Shotgun Review

An Annotated Hearing Trumpet, Preface and Figures and Surprise!

By Lea Feinstein September 23, 2012

Thumbnail: Anne Walsh. Annotated Hearing Trumpet Note—LC, AW, SA, 2011 (detail); three archival inkjet prints mounted on cotton rag; 30 x 36 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Martina} {Johnston Gallery, Berkeley.

In An Annotated Hearing Trumpet, Preface and Figures at Martina} {Johnston Gallery, Anne Walsh plays acolyte to Leonora Carrington, the high priestess of Surrealism, and reinvents Carrington’s novel The Hearing Trumpet (1950) as raw material for a potential film.

On display are a series of stunning laser-cut cast lists and precise photographic renditions of Walsh’s (as well as Carrington’s) studio walls, complete with Post-It notes and her free associations with the work of other artists. We receive a glimpse into Walsh’s process: her in-depth research into a character and the almost scientific approach she brings to fleshing out an alternative reading of Carrington’s text. The numerous hypothetical cast lists feature remarkable women (plus a few men) from across time, art, literature, politics, sport, and daily life: Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Braga, Jane Eyre, Billie Jean King, Bella Abzug, and of course, Leonora Carrington.

The novel is a romp in two distinct parts. Marian Leatherby, the protagonist, is a deaf, no-nonsense nonagenarian who converses with the dead and her cats until she is deposited into a home for “senile old ladies.” After her incarceration, the diminutive heroine becomes a fully functional rebel who organizes a coup at the home and travels through time with a bearded nun, Dona Rosalinda, through ecstatic medieval orgies and transmogrifications. The story is hysterically funny, surreal in the truest sense, but it also predicts global warming and concomitant disasters while advocating for living sustainably on the earth.

Walsh has said, “I used to think of myself as somehow deficient in creative imagination because my art isn’t one of invention, but rather one of condensation or extraction. I realized that everything I need to make art already exists, and that my aesthetic interventions and inventions occur at the level of framing, timing, editing, directing, and re-recreating.”1 In this exhibition, her work both honors its source and brings it up to date by loosely reframing Carrington’s novel and her life as material for a twenty-first-century feminist film.

Anne-Walsh-A-Hearing-Trumpet

Anne Walsh. Casts of My Movie, 2012 (detail); laser-cut bond paper, ink on paper, laser print on bond, ink jet prints on rag, drugstore photos, and Post-It; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Martina} {Johnston Gallery, Berkeley.

And while reading the book immensely enriches the experience of the show, the exhibition’s theme reverberated in how it matched my own life. Three times a week, I visit my eighty-eight-year-old mother at a dementia unit in a nursing home, where, according to my mother, she (and the other residents) “see paranormal phenomena all the time.” I just couldn’t resist.

Surprise!, the video half of this exhibition by Chris Kubick, makes visual the word salad of sound effects identification titles and is partially inspired by the cacophony of living in a household with a young child. Think laugh tracks and monster groans. It, too, is a romp.

 

An Annotated Hearing Trumpet, Preface and Figures and Surprise! is on view at Martina} {Johnston Gallery, in Berkeley, through October 28, 2012.

 

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NOTES:

1. Allan de Souza, “A Discourse Concerning the Practice of Art: Allan deSouza talks to Chris Kubick and Anne Walsh of Archive,” Camerawork, Volume 36, No.2, Fall/Winter 2009, p. 20.

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