The Black Tongue Lexicon is a series of performances by visual artist, Gary Setzer. Integrating performance art, video art, and live sound, Setzer addresses the tenuous relationship we have with language in our attempts to relay our experiences of the world—a classic apples-for-oranges quandary. Paralleling our immersion in the landscape with our immersion in language, he portrays the mouth as a space of both lofty construction, and great discomfort. From here, electronic music and process-oriented performance art are merged to deliver a hybrid spectacle that recalls Marina Abramović and Joseph Beuys as much as it does Devo.
3-MINUTE VIDEO EXCERPT
SPECIFICATIONS AND SPATIAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE WORK
Dimensions: In the above configuration, the work needs a space that’s 8'3" high, 14' wide, and about 6' behind the rear projection screen—if these dimensions cannot be accommodated, the video can be projected on any clean white wall at a smaller scale.
Duration: Forty to forty-five minutes tends to be the ideal length for the audience. The series is comprised of interchangeable chapters, so the duration is flexible and can be customized to fit any time slot.
Set-up Time: Set up takes a little under two hours.
Technical Requirements: The piece should be performed in an environment that can be moderately dark. At least two electrical outlets must be accessible.
Spatial Requirements: The audience should be situated in front of the work. I prefer the energy of being on the same plane as the audience, but the work can be performed on a stage if necessary.
Gary Setzer’s transdisciplinary practice incorporates performance art, video art, sound, and installation. Enlisting familiar landmarks like the body, the landscape, minimalism, and humor as entry points, Setzer lures his audience into his conceptual framework—a theoretical space centered on our compulsory entanglements with language.
Setzer received his MFA from Ohio University and his BFA from The University of Akron. His works have been included in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. He has performed, exhibited, and screened work in venues such as the Wexner Center for the Arts, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, Mobile Museum of Art, Boston Center for the Arts, Tucson Museum of Art, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. In 2012, Setzer released the soundtrack for his performance, Supralingual/Sublingual: The Tongue is the Terrain, on the independent label Pretend Records. From 2010 until 2015, Setzer was awarded the Louise Foucar Marshall Professorship. This five-year endowed chair position recognized Setzer's contributions to the field and was funded by the Marshall Foundation. He currently lives and works in Tucson where he is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Arizona.
Integrating performance art, video art, and live sound, The Black Tongue Lexicon addresses the tenuous relationship we have with language in our attempts to relay our experiences of the world—a classic apples-for-oranges quandary. I parallel our immersion in the landscape with our immersion in language, portraying the mouth as a space of both lofty construction, and great discomfort. From here, I merge electronic music and process-oriented performance art to deliver a hybrid spectacle that recalls Marina Abramović and Joseph Beuys as much as it does Devo.
I perform musically in front of a video projection that also features me; my process-engrossed body executing repetitive tasks while situated in the landscape. In the video space my body is a non-theatrical activator or instigator; a ritual-betrothed body whose preoccupation with the landscape serves as a metaphor for the drama surrounding our inexorable confederacy with language.
In contrast to my composed presence in the video, I directly engage with the audience during the live performance. Intermediating the space between the audience and the metaphor, I become their zealous tour guide for the environment established by the video. My calculated and didactic delivery punctually reframes the audience’s experience—revealing that something greater is being communicated. I parallel art and music, both time-based fields of study, “piggy backing” performance art on top of music because of music’s readily accessible nature. By hybridizing the two approaches, I instill a more palatable tempo into the repetitive action of performance. I seek to sustain the critical conceptual depth of process-oriented work while simultaneously appealing to the open mind and bodily instinct people have for rhythm.