January 22 - March 9, 2013
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition of Catherine Wagner’s new series of photographs, trans/literate. The nine diptychs on display are images of canonical texts of literature and philosophy transcribed through a medium going through a present-day state of function and dwindling use: braille.
Wagner’s work has long been one of finding fresh meaning through a documentary indexing of historical objects. Rendered into typologies, these investigations of what are otherwise social advances that have been confined to the rudiments of memory –architectural structures, medical equipment, obsolete remnants of technology, amongst others- shed light on modernity as an entity that runs its own course.
Louis Braille created the writing platform named after him in 1834, taken from an earlier system invented by Napoleon’s army as a way for soldiers to communicate silently amongst each other at night. In essence, Braille’s system was the first universal invention of modern-day communication, at once translatable as it is, by structure, digital – a sequence of touches by a finger that transfers the intentions of words and their meanings. It is also one that is resolutely specific to a lone sense and by usefulness, running counter to the ability of sight. By photographing something meant to be not seen but touched, the works of trans/literate are suggestive as the subject matters of the books. They are at once the books, the image, and materials of history and social consciousness that have lasted through passage of time. They are what we can guess through the senses available to us, as the white whale Moby Dick, a visual we cannot see but infer through the imaginative power of lasting words.
As subject matter, braille stands as a symbol of the decline of the publishing industry as we know it today, where readership in the great texts continue to diminish at an alarming rate, as do the volume of sales of physical books. Braille itself faces an ongoing decline with the growth of the audiobook affecting its reach. In resonance with her other works documenting the obsolescence of things past their usefulness, the braille books of trans/literate are premonitions of a seemingly doubtful fate. These works are the documentation of the physical loss of those objects that are familiar –and become too familiar- in our times, crystallized here as visual signifiers of what history once left us.