‘Disappearance of the Word, Appearance’ of the World at the Union


January 11th, 2018

Photo of Tbd. Dance Collective courtesy of The Union for Contemporary Art

Omaha, NE—This Friday, The Union for Contemporary Art will open their next exhibition, Disappearance of the word, Appearance of the world, a collection of paintings by Chicago based artist Caroline Kent. Inspired by language and translation, Kent sets abstract figures in darkness on the canvas.

“I asked myself the question: if abstract painting is a kind of language, what potentially can that language say?” Kent said. “I think that became a driving force trying to figure out what is the alphabet then consist of of the language that I’m creating—this kind of index of form—so I’ve been producing work honing in on the language that I’m creating through abstraction.”

Kent’s fascination with language and representation began as a teenager growing up in Sterling, Illinois, experiencing the world through foreign language films.

“And I watched a lot of these films with my eyes wide open just taking in the sounds of foreign languages, the moving images, the images of the different environments, different contexts, some of the narratives, storyline. They were so intriguing for me, and I think that was a key moment to perceiving the world in this really unique way.”

She would recall this experience again while living in Romania, learning the language and reading life like a narrative on screen.

“I think that what I found was one of the questions I had early on when I would watch these foreign language film was: there’s always a group of people that speak the language that’s in the film. I happen to be on the outside. That’s why it’s called the Foreign Language Film section for me, but you go to another country and they have foreign language films, probably in English, so I felt like as an outsider. I was always on the outside of language, the language of the film, and so what first appealed to me about abstract painting was that there wasn’t a literal translation for what I was looking at. They weren’t representational identifiable images, but I was still intrigued by the power and the present a lot of the images held for me and I realized that abstract painting could be kind of a way to level the audience to where nobody is privy to the language that is spoken. Everybody’s on the outside but it’s a great space to be in on the outside because the meaning is it that in the same way.”

On opening night, Kent’s work will be accompanied by dance from Tbd. Dance Collective. When choreographing the performance, co-director of Tbd. and program coordinator at the Union Kat Fackler responded directly to Kent’s abstract language on the canvas.

“When I look at her work and I look at the shapes and the symbols,” Fackler said, “I see movement, I see arms and legs and shapes that the human body can make. I see a conversation. I see language. Movement, specifically choreographed movement, has always seemed like a language to me. It’s like an agreed upon set of gestures that mean something to the mover, and each gesture within a phrase indicates what’s going to be next within that phrase to the dancer, so it’s kind of like this language that the dancers are all in on together.”

Taking place on the gallery floor, Tbd.’s performance might engage viewers differently than a routine on stage.

“Definitely space is taken into consideration. If you’re making work for a gallery space, it’s going to look different than a stage, so you have to think about what the actual shape of the space is and where people will be and how they’ll interact with it since you’ll kind of be on the same plane. You won’t be on a stage where people can look up at you, so you have to think about making this performance right next to people.”

Disappearance of the word, Appearance of the world will open at the Union for Contemporary Art this Friday, Jan. 12th at 6:00pm and remain on view until February 24th. Tbd. Dance collective will perform twice on opening night at 7:00pm and 8:00pm. There will be an artist talk on Saturday the 13th at 2:00pm. For more information, visit u-ca.org.

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