a portrait, a choir, a swell: 2019-present
24 debranded sound screens
14″ x 72″ x 120” plinth
curated by Joanna Robotham
site-specific installation for Skyway 20/21
Tampa Museum of Art
June 3 – October 10, 2021
As part of the exhibition, the artist will be debuting an artist talk
Artist Notes on Photography, Poetics, and Suicide
dr. M’s office is embedded in a sad(dening) strip mall surrounded by dislocating forest 25 minutes west of home–i consider it an island and can’t place it well on a real map, but it is easy to find on an emotional map.
…at 43, i started to see a therapist for the first time in many years for startling, brief thoughts of suicide–i think partially for issues related to my disability, middle-age, politics, chronic pain, loneliness, art, all converging to a sudden, desperate search for meaning.*
outside her office door, when i arrive too early, i stare at a small circular device (imagine a slightly off-white home fire alarm set on the floor pointed up) nestled where the bottom of her door meets office carpet–a snaking cord powers an unending white noise.
after weeks of waiting to ask her about it, I finally do, and dr. M suggests i search ‘sound screen’ on amazon. non-looping white noise machines, including the model i’m fixated on, appear–they are used by mental health workers to sonically mask private conversations, and by nature, delineate a treatment space while signaling a session is underway.
i’ve been modestly, sonically protected for weeks i realize, and order the same model as dr. M’s as a kind of reminder and muse, then a week later, i order three more, both new and previously used.
these four are all on right now as i write this. i think the first one i ordered is for me–a self-portrait. the other three I ordered, and the others i will order in the future, are to create first, a choir, and then more, for a swell–these are all meant for others…
originally trained as a photographer in the early 2000s, i see sound screens as a surrogate for a subject–mental health–that is largely unphotographable and personal, while widely public in scope and implication. when on, sitting outside closed treatment room doors, they become the edge of something, while here, on a plinth and congealed as a body, something different.
the growing archive of sound screen devices, which totals 62 units, is seen here as a focused installation of 24 sound screens. the devices in this growing collection, to me, acknowledge both the ongoing conversations of those in treatment, and those not privileged to access the treatment they may desperately need. it is an active field, and a sketch for future, increasingly monumental installations that ask for imagination and solidarity for mental health treatment not as a private healthcare benefit, but as a human right. -JL 2021