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Fountain, 2006

Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan

rubber stamps, ink, paint, mixed media objects on wall


The Fountain was a collaboration with graphic designer Ben Van Dyck as part of a group exhibition titled Water.  The exhibit coincided with a period of national obsession with the inundation of New Orleans and the South Asian tsunami a year earlier. Layers of paint veil sections of inked text over which my collaborator applied an array of enigmatic markings in string, tape, and tinted plexiglass


The installation transcribes a passage from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick using my set of rubber stamp alphabet images.   The passage is a sharp reminder of the limits of our perceptions, the cost of our search for certainty, the unknowable core even of that which seems most obvious.  Melville’s speaker might well have been debating policy coverage with an insurance adjustor to determine eligibility for claims: damage by wind or water?


But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak out! You have seen him spout; then declare what the spout is; can you not tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to settle these plain things.  I have ever found your plain things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely.

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