Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to presentSay the word “NOWHERE.” Say “HEADPHONES.” Say “NOTHING.”, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Alison O’Daniel.
This exhibition marks the third in a series of concurrent presentations by the artist including new works inMade in L.A. 2018at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles andThe Infinite Earat the Garage Contemporary Art Museum in Moscow.
The exhibition title, Say the word “NOWHERE.” Say “HEADPHONES.” Say “NOTHING.”, is inspired by audiology tests, in which a patient is asked to listen to a series of compound words while an audiologist covers his or her own mouth to prevent lip reading.
O’Daniel is hard of hearing, wears hearing aids, and lip-reads. Her multi-disciplinary practice—including video, sculpture, and installation—explores sound and its perceived absence as a central concept.
The exhibition includes works that integrate the artist’s ongoing feature-length film project, The Tuba Thieves. In the film, produced in fragments over seven years, sound is the main character. O’Daniel presents nonlinear narratives of both real and fictionalized events to tell stories of physical loss or the removal of sound. The artist developed The Tuba Thieves through collaborations with Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing composers, performers, and athletes whom she asks to navigate, de-construct, and re-imagine sound in various forms.
In addition to moving images, the exhibition features new sculptures and installations. Further reinforcing the experience of sound, some of these works are constructed from sound-dampening materials or reference the phenomenon of sound moving from one physical location to another. Each work engages with the process of transforming one specific material language into another, and each iteration allows the meaning of the original form to become simultaneously more distilled and abstracted.
The result is a vocabulary of forms based on an individual understanding of language bred from translation, serendipitous misunderstanding, frustration, compensation, and imagination. Often prioritizing a personal and poetic, near game-like logic, O’Daniel’s works are akin to an Exquisite Corpse drawing, a choir’s call and response, or the children’s game Telephone, in which a word or phrase is passed along and morphs as it moves down the line of hearing, repeating, mishearing, and rephrasing participants.
The exhibition design, sculptural forms, and moving images explore Deaf and hard of hearing experiences of comprehension as productive narrative tools: building blocks to a vocabulary or poesis specifically derived from missing information and presented as inspiring and playful, rather than incomplete or impaired.