A list is many things, including a way of insuring memory, a method of organizing, and a literary device. The intent is just as often to allude to the copious quantity of unlisted material as it is to delimit and itemize. What I hadn't considered before visiting Between the Lines, Annie Vought's installation at the California Institute of Integral Studies' (CIIS) Minna Street Center, was how a list could function as sculpture.
Vought's technique is to work with her own handwritten lists, enlarging and cutting each word out of colored paper. She then pins the words to the wall, leaving an inch or so of space as a buffer. Add the right lighting conditions, and all of the pinned words cast shadows. From a distance it can be a bit of a blur, but ultimately the effect works: without it, we might spend too much time treating the installation like a poem -- i.e., attempting to read it.
It's hard not to read words, of course, and there's a lot of humor in what they say: "better version wanted" and "I draw my eyes now" are two of my favorites. But as a whole, the draw of Vought's work is the way it turns our awareness to the materiality of thoughts in space. For me, any moments of legibility were more poignant when there was an interaction between the words and the "real" conditions of the room, like a ray of sunlight creeping across the wall.
This might be because I can't shake the thought that lists are as much about time as they are about space -- compulsive list makers attempt to sculpt the shape of their days using time as their main material. As much as I enjoyed watching CIIS students and staff walk in and out of office doors surrounded by stacks of handcut words as tall as the walls, I'd also love to see Vought address some of these other conceptual issues, because her work is already starting to do it for her.
Between the Lines is showing at CIIS's Minna Street Center through March 21, 2010. For more information visit ciis.edu.