Joi T. Arcand, Northern Pawn, South Vietnam, 2009
Joi T. Arcand is a photo-based artist and industrial sculptor from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, and she knows that words, that letter forms, shapes and glyphs, “change the visual landscape,” that they are how we go about practicing new ways of looking. Words are emotional architectures, and Arcand calls hers “Future Earth.”

Here on Future Earth is a series of photographs that Arcand produced in 2010. In a phone interview, Arcand explained to me that this is where her photo-based practice and her interest in textuality synched. Arcand wants us to think about these photographs as documents of “an alternative present,” of a future that is within arm’s reach.

For this series, Arcand manipulated signs and replaced their slogans and names with Cree syllabics. By doing this, Arcand images something of a present beside itself and therefore loops us into a new mode of perception, one that enables us to attune to the rogue possibilities bubbling up in the thick ordinariness of everyday life. Arcand wanted to see things “where they weren’t.”

Hers is not a utopian elsewhere we need to map out via an ethos of discovery. Rather, Arcand straddles the threshold of radical hope. She asks us to orient ourselves to the world as if we were out to document or to think back on a future past. That is, Arcand rendered these photographs with a pink hue and a thick, round border, tapping into what she calls “the signifiers of nostalgia.” Importantly, these signifiers are inextricably bound to the charisma of words, to the emotional life of the syllabics. The syllabics are what enunciate; they potentiate a performance of world-making that does not belong to the mise-en-scene of settlement.”

Text and Image: https://canadianart.ca/features/optics-language-joi-t-arcand-looks-words/
Joi T. Arcand, Amber Motors, 2009
Image: https://canadianart.ca/features/optics-language-joi-t-arcand-looks-words/
YOKO ONO, Grapefruit, 1964
Conversation Piece, an event score from Grapefruit, 1964.

“Ono’s event scores were intended to replace a physical work of art with written instructions or suggestions for acts that the person experiencing them could create. Pulse Piece, for example, suggests, “Listen to each other’s pulse by putting your ear on the other’s stomach. 1963 Winter.” The activities usually highlight a simple day-to-day activity. Often considered a Fluxus work, Grapefruit has become a monument of conceptual art. The title comes from the way Ono felt about herself: a hybrid between American and Japanese identities, the way a grapefruit is a hybrid between a lemon and an orange.”

Text and Image:
Yoko Ono, The RIVERBED, 2018
Laurel Woodcock, wish you were here, 2003
wish you were here (2003), a series of aerial-banner letters, references the popular postcard message. Woodcock draws our attention to ubiquitous phrases and words whose definition we take at face value, and we are happy to find that in a contemporary context, old phrases can be given new life. With her characteristic wit, the artist reveals that nothing is static.”

Image: https://canadianart.ca/news/news-brief-remembering-laurel-woodcock/
Laurel Woodcock, on a clear day, 2010
“Language is more than inspiration for Woodcock: it is raw material, awaiting manipulation and reinterpretation. Rather than invent new phrases or author original prose and poetry, Woodcock explores the ability of common language to become layered with multiple and unexpected meanings; when presented in new contexts, familiar words, symbols and sayings acquire new significance while retaining reference to their primary definitions.
Woodcock treats words as ready-made or found objects, often lifting phrases from songs and screenplays. on a clear day (2010), four sky-blue aluminum panels originally produced for the Toronto Now space at the Art Gallery of Ontario, borrows its title phrase from two films:Gaby Dellal’s On a Clear Day (2005) and Vincente Minnelli’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970).”

image and text: https://canadianart.ca/reviews/laurel-woodcock/
Laurence Weiner, Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, 2004
“Photograph of Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, by Lawrence Weiner, laser-cut aluminum typography on brick. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

“Lawrence Weiner’s texts have appeared in all sorts of places over the last five decades, and although he sees himself as a sculptor rather than a conceptualist, he is among the trailblazers of the 1960s to present art as language. He defines his sculptural medium simply as ‘language + the material referred to’ in the sense that language is a material for construction. Accordingly, his first book Statements (1968) contains 24 typewritten descriptions of works, where only a few had actually been made, suggesting that a work’s existence requires a readership rather than a physical presence. Self-taught as an artist, his urgency to make art broadly available and engaging stems, he says, from his childhood in the South Bronx: “I didn’t have the advantage of a middle-class perspective. Art was something else; art was the notations on the wall, or the messages left by other people. I grew up in a city where I had read the walls; I still read the walls. I love to put work of mine out on the walls and let people read it. Some will remember it and then somebody else comes along and puts something else over it. It becomes archaeology rather than history.” (2013) While Weiner’s works exist only as language and can be displayed in any form, he is closely involved in manifestations, detailing the size of the font, the surface texture and placement of the paint or vinyl letters and indeed often inventing new fonts. Texts appear on walls and windows of galleries and public spaces, as spoken word in audio recordings and video, printed books and posters, cast or carved objects, tattoos, graffiti, lyrics, online, ad infinitum. “

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WeinerText.JPG
text: https://www.lissongallery.com/artists/lawrence-weiner
Jenny Holzer, All Fall Text: Truisms, 1977-79 (in English and Spanish); Living, 1980-82 and Survival, 1983-85
“Jenny Holzer turns common public objects into subversive artworks bearing powerful words. She engraves poetic statements about power, feminism, and individual agency into benches made from streaked Carrara marble, spotted granite, and royal blue-tinged sodalite. Holzer renders her phrases in all-caps and serif lettering, turning them into monumental proclamations: “PROTECT ME FROM / WHAT I WANT,” “IT IS IN YOUR SELF-INTEREST / TO FIND A WAY TO BE VERY TENDER,” “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY.” They become creative mandates in shared spaces and benevolent counterpoints to state directives.
If Holzer’s benches transform public park fixtures into artistic media, her LED banners co-opt a structure associated with commerce and advertising. On screens that would typically promote sales, company names, or stock market updates, Holzer broadcasts punchy phrases such as “DON’T TALK DOWN TO ME” or “WITNESS,” along with longer, looping messages. The artist often repurposes her poetic phrases, or “Truisms,” building their power through repetition. (One of Holzer’s most famous messages, “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE,” has been readopted as a protest mantra in the #MeToo era.)
“I like placing content wherever people look,” Holzer told fellow artist Kiki Smith
 in a conversation for Interview Magazine, “and that can be at the bottom of a cup or on a shirt or hat or on the surface of a river or all over a building.” Holzer turns the public realm into her exhibition space, gifting her thoughtful poetry to anyone who wants to sit or read a sign.”

Image and text: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-13-artists-highlight-power
Jenny Holzer, Truisms, 1980-
Image: http://gallery.98bowery.com/wp-content/uploads/Jen-Holzer-Truisms.jpg
Jenny Holzer, Survival Series, 1986
Shelley Niro, The Shirt (detail), 2003
Shelley Niro, The Shirt (detail), 2003.____ Uploaded by: Whyte, Murray

“In “The Shirt” – a video that debuted at the 2003 Venice Biennale – Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) artist and director Shelley Niro parodies the archetypal tourist tee-shirt from the point of view of First Nations Peoples as an exploration into the lasting effects of European colonialism in North America. Facing the camera directly and poised against the landscape of “America”, an Aboriginal woman with biker-like accessories bears a sequential series of statements on her tee-shirt that together comprise a discourse on colonialism. The darkly ironic and yet brutally truthful messages of “The Shirt” draw attention to the history of invasion that indigenous peoples have experienced in North America. By presenting the tee-shirts as souvenirs and memories of these impositions, Niro’s work suggests that the consequences of colonialism are still active today. The Shirt is an ironic and humorous take on colonialism enacted through text on T-shirts worn by an Aboriginal woman (artist Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie). Directly facing the camera with the landscape of “America” as a backdrop, the woman poses in shirts that bear a sequential series of statements that together comprise a discourse on North America’s troubled past.”

Image: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/visualarts/2017/05/21/shelley-niro-the-way-of-the-subtle-warrior.html
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
“Much of Kruger’s work pairs found photographs with pithy and assertive text that challenges the viewer. Her method includes developing her ideas on a computer, later transferring the results (often billboard-sized) into images.[5] Examples of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground,” appearing in her trademark white letters against a red background. Much of her text calls attention to ideas such as feminismconsumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, frequently appropriating images from mainstream magazines and using her bold phrases to frame them in a new context.
Kruger has said that “I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t.”[15] A larger category that threads through her work is the appropriation and alteration of existing images. In describing her use of appropriation, Kruger states:
Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.[16]

Image and Text: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Kruger#/media/File:Untitled_(Your_body_is_a_battleground).jpg
Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am), 1987
Image: https://www.widewalls.ch/consumerist-culture-art-10-artworks/
Part of an initiative to bring art to new sites within and around the building, this installation by Barbara Kruger fills the Lower Level lobby and extends into the newly relocated Museum bookstore. Famous for her incisive photomontages, Kruger has focused increasingly over the past two decades on creating environments that surround the viewer with language. The entire space—walls, floor, escalator sides—is wrapped in text-printed vinyl, immersing visitors in a spectacular hall of voices, where words either crafted by the artist or borrowed from the popular lexicon address conflicting perceptions of democracy, power, and belief.

At a moment when ideological certitude and purity seem especially valued, Kruger says she’s “interested in introducing doubt.” Large areas of the installation are devoted to open-ended questions (“WHO IS BEYOND THE LAW? WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE? WHO SPEAKS? WHO IS SILENT?”), while the section occupying the bookstore explores themes of desire and consumption. At once addressing the individual, the museum, and, symbolically, the country, Kruger’s penetrating examination of the public sphere transforms one of the Hirshhorn’s key public spaces.

Text + Image: https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/barbara-kruger-beliefdoubt/
Bruce Nauman, Eat Death, (1972)
Image: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/arts/design/bruce-nauman-art-provocateur-returns-are-you-ready.html

“Much of his work is characterized by an interest in language, often manifesting itself as visual puns. He has an interest in setting the metaphoric and descriptive functions of language against each other. For example, the neon Run From Fear – Fun From Rear, or the photograph Bound To Fail, which literalizes the title phrase and shows the artist’s arms tied behind his back. He seems to be fascinated by the nature of communication and language’s inherent problems, as well as the role of the artist as supposed communicator and manipulator of visual symbols.”
Text: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Nauman
Bruce Nauman, American Violence, 1982
“A second strand of Nauman’s work reflects his fascination with language; he often works with puns, double meanings, and idioms. In Eleven Color Photographs (1966–1967), an early photographic series, he physically staged such popular expressions as “Feet of Clay” or “Eating My Words.” Later, Nauman formed fluorescent neon tubing into words. Examples such as RAW-WAR (1971), EAT/DEATH (1972), or LIFE, DEATH, LOVE, HATE, PLEASURE, PAIN (1983) illuminate and overlay each word in alternating colors. The series invites focus on the materiality of the neon tubing (which at that time was more typically used in industrial or commercial applications) as well as the materiality of language itself. “

Text and Image: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/human-nature-life-death-knows-doesn%E2%80%99t-know-bruce-nauman/vwFYkbSOKHQcxA
Christian Bök & Micah Lexier, Two Equal Texts, 2007
Image: https://micahlexier.tumblr.com/
Micah Lexier, Here, Not Here (Dark Blue), 2017
“Lexier’s art is not complicated, and no deep meaning lurks beneath its laconic phrases and gestures. It very simply commemorates the events that stand out with special freshness in the artist’s life, especially his collaborations with the writers, printers, designers and others who contributed to the realization of each piece.”

Website: http://micahlexier.com/
text: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/micah-lexier-weve-got-his-number/article4319088/

Image: http://birchcontemporary.com/artist/micah-lexier
Micah Lexier, visual artist and 2015 Canada Council laureate – a film by by Min-Sook Lee
Michael Fernandes, Arrivals/Departures, 2010
“What are you up to? Who are you? What do you miss? What do you want? What did you do? What will you be? What are your plans? What are you missing? What has happened? Where have you been? Where are you heading? A few of the possible set of questions that prompters will ask you. Then, your responses are transcribed onto large blackboards. The aim of this participatory project is to solicit and register a broad sense of ‘travel’. With continuous prying, the prompters encourage responses that are based on life experience, interpersonal relationships as well as the specifics of being ‘here’ and ‘there’. Nothing will be censored. Nothing will be repeated. All misspellings, colloquialisms, slangs, languages will be included. Expressions of mobility in its myriad forms are compiled on the blackboards as they fill up-transitions, transformations, hopes, desires, exiles, reflections and realizations. The significant to and fros of a lifetime are intermixed with musings on the immediate coming and goings of your Nuit Blanche itinerary. The blackboards present the compiled statements on how each of us perceive his or her time and place. The writing on the large boards creates a composition made of a multitude of voices, a poignant reflection of the city in all of its complexity.”

Text: http://ccca.concordia.ca/nuitblanche/nuitblanche2010/artists/c4.html
Images: https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2010/10/arrivals-and-departures/
Jose Andres Mora, Continuous Script, 2019
Jose Andres Mora is a current MFA candidate at the University of Guelph
Jose Andres Mora, Reeler, 2019
website: http://joseamora.com/
vimeo: https://vimeo.com/joseandresmora
Mel Bochner , Blah Blah Blah, 2016
“Many artists working with words offer profound written statements in their work. Mel Bochner’s most famous pieces, in contrast, simply read “BLAH / BLAH / BLAH.” The artist plasters the essentially meaningless phrase on billboards and jams it in block letters across brightly colored paintings. The artist seems most interested in highlighting the banalities of contemporary communication. A 2017 monoprint, for example, juxtaposes collaged phrases such as “OH WELL, THAT’S / THE WAY IT GOES,” “IT IS WHAT IT IS,” “WHAT CAN YOU DO?” and “SHIT HAPPENS.” Bochner elevates non-committal conversations and bromides to fine art. Reading them, the viewer can feel a little indicted. Who hasn’t leaned on some of those clichés when making small talk?
In another series, Bochner renders a group of synonyms—for words like “money,” “obscene,” “obvious,” or “amazing”—in rows. The viewer is forced to consider both the subtleties of language and the garishness of English: We have an awful lot of ways to discuss commerce and convey hyperbole. Bochner’s style amplifies this sense of ornamentation; exclamation points and bright oranges, yellows, and reds abound.”

Image and Text: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-13-artists-highlight-power
Nadia Myre, Indian Act, 2002
“Indian Act speaks of the realities of colonization – the effects of contact, and its often-broken and untranslated contracts. The piece consists of all 56 pages of the Federal Government’s Indian Act mounted on stroud cloth and sewn over with red and white glass beads. Each word is replaced with white beads sewn into the document; the red beads replace the negative space.
Between 1999 and 2002, Nadia Myre enlisted over 230 friends, colleagues and strangers to help her bead over the Indian Act. With the help of Rhonda Meier, they organized workshops and presentations at Concordia University, and hosted weekly beading bees at Oboro Gallery, where it was presented as part of the exhibition, Cont[r]act, in 2002.”

Text and image: http://www.nadiamyre.net/#/indian-act/
Adam Pendleton, Black Dada, 2017
“Adam Pendleton’s raw material is language, but the artist often doesn’t care if his words make clear sense. His broad project “Black Dada,” which he began in 2008, co-opts the dreamlike, nonsensical aesthetics of European inter-war artists like Kurt SchwittersMax Ernst, and Salvador Dalí, repurposing them for Pendleton’s own concerns as a black American. In his 2017 painting If the function of dada, for example, Pendleton silkscreens, inks, and spray-paints so many black letters against his white canvas that the viewer struggles to decipher any messaging. It’s a perfect strategy to convey contemporary dissonance and chaos.
Not all of Pendleton’s work with text, however, is illegible. He’s appropriated phrases from writer Gertrude Stein, artist Ad Reinhardt, and musician Sun Ra, and frequently overlaid varying backdrops (photographs of bricks or an African mask) with the word “INDEPENDANCE.” For the 2015 Venice Biennale, he created large-scale wall works for the Belgian pavilion that replicated the words “Black Lives Matter” in a loose, graffiti-like scrawl.”

Text + image: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-13-artists-highlight-power
Guerrilla Girls, Guerrilla Girls Definition Of A Hypocrite, 1990
“The anonymous collective Guerilla Girls fits into a rich tradition of protest artists who employ words for explicitly political ends. In particular, the group uses language to reconsider gender discrimination and violence. “What do these men have in common?” one of their 1995 posters asks. Below the bold black wording, photographs of O.J. Simpson and minimalist artist Carl Andre
 appear. The answer to their provocation? The state accused both men of murdering women (Simpson: his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson; Andre: his wife Ana Mendieta). Both enjoyed acquittals and avoided jail time. The Guerilla Girls discuss the prevalence of domestic violence beneath the pictures. They also include a tagline at the bottom: “A public service message from Guerilla Girls conscience of the art world.”
Another famous work, Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum? (1989), critiques the lack of art by female practitioners in major institutions. Across the Guerilla Girls’s oeuvre, wry ideology becomes an art form. Their messaging—and its situation within the institutions it critiques—supersedes all other aesthetic concerns.”

Image and Text: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-13-artists-highlight-power
bpNichol, First Screening, 1984
bpNichol (Barrie Phillip Nichol, 1944-1988) was one of Canada’s leading experimental writers. He was an inventive force who blurred the boundaries between genres and played joyfully with textual strategies, techniques, and processes. His inspiring range of groundbreaking works include poetry, stories, essays, operas, musicals, comic books, collage, computer poems, spoken word, and television. In 1983/84, he used an Apple computer and programming language to create a series of kinetic computer poems. “
Text and video: https://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/trl/2015/09/bp.html
bpNichol, Blues, 1968
Eleanor King, No Justice No Peace, 2015
Latex Paint on Wall, 80FT x 12FT
The Peekskill Project, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art

Jon Rubin, The Last Billboard, 2010-2018
Above Text by Alisha Wormsley

“Founded in 2010, The Last Billboard was a 36 foot long rooftop billboard located on the corner of Highland and Baum in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Each month a different artist was invited to use the billboard. The custom designed billboard consisted of a rail system with wooden letters that were changed by hand.

The Last Billboard ended operations in April, 2018 after artist Alisha Wormsley’s text was removed from the billboard by the property’s landlord under pressure from area developers. “

Image and text: https://www.thelastbillboard.com/about
Lenka Clayton, Fruit and Other Things, 2018
Fruit and Other Things
Collaboration with Jon Rubin / Carnegie International 57th Edition 2018, Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh

Full Project Website

“From 1896 to 1931 the Carnegie International selected artworks for its exhibitions from an international competition. The museum kept meticulous records, not only of all the works accepted, but of those rejected as well. Only the title, artist’s names, and the year of each work were recorded, no images exist. Over this 35 year span, 10,632 artworks were rejected from the exhibitions. For the duration of the 57th Carnegie International, each of the 10,632 rejected titles were made into individual hand-lettered text paintings. Each text painting was exhibited for a day, and then given away to visitors.”

Text and image: https://www.fruitandotherthings.com/home
Germaine Koh, Dear Mercer, 2006
“A form letter in various formats, used as my participation in fundraising events.
unlimited series”

text and image: http://germainekoh.com/ma/projects_detail.cfm?pg=projects&projectID=19
John Baldessari, Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-1968

By 1966, Baldessari was using photographs and text, or simply text, on canvas.[2] His early major works were canvas paintings that were empty but for painted statements derived from contemporary art theory. An early attempt of Baldessari’s included the hand-painted phrase “Suppose it is true after all? WHAT THEN?” (1967) on a heavily worked painted surface. However, this proved personally disappointing because the form and method conflicted with the objective use of language that he preferred to employ. Baldessari decided the solution was to remove his own hand from the construction of the image and to employ a commercial, lifeless style so that the text would impact the viewer without distractions. The words were then physically lettered by sign painters, in an unornamented black font. The first of this series presented the ironic statement “A TWO-DIMENSIONAL SURFACE WITHOUT ANY ARTICULATION IS A DEAD EXPERIENCE” (1967).”
text: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Baldessari
image: https://imageobjecttext.com/tag/john-baldessari/

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