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An altered look at banned books

Altered Esthetics’ Altered Pages exhibit challenges local artists to create art inspired by censored and burned literature.
Toni Dachis’ "The Message Is Clear" is part of the exhibit’s focus on censored written works. PHOTO COURTESY ALTERED ESTHETICS
February 03, 2010

WHO: Altered Esthetics
WHAT: “Altered Pages” Display
WHEN: Feb. 4 - Feb. 27
WHERE: The Q’arma Building, 1224 Quincy St. NE

Noted professor Laurence Peter once said, “A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.” That man is not invited to Altered Pages, the newest exhibition at Northeast’s Altered Esthetics. The project asked artists to construct a work inspired by burned, banned and censored books.
Feature artist Toni Daches contends that the essence of art labors within the very existence of words.
“There is a personality to every font, every letter, in the different shapes of every letter. Colors can be involved too, but they are not necessary,” she said.
Daches’ fascination with words steered her interpretation of the topic in a historical direction.
“I was thinking about how the Hebrew language does not need vowels, and ours doesn’t really either,” she explained.
Her piece, the feature image entitled “The Message Is Clear,” involves a short paragraph describing a fear of an Orwellian-style devolution of a language, written (remarkably legibly) sans vowels.
Daches doesn’t only find art in the shapes and history behind words, but also in the pertinent political undertones therein.
“Freedom of speech is the most important thing to our country, and especially to an artist. Probably more for an artist than for anybody,” she explained.
MFA sculpture student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and featured artist Omkar Fnu took a different, more complex approach to the project.
His work combines all the senses into an all-encompassing spectacle. There are light bulbs pouring through holes, producing a visual spur, with Braille pieces for the touch and audio clips derived from the Internet of what he calls “literal sounds” (the sound of a train humming, a clock ticking, etc.). The only thing missing is taste; you cannot lick his piece.
Fnu finds an abstruse dynamic in his use of Braille.
“The person who can see it cannot read it, and the person who can read it cannot see it. It’s about the irony of the whole thing.”
The display will feature work from 18 other artists, with a gamut of media incorporated, including hand-painted silkscreen, linen, silver gelatin print, acrylic, gouache, colored pencil and books.
When talking censorship, Ray Bradbury’s oft-banned classic “Fahrenheit 451” is sure to be thrown around — it is unsurprisingly featured in one of the pieces in the gallery.
“Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more,” wrote Bradbury in his canon, touching on the exhibit’s themes of language regression and censorship.
Altered Pages seeks to reverse the said intellectual pattern and keep people from heading back to the cribs.

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