3. Messiness of Material, Messiness of Language
The material world presents itself as phenomenon—that which is sensed. It does not inherently carry established meanings, and it exists beyond the meanings we can assign to it. When we do assign such meanings, they are inevitably hazy and imprecise. This is much less the case with language, however. Language of all sorts, as well as gestures and musical images, do carry significations, as do scientific and mathematical representations. We explore the consequences of this great divide when it comes to the practices we represent here, given that we both play with materiality and language, but differently from each other.
One of the things David likes about the material and gestural nature of food is that these two inseparable elements are easier to leave undefined than, for the most part, language. The open quality of the codes he uses—or, as he describes it, the ‘messiness’—invokes the need to negotiate toward a shared understanding. The meaning of a piece of work is not pre-given; rather, it becomes a conversation. The relationality demanded by mess also leaves space for pluralist knowledge; foregrounding materiality helps open such spaces. At the same time, having an audience makes it somewhat necessary to eventually arrive at a codification of meaning, even one that is open and dynamic. The fact that David can now describe GIY as a mourning process testifies to the transformation of materiality into a language-translatable reality (i.e., into words, gestures, or music). The messiness stays, but is accompanied by something else, a discreet and ever-changing interpretive framework that allows for the possibility of sharable meaning.
In Geneviève’s practice, things are more defined within an academic framework. As a researcher, she has striven to develop a precise and monosemic use of language. Research-creation is thus a process of learning to overcome that tendency—to leave silence, blanks, and ambiguity; in short, to allow space for interpretation and imprecision. Clearly, ‘mess’ or openness are also possible with language, and so, while ostensibly more codified, Geneviève’s work asks similar questions about openness. She achieves this by creating a fragmentary structure, but also by the superposition of codes. For instance, the images and the narration may tell two different stories, as is the case in ‘Escape,’ which invites a kind of diffractive questioning, even confusion, and thus lends itself to reinterpretation.
Ultimately, we note that SDV has a more explanatory approach than GIY, especially in the last zone (‘Offscreen’), which includes reflections on the process of the work. In that case, the openness of meaning is reduced, and a common ground of interpretation is proposed. In GIY, the messiness of the material world dominates formal explanation: David’s foregrounding of physical reality (food and bodies) results in an irresolution of meaning. But even taking into account these diffractions, meaning is both approached and revealed as a moving target.