scripted is one of four interactive installations in the Body Language suite. Here we must imagine that the ceiling is a piece of paper, and our heads are made of charcoal. A Kinect uses 3D-tracking data to follow participants’ moving heads as if from above – forward and backward, right and left, in exaggerated and fully embodied activities – and draws unbroken and slowly fading, charcoal-like lines of these movements in a projection in front of them. If and when any of the shapes we create resemble a character from the English alphabet, that letter will be temporarily overlaid on the screen in the standard Times font, and is accompanied by a John Cage-like oral recitation (“Aaaaah,” “Buh,” “Kkkk,” and so on). Some letters are much more difficult to scribe than others, and many of the more complex characters contain echoes of simpler ones, in how we must move – making writing both difficult, and sometimes accidental. The piece is less about accomplishing specific gestures, and more about encountering and rehearsing textual moving-thinking-feeling at large.
scripted asks participants to investigate Jean Luc Nancy’s concept of exscription, how the activities of writing and embodiment require one another. Nancy says that while we may not be able to produce any successful language or discourse that is ‘embodied’ as bodies are, we also fail to produce any discourse without the body already in it. Bodies are, after all, required to write. Both inscription and exscription, language and bodies, are implicit in every-thing, every constitution, every action, every communication, every meaning and every text. Here writing becomes more than an abstraction, created by a hand and an eye. Writing is the site of the active body, and the body as a whole writes its own discourse.
According to Professor and catalog essayist Charlie Gere, the “strange word ‘exscription’ used here by Stern, and hinted at in the title of his piece, was coined by Nancy for his particular understanding of language, and means more than simply writing in the normally understood sense. It is the point of contact between impenetrable matter and bodily sense, and between bodily sense and linguistic signification. Here we might think of the process by which those who encounter Stern’s artworks interact with them, making them make sense sensorily. Participants accidentally write (letters), or often pursue and fail to write (letters or otherwise), with and as bodies, which are also written. Their movements and writings leave marks that both continue and fade away. They shuffle their feet, lean from the head and waist and neck, to scribble lines and texts and bodies, both readable and unreadable. They feel the sound and shape and texture of scripting as they interact.”