Francesca Capone: Text(ure)
As an introduction to alternative modes of meaning-making through the lens of refraction, the notion is most directly embodied, perhaps, in the work of Francesca Capone, who explores the materiality of textual language by literally warping and distorting it (she even has a piece entitled Refraction). Such treatment converts text into a new mode of visual information that one experiences bodily and viscerally, most exemplified in her series Oblique Archive. In a similar ongoing collaboration, Scroll-i-n-g, digital scans by hand transform daily artifacts into a continuous tapestry of blurred, misshapen ephemera. The aberrations are where the text or image breaks free of its assigned strictures, where it leaps and bends its spatial and signifying boundaries. The uneven cadence emulates the interpretive, subjective eye—its rhythms and motions as it ambles through existence. It is the elliptical and elusive encounters of our wanderings amongst familiar and unfamiliar debris.
From Oblique Archive
Another layer of Capone’s body of work focuses on discovering a method to translate language into woven textile, and vice versa, in order to blur and intersect their mechanisms. Her projects Weaving Language and Writing-in-Threads ask: What happens when we think of poems as weavings, and vice versa? Or grammar as something we interlace at angles? What truths are evoked? In Writing-in-Threads, she reflects, “Perhaps the thread is simply a metaphor for the passing back and forth of information, and the through-line that connects this sequence of gestures.” Capone reminds us that language is not merely a tool but an intricate textile and a corporeal sequence; she reminds us that there is a language of the body that articulates through instinct and feel; she disrupts text into texture.
“Coding Poems into Cloth”
In Weaving Language Capone provides “translations” between the two mediums, and in doing so, she takes the meaning-making baseline of either textile or textual poem and ruptures it open into new and unexpected locations. Side by side, the poems take on a certain colorful tangibility, the textiles take on a certain articulation. But this is not merely a mirroring or substitution of qualities; in the stereoscopic interaction that is neither only textile nor only poem, something else is evinced, through which the viewer loops and suspends and swims.
From Weaving Language
Addressing the notion of texture-as-text (text-as-texture) is Primary Sources, which captures moments of a mobile phone app, WordLens, erroneously translating non-textual information into text. John Cayley describes the details of the project:
It is likely that WordLens looks for text as, itself, a more or less regular grid-like pattern, and so it also tries to ‘read’ what to our non-augmented eyes is purely formal grid, finding language symbolic ‘differences’ where we do not. Moreover, the differences that WordLens sees are tiny, affected by slight moments or changes of focus and light. These cause WordLens to revise its reading continually and, effectively, to produce an animated sequence of textual events as it reads and rereads the grid.
Aside from the philosophical implications of an ongoing process of reading and re-reading where meaning is perpetually deferred, what is compelling to me about the idea of reading non-textual information as if it were its own language is that this is (im)precisely what we do, every day, from the moment we wake. We interpret our surroundings, we build narratives, we assemble patterns of meaning obliquely from the objects, shadows, movements around us. Our sensory experiences shape a kind of subconscious discourse that we read and navigate by as we move through the world. In its distortions of what language is not, Primary Sources suggests to us transient glimpses into what it is: as if our letters and signs were slight shifts in focus, small moments of light.
In obliquely translating texts and textures, Capone seeks to recover an interior, bodily understanding of language. She demonstrates for us refraction as a way of unraveling, and re-raveling, our relations with words and meaning—her work sheds light on the materiality of language and the language of material, simultaneously dispersing and buoying us toward the truth in fluidity, in breaking free of the literal, in the already shifting boundaries by which we live.
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View more work by Francesca Capone on her website.
Header image and image 1 are from Oblique Archive, 2014. Image 2 “Coding Poems into Cloth” is from the essay “Deciphering the Language of Fabric” in Poor Claudia (2014). Image 3 is from the project Weaving Language, 2012.
First quotation is fom Francesca Capone, Writing-in-Threads, 2015 (a special edition newspaper publication accompanying her exhibition).
Extended quotation is from an essay by John Cayley, published as an afterword in the book-length printed version of Primary Source that was produced to accompany Maximum Sideline: Postscript, a group exhibition and series of web based works at the curatorial platform, Proxy, in Providence, RI, 2015.