Julia Wilson is a student in Photography pursuing her MFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She majored in Classical Studies with a concentration in Latin and Ancient Greek translation at the University of Virginia. Her background in language has cultivated an obsession with words embedded within imagery and the ways in it which both linear and spacial language shape our lives–how text and image relate to each other–especially within the contemporary status quo, which she carries forth through her art. She also likes to post instagrams of her dog Virgil, named after Publius Virgilius Nero, writer of the Aenied and Dante’s guide through Hell.
Do You, Mr. Jones?
We understand the world through an unfolding communion of word and image. The cultural absorption of language, from childhood on, becomes something like breathing, something second nature, almost biological. However, textual and visual literacy is the antithesis of biology. The idea that one thing can be another is wholly a human construct. As the world does not present itself to us as a universal narrative a priori, everything we know is mediated via our unique perspectives, and understood via language. And as the sole proprietors of our experiences, we entrust to language the job of communicating these experiences to others.
We give life meaning by naming it, and communicating it. We seem to ensure our existence through the physicality of language; it is our means to access and order world. However paradoxically, as much as language (textual and visual) allows access and order, it simultaneously becomes a recreation. Language turns elemental and objective environment into our perceived subjective and conceptual world. Thus, we can affirm the impossibility of language, or the experience of anything, in any form, to ever be objective. However, the world filtered through this lens of self is so immediate and real to us, that this inherent subjectivity easily becomes hidden in plain sight. Villem Flusser wrote in The Philosophy of Photography, “Images are meant to render the world accessible and imaginable to man[…] but […] they interpose themselves between man and the world. They are meant to be maps, and they become screens…man forgets he produces images in order to find his way in the world; he now tries to find his way in images.”
The very idea of entrusting existence to these constructed systems of communication becomes especially daunting in relation to contemporary culture. We live in an era oversaturated by text and image, via television, Internet, advertisements, magazines, newspapers etc. This onslaught of ever streaming data has spawned a culture obsessed with being up-to-date, with being informed, with the idea of truth. However, what is truth in a subjective world? Where does one find meaning within this modern linguistic crisis—something beyond Nivea ads and newscasters? By recontextualizing text and image arranged on conduits of their dissemination–screens, magazines, newspapers etc–and juxtaposing them in culturally anomalous ways, this body of work combats the idea of a single objective truth, to confound the viewer throughout their search for meaning to stimulate perceptual awareness, rendering the idea that reading, seeing, or hearing is not knowing. Words and images are not ontologically tied to their referent, but rather harness meaning within their use and translation via individual ideology. My work allows the fluidity and contextual nature of meaning in language to emerge, leaving no room for subjectivity or objectivity for by its very existence it has reimagined the world.
To view more of Julia’s work please visit her website.