Gertrude Stein and Anya Gallaccio – Seeing is Knowing

In today’s post, Urussa discusses Anya Gallaccio’s ‘Untitled’, commonly referred to as ‘Ghost Tree,’ and the links between this work and the poetry of Gertrude Stein.

It’s one of Gallaccio’s second permanent pieces in her portfolio of otherwise impermanent pieces. I see a link with the permanence of this work with the American writer Gertrude Stein, especially her poetry collection Tender Buttons where famously her work, particularly here, is seen as (kindly put), unreadable to many, critics and first-timers alike.

When these artists use different mediums, according to themselves (Gallaccio) or according to others (Stein) their work takes on an unusual characteristic – the abject which was defined by Kristeva as the sense of ‘in-between, ambiguous, composite’ when perceiving a piece of text or visual art.

Seeing is as close to knowing here. Nothing below, above, under but something around. Context. You cannot scratch the surface to reveal more when the surface is the scratch.

‘Composite’ here is my favourite word which aptly describes one element of Gallaccio’s and Stein’s work. This element contributes to the unusualness of their work, the way in which a ghost tree is made up of data and a felled tree near an art gallery in Whitworth Park

In her poetry in Tender Buttons, Stein purposefully avoids using common nouns when defining her objects and instead chooses to talk around the subject while still alluding to its existence. For example, in her poem “A Red Stamp,” the omission of words is just as important as the words she chooses to include. In this way, puzzlement is part and parcel of Stein’s words.

While Stein consistently employs these techniques of allusion, Gallaccio feels a little anxious in her work which, on the surface ‘ is so enduring and says that is something [that] she isn’t quite comfortable with yet’ while still being conceptually consistent with her larger practise.

Gallaccio’s ghost tree’s permanence shows no signs of ending and with Stein’s writing, it’s hard to know where to begin. We see how the lines are drawn irregularly, showing us a different side of the s(cratch)urface.

There is something very lovely about the consistent permanence of art attaching itself to the artist.

Thanks to Tahmina, Thameena and John-Paul for feedback and support with this.

Gertrude Stein and Anya Gallaccio – Seeing is Knowing

Here, I’m going to discuss Anya Gallaccio’s Untitled 2016 piece, also known as ghost tree alongside Gertrude Stein’s poetry in Tender Buttons. A tenuous link between their work forms, that their work is impenetrable, undefinable, ambiguous. Stein’s poetry which some critics see as unreadable, non-sensical, and Gallaccio’s untitled 2016 whose presence while wholly material and present, indicates an absence of a felled tree forcefully.

Informally known as ghost tree, it is one of Gallaccio’s second permanent pieces in her otherwise portfolio of impermanent pieces which are made from organic materials, so that decay forms part of the art too. Stein’s work in Tender Buttons was famously classed as unreadable to many critics at first glance. With lines like:

NOTHING ELEGANT.

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

Seeing is as close to knowing the presence of the art here. Gallaccio’s ghost tree indicates the absence of a felled tree so vividly it reminded me how Stein’s poetry feels visceral in its assertive tone though there is a lot of difficulty in understanding Stein’s poetry conventionally.

Carly Sitrin shows how Stein ‘purposefully avoids using common nouns when defining her objects and instead chooses to talk around the subject while still alluding to its existence. For example, in her poem “A Red Stamp,” the omission of words is just as important as the words she chooses to include’. In this way in puzzlement, is part and parcel of Stein’s words.

While Stein consistently employs these techniques of allusion and, Gallaccio feels a little anxious in her work while, on the surface is unusually and ‘the fact it is so enduring and says that is something she isn’t quite comfortable with yet’ though conceptually consistent with her larger practise

Gallaccio’s ‘Ghost Tree’s’ permanence shows a never-ending presence and with Stein’s writing, it’s hard to know where to begin or end. We can only see how the lines are drawn, showing us a different side of the surface.

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