Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Jina Valentine

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Jina Valentine

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jina Valentine, Wanda Johnson, from the Testimony. Disintegration series, 2015, courtesy of the artist.

The body of work begun this year includes the companion pieces Explication de texte: [...] shot my son and Testimony, Disintegration. Explication was inspired by my inability to empathize with mothers who have lost their children to police violence; I cannot imagine losing my son, nor can I conjure the language to explain these deaths to him. Reaching the limit of what is comprehensible, the words in the newspaper accounts become pure form. Explication de texte, or "close reading," is a method for fleshing out the meaning embedded in written works. I imagined an analysis of pure graphemes, the text's form, might yield explanations otherwise unattainable. At UNC'S CHANL lab, I photographed the phrase "[...] shot my son," as it appeared in the New York Times under a confocal microscope at 20x magnification. The final image is composed of hundreds of microscope scans, pieced together, and printed as a newspaper. Testimony (a piece from the series can be seen above) consists of related newspaper articles hand-copied in iron gall ink, the text of which, through a process of accelerated oxidization, eats through the paper, producing an effect similar to my cut-paper work.

Formally, Explication shifts the scale of the text to examine its form, proposing the forms of the letters themselves as the newspapers' sole contents. Testimony employs a slight scale shift; the individual articles are enlarged to encompass the full page, broadsheet spread, the excised space forces consideration of the individual page as object. Both works continue the current focus on "alternative readings" of texts begun in 2011 with my short animation, Foucault for Aphasics (viewable on my website). …

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