Captions and sources (l-r): “the ending of occupy was traumatic” (Carla Harryman), “forever two times” (Wafaa Lamrani), “All work is small” (Rachel Levitsky), “quiet catastrophes taking place” (Robert Smithson), “me feeling I can’t figure out how, it moves with the clouds” (Etel Adnan), “holding a piece of plank before his face” (Charles Reznikoff), “war in Syria” (news headline), “Syrians arriving on Lesbos” (news headline), “I see too clearly” Anne Waldman), “Things were NOT. Going well.” (Gail Scott), “even the stones are crying from what’s happened” (Syrian refugee),”balancer dans le lac” (Liliane Giraudon).
Words by Sarah Riggs, Art by Etel Adnan
About the Artist
The visual work I have exhibited in my mother’s native Montreal and in Paris strives to reach feeling states through texture and color, joining accident with intention, play with rigour, in precarious and fully perched assemblages of meaning and meaningless states intermixed. Isibilités, a word that riffs on illegibility as a plural experience, explores the interconnected energies of distinct language differences and allowing for depths of experience of unknown languages and alphabets.
Visual art for me is another language finding its articulation through marks, colors, shapes, texture, form and gesture. I come to visual art where I started, at the limits of articulation, and the need to express what words alone, even poetic fabrics of words, cannot. The reaching into ambiguity, complexity, the depth of emotion, are all present in the visual. I think of Agnes Martin saying that she tries not to have ideas, because when she does they are wrong. Sometimes my work balances literally between the visual and the verbal, with lines and forms growing out of the letters of a citation. I’ve always been interested in the in-between, and the need to make sharp delineations between forms is only helpful for me insofar as it can be made wispy and complex.
To set singularly to image what was articulated in a political, literary or journalistic medium gives it a special power—one that combines reflection, a slowing down, healing, space for others to meander for a while, let the sounds roll about, take on visual dimension. It has been exciting to rediscover the visual medium too as not coming from words, as being its own potent speech to the eyes, and the body of the eyes.
My work with indigenous girls from the Atlas mountains in my husband Omar Berrada’s native Morocco through our non-profit Tamaas has led me to seek out feminist energies across visual and language interplay, also in spontaneous play with our tri-cultural intersection, that gives to viewers multiple angles, places to be, ways to find power in strokes that are sometimes minute, no larger than the span of a hands, and colored with the earth in variations as simple as inks.
The play with forms in my work, whether archaic or technologically of our moment (from fountain pens to text messages), for me comes out of the same questioning and accompaniment of the present day, as a place to hover around and be with, that art can illuminate by its being sovereignly displaced and distraught and gathering.