Refer to images

Miscommunication (silent digital video comprising 12 still photographs, 14 minutes duration) 2012/13.

Miscommunication focuses on decaying signage. It isolates individual Mandarin language characters in indeterminate spaces where meaning is lost or becomes uncertain. The work can be shown on a flat screen or as a small projection. Each still photograph appears for approximately 45 seconds before slowly fading into the next. I would not expect a viewer to watch the complete cycle of 12 images. It is more likely that their attention might be diverted elsewhere, before returning to the work and realising that a change of image has taken place.

Miscommunication originates from Macau. The signs are all that remains of an abandoned seaside resort on Taipa Island. The resort is also advertised in Portuguese (CIDADE TURISTICO OCEÂNICA LTA) and English (OCEAN CITY TOURIST CENTRE LIMITED) using similar welded metal and hand-painted words. But it is the section in Mandarin that is of interest for this project. As each Chinese character relies on adjacent characters to determine precise meaning, their jumbled appearance in Miscommunication reduces them to a fragmented series of possible readings. Individual characters that might suggest ‘drawing’, ‘heart’, ‘open’, ‘boat’, ‘centre’ or ‘company’ appear in relative isolation, in several cases without any visible connection to adjacent characters. They therefore propose an incomplete or frustrating level of communication, but one that is perhaps more interesting and open than their original intended meaning.

The foreground of each photograph resists immediate identification. In addition to obscuring and collapsing the space between sign and camera, these anonymous areas include soft reflections of the lower parts of the signs. To achieve this, I photographed out-of-focus sections of roofs of nearby parked cars as a section of each image. The distant view that is visible beyond the signs sometimes includes evidence of a bridge or a maritime city in soft focus, beneath a neutral sky. Through photographically isolating them in this way, the signs have become further dislocated. Their obsolescence and visibly decaying materials combine to give them a new, photographic identity in which meaning is suspended and redirected by a Western artist who does not read Mandarin.

In ‘The Judgement is the Mirror’, a 2013 group exhibition at the Living Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland, Miscommunication was exhibited adjacent to a wall-drawing, Banana in its native habitat (permanent marker-pen on matt vinyl, 265x280cm, 2013). Although the two works might initially appear to be unrelated, they propose a relationship between two outmoded forms of imagery - the drawing originates from an early 20th Century copperplate illustration. In both works, a contemporary, digital process has been used to realise and re-appraise an obsolete image or series of images.