Alphabet Soles: Language as Ground is a multi-media performance project exploring language to mark the opening of artist Ann Hamilton’s public artwork at Brown University—a carpet imitating letterpress— in the Cogut Center on Pembroke Hall’s 3rd floor. The project mobilizes the carpet for events at various sites in an attempt to activate the sensual qualities of the carpet and involve the Providence community in questioning how language structures our lives. Taking inspiration from the grid of the carpet, movements of the letterpress machine, and various systems of the alphabet, the performance communicates the labor of language and meditates upon how that labor inscribes our individual and collective worlds.
Alphabet Soles: Language as Ground explores how we figure ourselves upon a ground of linguistic signification. Through repetitive gesture, phonic reiteration, and material accretion, the performance process and product asks: How do we stand upon language? How does it support us? As we stand upon language, what impression do we leave upon this ground? What impression does it leave? What pressure does it put upon us? Bringing together an interdisciplinary group of students from a breadth of research and performance backgrounds, the project ultimately seeks not to provide answers to the many questions it asks, but to foster a dialogue that reaches beyond the scope of the performance itself.
Alphabet Soles: Language as Ground has been unfolding over time in relation to the carpet before and during its installation through happenings throughout the city and intimate private performances and interventions. Four public site-specific performances, culminating in a fifth performance on the carpet, will be presented in April.
My eyes are closed.
My mouth is open.
My feet are bare.
I am standing upon words.
Underneath of my feet acrylic loops of industrial carpet repeat in mechanical form as if they regularized abstractions of cursive lettering.
I curl my toes around them, what does a letter feel like? What is its texture, its touch? My tongue curls like my toes—is this where we feel language? Or does it touch us all over, indiscreetly, with wandering fingers?
If my eyes were open like my mouth, I could see the muted colors into which my toes curl. I begin to wonder if I can sense change in coloration through my feet—can I discern the figurations of letters and phonemes underneath of me?
The longer I stand, eyes closed, mouth open, feet bare, the more I seem to blend into the carpet—I can no longer determine the edge of contact: where does my flesh end and the ground begin? My own figure seems to break down, collapsing into the plane of the carpet like a Cubist painting. Standing is not so easy now; the linguistic surface has become unstable.