Friday, October 23, 2009

Visual linguist RICHard SMOLinski and the art of Portmateau

About a week ago, Calgary artist RICHard SMOLinski introduced a participatory audience to the technique of portmanteau word-coinage and facilitated the collaborative composition of a narrative upon the walls of TRUCK’s resource centre. This event was presented as part of TRUCK Gallery's Contemporary Art Soap Box Series - an open format public lecture series in which cultural producers take the stage to explore different aspects of contemporary production.


"Infamously used throughout James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Lewis Carroll in Jabberwocky and currently being exploited in an advertising campaign by Koodo Mobile, the portmanteau blends two or more words to create new and unusual terms that may either renew or corrupt language. Armed with this technique and a thousand magnetic alphabetic characters, SMOLinski and his participants constructed a physical text upon the walls, doors and filing cabinets of TRUCK’s reception area."


Approximately 40 people were in attendance for this textual demolishtioconstrutionarritivegenisis, and as an observer I was stuck by the strength of the perfromative nature of this collaborative event. Of course the deconstructive power of the SMOLinski's technique was apparent in true Derridian style, the engagement by the audience in attendance spoke more to the power of language as a critical milieu. Few things are as contemporary, and as primal, as language. Indeed few in the room could resist the pull to participate in the exploration of a territory that is both familiar and unknown. This collaboration transformed the 40 or so individuals into a single Beast with a penchant for "word-coinage."


It would be easy to attribute the success of this event to a simple psychological dynamic revolving around word association, or a semiotic whirlwind of code associations, but the thoughtful, purposeful/editorial, aesthetically consensual approach that organically evolved suggested that the group engaged in the process of art making that engaged theory and technique without subordinating itself to it!


The text continues in our front reception area with an open invitation to all gallery goers to dive into the pool of magnetic letters laid out on our meeting tables to contribute to the narrative spattered across our walls.


Contributor: Renato Vitic