I’ve heard tell of a really great trick for blocked art writers called “The Throwing Up of the Notes,” which entails carefully transcribing ones’ hurried, handwritten chicken-scratches onto the computer screen. I’m not sure what’s so special about this technique other than neglecting to edit grammar and punctuation. Being an overgrown undergrad, I’m well aware of the importance of transcribing notes. Some jargon about hands and ideas and memory and jogging. Writing something down once won’t make you remember it, but doing it again perhaps will. And the goal isn’t necessarily to remember what it is that you wrote down, but there is the hope that repeating the action will somehow send you back into the insightful headspace that manifested in a few now-illegible scribbles in the one of many moleskines your parents can’t seem to stop sending you. The words are nothing, really. They’re signposts for a state of mind, and I have faith that words will get me back there. I have to.
Alice Tippit seems to have a wonderful grip on this situation. I visited her H.E.L.E.N. exhibition at Important Projects, an attic-cum-gallery space in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland that I was completely unprepared for; though being let into a warm house on a rainy day is a pretty pleasingly un-gallery like experience. It felt like some East Coast childhood I never had. With that in mind, let us commence with the Throwing Up of the Notes, and see if I can make some points of contact with Tippit’s enigmatic signposts that bear an eerie resemblance to words.
Welcome to my home. “Would you like some water or tea?”
“signs without clear referent...expansions of the acronym H.E.L.E.N.”
sounds like an evil super-computer
I have trouble with evocation. It’s got to be put into words; at least, I’d really like to believe that everything can be put into words. That’s probably very naïve, or sad, or both.
“We don’t consciously make any sort of connecting themes between the galleries, but one usually emerges.” Well or course if you put any two things next to one another, I will try to compare them. Isn’t that how montage works? You show the shot of an expressionless man, and cut to a shot of a little girl, then when you cut back to the man we all think about how much he must love his daughter.
Alice Tippit, H.E.L.E.N. at Important Projects, Oakland; Courtesy the artist and Important Projects.
Now that sounds like an evil super-computer, even though I’m looking at photo of some sort of antiquarian clusterfuck storehouse.
---> treasure /spolia
---> the sea / imaginary countries
---> Helen of Troy, duh
“Auto my Auto”
Floor plan? Maze? Same thing?
Victorian-looking silhouette portrait, with an A for an eye
---> eye for an eye
---> scarlett A / Hester Prynne
The problem (not a problem at all, but, you know...) is that it doesn’t matter what I think, or what the pieces make me think of. Everything is grouped together based on purely formal considerations. Each piece is a word, but somehow more anonymous. You can shuffle them around, put them together at random and the grouping will burst with fruit flavor (meaning) every time.
I think they’re making dinner downstairs. All I hear is the sound of vegetables being chopped, and...Beyoncé? I think I know why so many artists like pop music - sometimes there’s not enough mental energy left at the end of the day to listen to anything else.
I think something important is happening.
—Christina Catherine Martinez
(Image on top: Alice Tippit, Auto my Auto; Courtesy Important Projects)