Julien Bismuth – Stenograms
30.1. –

The title of the show is Stenograms, there are twelve pieces in the show titled Stenogram 7-18. Texts that I wrote and had transcribed into the dead letter language of stenography. Texts that I initially composed in windows, feeds, chats, posts, and pages of conversations that had gone dead. To join the conversation when everyone else has left the room. When a text becomes illegible it turns into an image or afterimage of the language from which it stems. Each Stenogram contains bits and pieces of writing stolen from the virtual pages on which it was drafted. They have formed a show, they will form a book, yet neither the book nor the show informs or is informed by anything other than its component parts.

All of the information related to the works on view are contained in the exhibition work list, including the texts of the Stenograms. Everything in the show is also an image. Anything becomes an image once it’s shown. The other works on view follow a banal logic of selection, composition, and presentation. Collectible stenographic postcards purchased on internet auctions are used to produce six collections and a video. The diary of a 17 year-old boy from Waco, Texas (written in 1921 in a modified shorthand that he doubts he “will be able to read, or anyone else will be able to read”) is shown in a video that can be read like an open book. A found image of a high school stenography class illustrates the announcement for the exhibition. There is also a collection of miscellaneous stenography related objects: a stopwatch, a matchbook, three stamps and five pins.

Stenography is short for language as a medium of or for communication, transaction. Intentions are complex, but so is the desire to streamline them into the overlit prose of an explanation. How do you make an image of language? Nothing is hidden but everything is spaced. Thoughts composed in a hidden, hiding hand. Stenography is neither a thread nor a theme, it’s an alibi for a series of works marked by their timid perversity. As the pace of things accelerates and amplifies, so does our tendency to stockpile and leave it all behind. Every show needs a signature, and the signature here belongs to my father. There is an anecdote attached to it, which will be communicated upon request.

Julien Jonas Bismuth

Notes on the works:

‘Collection of stenographic postcards 1-5’, 2015:

The video shows a collection of 45 postcards purchased on ebay by searching for “stenography/ collectible/ postcards.” The original collection has been fragmented into 5 groups of eight postcards from the original collection of 45 postcards, with an additional group of six cards kept by the artist. Each group is accompanied by a copy of the video. The video can be shown alongside its accompanying selection of postcards or on its own.

‘Diary of Charles H. Bell’, 2015:

Diary of Charles “Chas” H. Bell of Waco, Texas for the year 1921, purchased on ebay from the seller “bob4676” who recovered it from “a house that was being cleaned out in Brenham, Texas” amongst “a box of unrelated papers… decades ago.” The bulk of the diary is written in a modified version of Gregg shorthand.

‘Pierre Bismuth’, 2015:

Filmed with the participation of Pierre Ernest Nessim Bismuth, the artist’s father. Accompanied by an anecdote to be communicated orally.

‘Novel’, 2015:

“Novel” is a cropped digital image made from a vintage photographic print purchased on ebay. Its title was also “cropped” from the text on the back of the photograph. The cropped digital image can be printed in any size or quantity and on any surface, as long as the prints are neither sold nor exchanged. For this exhibition, it was inserted into the announcement for the show. The original print can also be shown. The text on the back of the original photographic print reads: Novel: Novel out of doors visual education classes are conducted at Pasadena, California by the Educational Research Association. Demonstrations involve a new simplified shorthand which some educators believe may become a universal writing method. Several years were spent developing the simplified writing which is based upon the corresponding longhand letters but utilizes only sufficient of the characters to serve as a memory aide, so that it is learned almost at sight. Photo shows enlarged characters being flashed before a visual education class of junior high school age at Pasadena. Characters shown spell Educational Research Association of Pasadena.