The Non-choice of Vulnerability Aphasia and the StudioJason Hendrik Hansma 2019
My work might be best active within between spaces, where language sits on the edge of definition. I grew up with a neurological disability leaving me temporarily unable to speak, similar to stroke survivors. It’s difficult to explain those years, thoughts were with me— but the spaces between thoughts and words grew wider, slurred and absent. Space between words and thoughts became so wide that when I would attempt to articulate a thought, my mouth wouldn’t allow the moulding of those thoughts into the world. There was the numb buoyancy of body, as if I had floated outside of yourself. In many ways one has floated outside of themselves, the inability to speak in a society of constant verbal contracts is the near inability to exist, to even be seen, to respond. To have your ability to respond removed is the removal of responsibility for one’s own determination.
My work has drawn on these formative years, asking how dependant is a language on others, who is in charge of agency and what is a public’s responsibility towards the ‘gaps’ of artworks on the edge of articulation? What are the politics of ‘speaking’ for others, (including material), when others spoke on my behalf, in moments of so-called disability and creating contracts I might have never wanted.
Disability becomes a life-long practice in unpacking the fundamental questions of what it means to be human and how new forms of togetherness and community could come into being from dismissed humans. A dismissal takes the form of bodies who are outside the standardisation of an institution, measurement, body or language are therefore outside of the acknowledging ‘power’ of authority. My studio might be a space for a re-thinking the democratic values often taken for granted, this is to have a space of one's own. These values deal not only with my own inarticulate self, but also the identity of institutional and national bodies that make up our societies. Visible bodies may speak on the behalf of others and over the top of others, masked as care, as doing ‘good’.
The studio, the exhibition and art-making itself might be a space of resistance before articulation, a tender space of vulnerability, of listening to the pre-articulate, a slowing down to understand a slurred voice you might not be used to hearing. What I wanted in moments of inarticulateness was not forms of articulation provided for me, I wanted surfaces of warmth, tenderness and proximity. In the impossibility of words, everything feels transitory and liminal, unfixed. These in-between spaces are the dream, the nearly just spoken, the space on the tip of a tongue, just outside and beyond language, the hardly recognisable. A language that is familiar, yet distant, where viewer and materials coalesce to form new bodies in constant states of becoming anew.I’ve been interested in smooth reflective surfaces, surfaces that bounce light from their surface into the eye of a viewer. Where agency is being engaged in the relationship between your movements and the movements of light and the work. I’m interested not only in their ability to lure the eye, but in their socio-political ability to shift identity, to encompass other bodies onto their pane. These surfaces are inarticulate, they expand beyond themselves, they are engaged with light. I remember the times unable to move, laying in bed and watching light beams slowly move across the room, I think, about astute viewers of light.My work is often in reference to minimalism. I have been working with the intent of minimalism that takes the body as absent as the starting place for a lot works. By re-inserting the inarticulate body (and language) back into the intentional gaps that minimalism made. There might be new possible spaces for the readings of our bodies and new readings of minimalism.
If minimalism made absences between bodies and artworks, those absences might be the perfect place of resistance from traditional forms of demanded articulation. Far from being hermetic, it is my hope that the works might bind with viewers and those that care for the unspoken and inarticulate gaps. Just like my body was not hermetic and sealed when I couldn’t speak or move. Those were moments of extreme trust that I placed in carers, without choice.
Can there be trust without choice?The inarticulate space of silence is not hermetic, it is an open space co-constructed with tender listeners not scared of the inarticulate, but there to grow into it. Not individuals impatient in hearing words awkwardly leave a mouth or itching to leave when a tempo does not suit them. Space made through vulnerability is a form of coming together, it is urgent, needed and vital.
Those that push the standardisation of bodies are in the position to choose when to show their vulnerability. But it is important to remember that when one speaks of vulnerability, we must not forget those with the non-choice of exposing their vulnerability. Those who don’t have the agency to articulate their vulnerability are often never heard, or acknowledged in the first place.
Over the last two years I have been exploring parts of the body that are overlooked and at times invisible. For example, the works Carotid (opaline) I-V created from 3D scans of the veins in the neck are rendered in glass. The pieces morph the space around them onto their surfaces, along with the body of the viewer. These works become pass-throughs, not the destination but the path to something else, what that ‘elseness’ is, I’m not sure. The name of the vein ‘carotid’ is the root word for consciousness, to be awake, to be aware. The work’s scope extends to the installation into transitory spaces as part of the work, where to view the work, the viewer places their body within the unfixed, positioning themselves as part of a transitory space along with the work.
In Vestibules I-III, quantum mechanical lab components used to entangle light from quantum labs are installed in exhibition spaces. These components come from experiments that exceed our mechanised understanding of time and space. They are involved in the bending of knowledge and question our position in the universe. Precise objects and instruments for an unknowing, that become inserted into the exhibition spaces, themselves as sites for a reconfiguring of presumed assumptions. They are agents in the unfixing of standardisation. Themselves standardised tools, their end goal is to completely undermine the knowledge structures we hold dear to us.
A form of materially oriented politics where the alining with materials creates a new political space to re-think what we do as citizens, arts workers and people, as material in a material world. As humans, our borders do not end at our skin, we are comprised of the social and material world around us, and are therefore responsible agents of both articulate and inarticulate gatherings.
By engaging politics with an expanded sense of material, the work I produce creates a porosity not reliant on a single cultural readings. My neurological disability of not being able to speak, created a space where the conceptual underpinnings of materials and gaps can fit within can shift into new positions in local, national and global contexts. It is not the imposing of political narratives, but a participation with materials and with viewers that pushes my work forward into politics. In our current political sphere of increasingly fixed and determined positions I feel this might be my political agency, with no more urgent audience member to foster than the engaged tender listener and carer.
Written and read for de Appel arts centre in context of Instituting Ecologies.
We’re in a space gridded with industrial storage racks that reach to the ceiling. Around us are semi-opened crates filled with heavy cut stones.
We move between the racks, careful not to brush against anything. There are numbers engraved into burnished woods, white ink smeared into the etchings, now part of surface.
There are drawers labeled with classification systems that seem to fit no particular order.
On the shelves are iridescent shells, fibers, colored seeds, all once cared for.
Our eyes move across the shelving systems, metallic boundaries covered with foam protection.
There’s nothing charming to it.
I’m asked if I’d like to hold something, opening my hand I feel smoothened wood, an extension of arm. I feel mass and heft, how does one learn to disappear into the company of weight, disappear from conservation.
A cicatrice is described for both on skin and bark.
Spaces filled with metallic coldness can always be foregrounded by warmth. How could we disappear into a togetherness of configuring?
Tenderness can be found in weights and surfaces, bronze castings are made to disappear into weight.
Between one of these racks, a small box is opened. A tool fashioned with fossilised bone lays on a bed of cotton wool. Time that extends beyond the evolution of eyes and glands. The moment the materials were brought together was before deluge, before words evolved that we’ve now chosen to reject.
The box is closed, and put back on the shelves, a porosity, a punumbra shadow cast itself over the shelving systemMottled patterns.
Seasons and periods, halts and speeds, revolutions and risings, help denote, contain and hold time.Irregular marks.
flesha lure for another, and yet no one in particular
-Iridescent shells can be used as small plates, the same for cupped hands
Protecting us from an unmaking. Shapes continue to reconfigure actions.It’s not more complex than we think, they say, but rather, more complex than we can think. In breaking the world to pieces, what is found becomes disassociated, strewn meanings.Representations
So, how do hands that grip surfaces also cup water?
Iteration after iteration after iteration after iterationthat shell is and always was there.Iridescence is refractive, colours bounce from the position of eyes.Formlessness decorates itself over horizon spaces
ancestors and thoughts.
Hold onto nothing-
My mother has a collection of unused glasses because she says ‘her future can use them’
Iterations can alsodisappear into weight along with that which is contained.
Like they said, more complex than we can think.
We speak of gridded space as if one goes back to source, a fetish for strewn meaning. Configured by those representations that force a difference between inside and outside, between contained and container.
Identity is often bound with intent, imposed from an outside.
Words come from landscapea change of landscape is a change in words.Landscape was once soft.
We’re told metallic horizons are to be our interiorsdressed with words.Interiors are not etched.
Interiors are cared for, both plush and worn.They are requests in both disappearance and remembrance
Published by de Appel arts centre in context of the exhibition Rien ne va plus? Faites vos jeux!
The floor is an observed thing, your shoes, clothing a thing, your eyes, mouth, torso, a thing. Containments have the most slippery of exteriors.
Think of where people see your face, there is no distance from you and things.No memories, no colours, chins, teeth, eyes or cheeks.
There’s a building where a garden has been designed directly from the facade. As if the whole wall had been tilted and then lowered down,becoming the garden floor.
Every architectural line has grown into topiaries. Those hedges are trimmed daily, each branch controlled. Nothing beyond the allowance of the gardner, nothing beyond the control of desire.Trimmed to a point that all of a sudden they firm up and fall into line, he says.
Each window, each doorway which was once an opening on the facade, is now inversely translated into closed hedges on the ground. This occurs on all four sides of the building, as if the structure sits within an image of itself.
Inside containers are more containers, and in those containers more upon more containers.Chains of containment — so by the time they’ve found you, so many thresholds have been crossed, the last is forgotten from the first. These chains are found in the withs, ands, froms, in the institutions, countries, towns, brands and rhythms.
Logics that separate order from what is perceived as chaos, anti-entropy machines.Containments have the most slippery of exteriors, and the most slippery of interiors, so that insides slip right over outsides, nested within each other. — happily sitting within images of ourselves.As one passes through containments exclusivity becomes apparent — moving through the space, rooms become smaller and smaller, you shrink to fit space, your liver, arms, legs and intentions. Inner chambers, inner closets.
When you say flattened heirachary I want you to really mean it —Containments are power-structures against something else, they are however malleable, viscous and porous.
A pot turns earth inside out, earth becoming endomorphic to ectomorphic.
Becoming the very inverse of itself, chalk and clay. Leaner and thinner to the point where we can see through the material. Where the contained renders itself onto the exterior of the vessel as a screen.
Combining both outside and inside. Astonishing.
Mirrors always seems to find time for the outside.
The floor is an observed thing, your shoes, clothing a thing, your eyes, mouth, torso, a thing. Containments have the most slippery of exteriors.Think of where people see your face, there is no distance from you and things.
No memories,no colours, chins,teeth,eyes or cheeks.