[ISEA2019] Artist Statement: Kimberly Lyle – After Words

Artist Statement

Acrylic, Arduino Uno, Birch wood, copper, MP3 shield, plastic tubing, sound sensor, speaker, 2.5x2x1.8 m.

After Words is an interactive sound installation in which the viewer’s participation causes basic units of speech to puncture the space, interrupting and overlapping yet remaining untied to any specific language. Inspired by early failed speech synthesizers from the 1700s that could emit syllables, consonants, and vowels, these structures house small circuit boards which trigger audio files at random to play with language’s most basic building blocks. Each sound gestures towards a desire for the language but forecloses the possibility of meaning – questioning logic, embracing nonsense, and untethering the voice from language.
Each structure is subtly different in shape and size to preclude a singular, authoritative tone. As multiple participants activate the sculptures simultaneously, the dimensions of the objects and their arrangement in space choreograph the movement of bodies. The act of blowing into the stands trigger sounds to be emitted by the connected structures and encourages the viewer to feel the continuum between breath, sound, and language. By engaging the viewer physically, language becomes tied to the body. Sculpturally, the components of the structures remain deliberately exposed to the viewer, revealing its hybrid materiality and dissolving the boundary between human and machine. Each box holds a finite number of speech sounds, inevitably resulting in fragmented and failed attempts at communicating a clear message. This brings attention to the limits within linguistic structures while asking what might be communicated solely through tone and intonation.
By using these structures to rearrange sounds of language, I’m exposing its capacity for failure and questioning the logic behind systems of knowledge that are often invisible yet deeply integrated into our everyday lives. It is my hope that by reducing language to its most fundamental parts, their sounds start to make sense by themselves – another kind of sense than words do.

  • Kimberly Lyle (USA) is an interdisciplinary artist and educator whose current practice questions our relationship to systems of language, learning, and technology. Her recent work utilizes sound, sculpture, and interactive electronics, often encouraging the viewer to engage with their body physically. Through research, she incorporates ideas from multiple fields of knowledge including literary theory, art history, computer science, and the social sciences. Many of her projects stem from a desire for another kind of community beyond the conventions of discourse. One that begins to blur the boundaries that exist between languages, between human and machine, and between each other.   kimberlyle.net