I relentlessly focus on words, their meanings and the meanings between words – the unspace. The seemingly lack of something, empty space, that is definitely not nothing. I think of consent, impact, power, privacy. But first…
Hi, I’m Laura.
Born in 1981 in southern Indiana. I grew up with corn and soy fields. I played in the mud and ran through rows and rows of corn and never wore socks or shoes in the summer. At 18 I went to art school and began to realize my love for words. Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, and Barbara Krueger and Ann Hamilton swirled in my mind. I created art that blacked out all text in old books, bleached books clear of any words, painted books, glued books shut, and hung books dripping in oil. I consume words with a life force, but I’m really interested in what’s underneath and between.
There are over 1000 instances of “food” and “security” mentioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Climate Change and Land. There are then 557 instances of “food security” together; 307 instances of the word gender; 285 instances of “women”; 205 instances of “indigenous”; 56 instances of “equity”; 47 instances of “men”; 37 instances of “sovereignty”; 10 instances of “food sovereignty” and 6 instances of “seed sovereignty”; and 1 instance of the word race.
I’m reading this report for meaning underlining the words. Looking past the words to the space in between, the voice underneath the writing. There were 66 drafting authors from 30 different countries. Perusing the document of effects of climate change and their potential responses, I see nothing new outside of the new temperature degree changes and their specific effects that are given marks of strong to low confidence in their beliefs of danger based on what I can only assume is scientific research. The calls to action are the same story that’s been told by food justice and food sovereignty organizations for at least the last decade. The words keep calling out, but no one seems to grab them. They bounce off our ears like rubber. A boomerang that just gets sent back to the sender.
Are we listening? A white woman in conversation with a woman of color asks about why certain words aren’t okay to say any more. That when she was younger these words were fine, but now they are not. The woman of color tries to explain, yet the white woman interrupts and says “but” to every response the woman of color attempts to give. On the surface she wants to learn, to portray a level of curiosity, yet she inherently refuses to listen. The woman of color states she can no longer have this conversation and walks away with a flurry of emotion. The white woman moves into victim mode saying out loud to others that now people are mad at her. She never returns to this spot.
Words and stories; the makeup of humans. Stories are how we learn, what we pass down to future generations, they weave us together, divide us. We give them meaning and can hide behind that meaning when we may very well intend something else. Contradictory stories can run parallel and some times stories change over time as humans evolve yet our intentions and actions remain inherently the same. Of course here I’m thinking of racism and sexism amongst others. Some believe that we’ve creating a place where all are valued and safe, yet some of us know this just isn’t true. We tend to forget how powerful words really are, claiming that’s not what I meant as a catch all to our verbal mis-steps and plunders.
Are we listening? Within the Unites States’ racial historical timeline a story becomes apparent. A story of power, domination, exclusion, devaluing, resourcing of few, and a hierarchy of color. Each episode is viewed within its own container nary to be connected to the past or current events. Shootings of individual black and brown boys and men are disparate occurrences. White people continue to remove race, de-racializing all events, but black, indigenous, and people of color know that everything is racialized. It continues for the simplicity of its invisibility – for most white people.
Are we listening when we sit with another or are we listing and preparing our defense statement, thinking about what we need from the grocery for dinner, about that email we need to respond to, or about how much we wish we were playing outside instead of all this. Did we already write the person off because of some word they spoke or some one thing we know about them that convinced us that they are wholly a certain way and not worth the time. Do we listen to our hearts when it’s pulling us or do we shove it to the side for logic, reason, and data; or do we listen with our hands – knowing and understanding through being and doing in practice with others.
After art school, I simply and voraciously read like a hunger that wouldn’t stop. What does it mean to black out text and to direct your reading into meaning? Is it still the same meaning of the original document? Is it the under meaning, the between meaning, the secrets whispering under the surface? If we’re really quiet, we can hear it. It’s a low hum of atoms quaking.