|Jessica Hoffman, Every 7 Letter Word|
in the English Language, 2010, Typewriter,
Typewritten text on Mohawk superfine paper,
Typewriter- 14" x 17", Paper roll 2" wide, length
undetermined, courtesy of the artist
|Jessica Hoffman, Handshake Test,|
2010, Typewritten text on Mohawk
Superfine paper, Shelf 5' x 8', Folios
4" x 5", courtesy of the artist
In honor of the current Members' Juried Show, Duets, I've decided to try something a little different. Instead of going "In Depth," I'll be rambling on about two pieces "in conversation" with each other. Duets invited artists to pair two pieces of their work that would illuminate, complicate, and/or complement each other. The two pieces I'll be writing about today are Jessica Hoffman's Hand Shake Test and Every 7 Letter Word in the English Language. In Hand Shake Test, Hoffman reports the results of a recurring experiment. The artist approached various people on various days at various times and attempted to shake hands with them. She documents the results in a series of small, folded, pieces of paper--booklets, almost--that record the number of people who accepted the handshake, the number who declined, and one or two sentences that summarize her experience that day. The results are a surprisingly poignant portrait of human nature. Every 7 Letter Word in the English Language's title is rather self-explanatory. The artist has, with the help of the typewriter that acts as an anchoring element to the piece, typed every seven letter word in the English language. The result of this typographical odyssey is a long, winding, piece of paper that would swim with words if they weren't so precisely aligned with each other. Instead, the words form an almost impenetrable, though thin, wall that quickly overwhelms the viewer. When paired together, these two pieces provide a fascinating commentary on the norms of human interaction, its rituals, and its nuances.
Much like the seemingly impenetrable block of text in Every 7 Letter Word, the handshakes of Test were, at first, strangely threatening to the men and women Hoffman approached. Hoffman records anecdotes of mistrust and misunderstanding as well as an overwhelming number of "declines" in her handshake journals. One woman didn't even seem to understand, until her companion posited a theory, that all Hoffman wanted was to shake hands.