 2005), filtered through her visits to a former Cold War military base, link back eerily to Aldrich’s truncated Hiroshima stories. Real, potential or imagined disasters take up the sonic space of these artistic practices as they explore the disarrangement of what remains.
Intentionally listening to these works for a kind of regret or remembrance arises initially around uncertainty and fear. Allowing listeners to absorb truncated, spoken text; to physically feel throbbing sounds as if we were inside the machines of destruction; to face the potential devastation of coasts pummeled by waves—makes us more truly able to see the mysteriously dangerous.
—Joan Schuman, Earlid