Thinking Out Loud presents Gutter Words (2014) an installation by Jo Hamill whose current practice invokes Jacques Derrida’s seminal work Of Grammatology (1967) in which he posits “there is no outside-text”, that writing, the system of signs created to represent speech, enacts itself via the concept of “différance" and is not merely a representation of speech.
In Of Grammatology, Derrida overturns the prevalent notion that speech is central to language, its physical presence superior to the written word which is only a substitute for speech and the absent speaker. As such, the written word is a representation of speech wherein the signifier (word, image) is exterior to the signified (concept). Derrida’s assertion that “there is no outside-text” eschews representation; instead, he claims that “différance" is the “systematic play of differences” wherein a suspension of any ultimate content in a word or sentence occurs via reference to other words in an endless chain.
Gutter Words is an installation in the corner of Untitled Gallery that comprises extracts of Ulysses by James Joyce. In Gutter Words Hamill carefully selects words that appear on each side of the crease where the pages adjoin to create prose that resembles concrete poetry; as such, the corner of the space serves to mimic the crease.
The crease’s empty spaces appeal to Derrida as they contribute to the “fiction of a crease” as is apparent in the work of the 19th Century French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. The theme of “the blank” and “the fold” in Mallarmé’s work interests Derrida, as Mallarmé’s attention to a book’s physical structure – “the fold” – limits the literary presence of the text, as Derrida states: “If there were no fold, or if the fold had a limit somewhere – a limit other than itself as a mark, margin, or march (threshold, limit, or border) – there would be no text.” The concealment and subsequent loss of words in Gutter Words serves to enact Mallarmé’s conception of “the fold” as the process of creation supplants the literary inception of Ulysses; as such, the work’s position on the wall and its incompleteness mirrors Ulysses’ chaotic internal structure as a novel.
Jo Hamill lives and works in North Yorkshire. She is represented by Platform A, Middlesbrough.
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