In the title of her installation HÃ©sitations, Canadian installation artist Emily Hermant points to the ethereal qualities of the accidental glitches and breaks in intimate conversation between two people.
Hermant deals with themes of “attachment, isolation, deception, desire and communication.” Her installation is a mixed-media piece that consists of a visual component as well as a digital audio accompaniment to create an immersive soundscape.
The visual component is composed of an arrangement of thread and nails which sketch sound waves of conversation and hesitation. These large-scale sound waves sprawl across the walls like land forms, with noisy mountainous regions and still, flat plains.
The raw materials for the digital audio component are a series of recorded intimate conversations that have been edited in such a way that the actual conversations have been taken out and all that remained were the monosyllabic facilitators of conversation like “ok,” “huh?” and “oh” as well as the breaks and the glitches. According to Hermant, as a result of the poor original recording quality, the edited audio was scripted and recorded again.
On a sensory level, the installation is underwhelming – but in a good way. Located behind a humble facade in the Mile End among cafes and small boutiques, gallery Articule is an understated place to begin with. At first glance, the visual aspect of the installation is rather minimal and could easily have been mistaken for a sort of wall ornamentation.
Rather than have the visitor explore grand themes or create new sensory experiences and adventures, Hermant’s installation simply uses her media with the goal of noticing these hesitations. She does not provoke some kind of reaction, or cause the viewer to question her. She simply shows.
However, the installation in no way puts the hesitation of speech on a pedestal. Rather, by rearranging and re-contextualizing the sounds and the null sounds, Hermant turns her soundscapes into imagined geographies conscious of each other and the space in which they occupy; conversations form mental landscapes that are overlayed onto the sounds. The hesitations then become vanished geographies &- the blank space is filled with possibility, fear, doubt, and second guesses.
There is certainly something ethereal that springs from those pregnant pauses of speech. These empty plains, as outlined by the provided program, “reveal the possibility and impossibility of intimate communication.”
Hesitations then become a clearing that reveal the inaccuracies of spoken word, which in turn lead to an awareness of the unspoken, implied conversation and silent understandings that have been present all along. Furthermore, the attempt to make sense of the intimate conversations brings into focus the personal conversation with oneself that transcends words and facts.
In her bestseller Eats Shoots and Leaves, grammarian Lynne Truss describes punctuation marks as “invisibly beneficent fairies.” Unlike Truss’ fairies, the inflections and pauses of speech in Hermant’s installation don’t really guide the words a certain way and “fluff the pillows of language” but rather reveal the possibility of what is beneath.
HÃ©sitations is being staged at Articule, at 262 Fairmount St. W. until Oct. 17. The gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 514-842-9686.