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An Authorless Chorus

OL: Tell me a little about the confetti of punctuation in your recent piece 10,000 Pauses, and the series Punctuate and Punctuation. Do you cut them all by hand, or are they available at some kind of lexicographical party store?

Skye: I love thinking of them as confetti! I’m afraid I have to make my own party supplies through hours in the studio, though. Each mark is hand-cut from magazines, newspapers and books, both current and old. The handmade element is important to me as a way to reference these sources, so that the work becomes a combination of voices from different eras and different perspectives. 10,000 Pauses is made of 10,000 commas. I think of each comma as a pause, or space between thoughts and ideas. Brought together, they become an author-less chorus of individual moments.

OL: I feel a struggle, or maybe a tension, in the puncuat(e)(ion) series between the sort of big, echoic idea behind the piece (the vanished or held-back weight of all those cut-up words and sentences) and the artifacts themselves, which look resemble pulp ransom notes or pest-chewed leaves. Or, to phrase it more abstractly, there’s a real philosophical disconnect between the cold metaphysical space of the concept and the entropic look of the artifact. Could you speak to that?

Skye: Another way to put it is that there is a certain purity to an idea before you bring it into the world, before it gets dirty. And isn’t life always like that? Isn’t there always a tension between theory and practice, idea and manifestation?

I think the tension that you are sensing has to do with the universality of the ideas in conjunction with the specificity of the marks that constitute each piece. Each mark has a size, shape, and color that differentiates it from simply its meaning as a signifier, and which suggests a specific statement from a specific source, albeit unrevealed.

In the piece called 693 Spaces, the title refers to the number of tiny spaces created through the removal of the text. I wanted to emphasize the creation of new space as something, rather than just an absence. The physical space of the work–both the negative space of the compositions in the Punctuation series, and the perforated remnant or structure of the Punctuate series–invites a comparison between silence and open space. Language becomes akin to place. I think of the theoretical starting point of the work and the physicality and materiality of the work as being inseparable.

OL: Yeah, I get a sense of that silence-space very strongly in Unquote. And of course the same materials/ideas distinction comes up as I take it in: I begin by reflecting on the lies of print, the twists of what’s unsaid, and end up thinking about the marks themselves, and the make of the paper. Something about the physicality as you put it keeps sinking me back into the materials. Then again, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these in person, where I can only imagine they are quite striking. What guides your eye for size?

Skye: Yeah, I do wish everyone could see them in person. I’ve chosen to keep the size in the range of what is found in the text of periodicals and books. I’m drawn to the notion of the written word as a place where different ideas from different minds can intersect with my own. That idea seems stronger with the scale of materials made to fit in your hand, rather than any of the other places where we come across text in our daily lives like billboards and advertisements.

OL: What sorts of sources did you go to for text? Or did it matter? Were there private jokes in whence the commas came, or were you motivated mainly by the look of the typeface?

Skye: I wanted this work to pertain to language as a concept, so I wasn’t seeking out a particular story or subject. Of course in my process I sift through pages and pages of text, and sometimes end up skimming part of a story or article. Mostly, I get excited about a less common typeface or color choice, so I can add it to my collection. Also, I get magazine donations from friends and family, so I got a little snapshot of what they’re reading and thinking about.

OL: Any favorites?

Skye: I did find it funny to turn the page in Newsweek and find article called “The Sad Fate of the Comma.”

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Skye Gilkerson’s work has been in over 20 shows including Paperworks, juried by Maura Heffman, Exhibition Manager at the Whitney Museum of Art. Skye has been an artist-in-residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and the Anderson Ranch Art Center. Skye received her MFA in 2009 from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Skye will have a solo show at Seed Space in Nashville, TN, October 2-Dec 3. She will also have a piece in a group exhibition in the Denler Gallery in St Paul, MN, Oct 15-Nov 10.

One Comment »

  • What a wonderful idea for art. I spend a lot of time thinking about words on the page, how letters and spaces form ideas — and how the spaces mean as much or perhaps even more than the words. Paragraph breaks, commas, dashes — they all convey something integral. Structure relies on them, but so does meaning. And the space between the words is sometimes the whole point; often what we don’t say is the key to understanding what we are saying. Short fiction is like that: you only have so much space, so you say what is important but specifically leave unsaid what you mean to NOT say, and of course the unsaid is equal to the words on the page. And so I love this idea of creating art out of punctuation, and giving it titles like “10,000 Pauses” — because right there you’ve said it all. The pause, the held breath, the thing we are waiting for (in a story, in art, or in the here-and-now) — well, the thing that follows the pause is usually worth waiting for, and the pause itself is therefore just as wonderful.

    The space is SOMETHING: yes.

    And then there’s the whimsical presentation of this. The form itself is marvelous. Theory and structure and content meet on a canvas where anything’s possible in all that space. I like the way this art makes you think in a way that is just plain fun.

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