Curmudgeons predict that the 21st century will be the time in which the printed word is finally tossed into the dustbin of history – with a tech-savvy Everyman on hand to Kindle the fire. Shades of Fahrenheit 451! The Internet is the fluid visual tablet upon which the text of daily life is writ, so the argument goes; don’t be surprised if, before long, the human attention span contracts to the length of a Twitter.
Enter artist James Grayson Sinding, whose word-based installations jubilantly proclaim the durability (at least in physical terms) of the written word. Last year, he dumped thousands of alphabet letters in Tollefson Plaza for his Spaceworks Tacoma installation, Letters. The opening ignited a mob scene, with attendees burrowing through the heap of oversized wooden characters in search of the right vowels and consonants to form phrases, messages and even graphic designs along the plaza steps. The brevity of the messages, assembled by authors cradling capital letters like a unisex legion of Vanna Whites, underlined their playful urgency.
In 2011, Sinding is following up Letters with a new project, this time involving whole words instead of individual characters. He is the recipient of a Spaceworks Tacoma residency at 1114 Pacific Avenue, where he plans on making and storing “thousands of words like the ones people place on their refrigerator….The space will [allow] me to keep my couch in the living room instead of moving it to the dining room to make room for letters.
“Dada very much inspired me,” he says of the work underway, “the way of thinking is admirable…In our modern society, someone has designed everything that we interact with on a daily basis. I like interactive art because it allows others to feel a part of something, a feeling of community, perhaps.” Why the emphasis on written as opposed to spoken language? “I do think that there is a trend being set – people like to talk less, and print more. We text, instead of calling. We blog instead of talking to people over dinner about the day. It seems like the more modern technology gets, the less we need to interact with actual human beings. Instead, we just type it into our smart phones.”
During his residency, Sinding’s plans include a collaboration with artist Karl Kormann to build sculptural furniture and objects such as a chair, a briefcase, eyeglasses and a living room set: “Simple, minimalist design that serves a purpose in everyday lives.
“I plan on doing more wooden sculptures, and trying to move into different media like lighting, and other things. I like working with wood, but I know there is so much more to explore,” he says. You can view Sinding at work through the windows of his downtown studio. Watch for gallery openings, and his “words” project, come spring. James Grayson Sinding, 1114 Pacific Avenue. www.jamesgraysonsinding.blogspot.com