Now open at Split Screen, curated by Dividni Shostakovich, is Bleeding Books, an installation by Haveit Neox which offers a commentary on how language and information can be both abused and overwhelming.
Three huge platforms float in the sky; one is the landing point where information on the installation and Split Screen can be obtained. The remaining two, one reached via a walk through a tornado of golden letter and the other by flying down to it, offer huge columned but roofless halls. The floors of each resemble printed pages from which stone letters partially rise, draped with human figures who appear to be merging with them. Over both, giant books spill a black torrent of letters.
Beneath all three, at ground level (fly down to reach it) is an enormous fortress, slowly decaying, the roof gone, the floors pitted and broken, the walls collapsing. Throughout its bulk can be found the essence of words: letters can be seen parts of the walls or hang like broken chains from columns, printed pages form the lumps and undulations of the floor. More letters are locked within great cells, or have fallen into the pitted floor.
“It is a story in my ongoing series on abuse as seen through the lens of language,” Haveit says of the piece. “What happens when knowledge is so disrespected that it is freely contaminated with doses of falsehood? There are avenues to properly sort facts in this information age, yet we easily turn a blind eye to certain evidence if it goes counter to our beliefs – even when our choices may cause immeasurable harm.”
In truth, words and literacy have always been seen as a focus of power (such as the withholding of literacy from the masses in times long past) and as a means of conducting war (be it hot or cold, political or ideological, through the use of propaganda and misinformation). What makes Bleeding Books perhaps particularly relevant is that today, we collectively have access to so many channels of communication and alongside them, so much data and information, that the ability to freely contaminate what we read, see and hear is becoming a significant issue.
Worse still, facts and counter-facts are increasingly forced to vie with so-called “alternative facts” and outright misinformation, that it is often far easier for us to retreat into our own bias and seek only the information which fits that bias, no matter how damaging it might be politically, ideologically, ecologically or personally in our health and daily lives.
Thus the metaphor is clear: such is the flood of information flowing around, over and even through us, that the power of words to define truth, objectivity, reason, understanding – their very ability to present reality to us – is being eroded and broken, both intentionally by others and through our own unwillingness to set aside our own biased outlook, no matter what the consequences.
Bleeding Books is not necessarily an easy piece to understand, nor may it sit easy on the conscience. But neither of these points mean it should be avoided. Rather, it is a piece that the longer you spend within it, the more clearly it speaks to you.
Bleeding Books, Split Screen (Amra, rated: Moderate)