For multidisciplinary artist Bethany Collins, language is an obsessive preoccupation. Language is both her subject and primary material—from dictionaries and classified ads to patriotic songs and bureaucratic reports. Language is also a prism through which she explores American history and the nuance of racial and national identities. Her exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis offers insight into her unique practice—conceptually-driven work which struggles insistently with the duality of language—its potential and its inevitable failure to make sense.
Collins employs language as a tool for dismantling larger systems, resisting the assumption that language is settled law. She physically excises, often with a Pink Pearl eraser, words from texts, emphasizing the materiality of language. Paper is torn, words smudged and obscured. Opposing translations or idioms remain legible—poetically charged through their isolation—while all other meaning exists only in trace and residue. Her work contains paradox: her care of the page indistinguishable from destruction; erasure leads to exposure—contradictions left standing.
Bethany Collins: Chorus is on view through December 29, 2019 and was organized by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator, with Misa Jeffereis, Assistant Curator.