Now forget everything you ever k-n- ew or thought or saw, and imagine there was nothing, nothing a-t all. A blank, dark nothing.
Working between text, live event, video and installation, Anna Barham uses the written and spoken word as a source and as medium. Her artwork explores how language transforms, and what subjectivities are created as it moves between different bodies and technologies over time. Her solo exhibition for Flat Time House, produced in collaboration with partner Arcade, is the culmination of five years of engagement with John Latham’s writing and with his archive.
Barham has selected original poems and prose by Latham for a process of transformation – through repeated interpretation and vocalisation. Using collaborative reading groups recorded through speech recognition software, an original piece of writing is spoken, recorded, then re-presented. Each time, the attempts by artificial intelligence to reconstruct verbal language, from a stream of particles and phonemes, creates unanticipated outcomes. Increasingly mutated, each generation draws further from the original message, yet this unfolding of meaning begins to reveal new auto-fabricated subjects.
The title of the exhibition, /S/T/R/O/B/E////L/I/C/K////, refers to a process of production Barham employs to record video under low light. She uses a strobe light and handheld scanner at FTHo to make images from residues, surfaces and the unnoticed objects inside and outside the house that sit between the everyday and the archived. Bouncing stroboscopic light from glass surfaces captures the tiny scratches, paint flecks, dust and even snail trails over the material – a kind of ‘licking’. Barham combines this with remnants of auto-generated text to form the fabric of the works and installation, intuitively creating new connections and a dialogue between the geological passage of time and the immediacy of the present moment.
Anna Barham is a London-based artist working across video, sound, print, installation and performance. Recent projects include p- ool- s o-f t- he ou- t- l- ine- s, Chelsea Space, London; To be we to be, Index, Stockholm and Quote-Unquote, Bucharest; Liquid Crystal Display, Site Gallery, Sheffield and MIMA, Middlesbrough; A sentence can be ours and ours, Playground Festival, Museum M, Leuven, BE; This is a voice, Wellcome Collection, London and MAAS, Sydney; Secret Surface, K-W, Berlin. She has published two books Poisonous Oysters (2019) and Return To Leptis Magna (2010).