the Visual-Text Art Venue
A Guided Tour with M.River and T.Whid


The M.River and T.Whid tour is meant to be a welcoming gesture in which M.River and T.Whid hope to dispel the feeling some new gallery visitors have that the staff is cold or snobbish.

We also invite you to fill out the comment form at the end of this page. We will incorporate your comments into the narrative of the tour so future visitors will feel as if they are exploring the galleries with a large and lively group.


M.River (opening a very large glass door) Hello and Welcome to the guided tour of our first show entitled Group Text. May I take your coat and offer you a hot cup of cocoa?

T.Whid (getting up from behind a very large glass table) The seven artists in Group Text were selected from an open call for submissions placed on the Rhizome listserv, on cards left at galleries around Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and on a poster displayed at the Abrons Art Center in New York during October and November 1998.

M.River (holding out a very large glass mug of cocoa with marshmallows) We found a thematic continuity among these seven artists in their use of text as instructions for possible if not improbable action.

T.Whid (cleaning a very large glass monocle, which he inserts into his left eye) So, let's take a walk around the show and see what the hell we've got.

Click to view Elizabeth Zawada's work

M.River Liz has been working on a group of paintings involving numbering as a system of mark-making. In her studio recently was a painting consisting of one inch brown lumps (the lumps sorta looked like chocolate caramels) arranged in a grid on a 4x4 ft. white surface. Each lump was then numbered in order (left to right) with blue pen. The last number, if I can remember correctly, was around 7000! The text in this show points to a similar need or desire to order and account for materials and events in ones life. A simple command (name all things counted) sets off a personal and self-revealing list.

(a small bird enters the gallery, perching on M. River's shoulder. In its beak is a small note on taupe colored paper.)

M.River (opening the note) It's a message from Liz, let me read it out loud, "perhaps you could clarify that my 'lump' picture was made not on a grid, but that these lumps were placed in sequence, one after the other in line on a 4x5 surface. the color is taupe ." the note goes on to say, "the piece is titled 6934 (?) differences. I counted them to see how many different lumps were there.//make them count..." Oh cool, thanks for the clarification Liz.

T.Whid Elizabeth will be exhibiting a work involving the reconstruction of shredded, confidential fund-raising documents from a local college. The show, at Rotunda galley, has currency as its theme . Looks like it will be up this spring. If ya get a chance, go check it out. Tell her T.Whid sent ya.

(the bird alights from M.River's shoulder, landing on T.Whid, strangely, it holds another note.)

T.Whid hmm, what's this? (scans note) oh...another clarification from Liz, "the shredded document piece includes shredded research files from a development or fundraising office not a college", wow, she's really on top of things. I wonder how she trained that bird?

M.River Hey great, Let's go into Gallery 2 and see the work of Michael Sarff

Click to view Michael Sarff's work

T.Whid (slapping knee and laughing) Whew...almost dropped my very large glass monocle, ahem...Well we really don't know much about Mike, but we like his style. Not his clothing style mind you, but his approach to artwork. Ya know M.River, I think he might be kind of ripping us off.

M.River (scratching head) Yup, well...calm down. He makes funny work about confusion, right up the V-TAV alley. We sometimes see Mike in the the neighborhood and he always seems to be leaving just when we get around to saying "hey". So if ya see Mike in Brooklyn (bald, 30ish guy with very large glasses), tell him the V-TAV says "hi! and good work."

(In walks a tall, biker-looking guy with a califonia look in his eyes)

M.River hey everybody! it's Erik Mortensen.

E.Mortensn "Yeah Michael Sarff is a hard guy to catch up with; I've known him for a coon's age, and have always had the same difficulty in finding quality time with him in person since leaving the midwest. Since I moved to the opposite side of the Mississippi all I get from him is a few cryptic e-mails every once in a while and a pitifully short visit around Christmastime when we're back in Cornburg, Ohio with our families. If anyone sees him buy him a Rolling Rock for me. (I'll reimburse you if you send me a receipt.)"

T.Whid Cool, Hey M.R., Let's take a look at the work of Shanna Compton.

Click to view Shanna Compton's work

M.River Shanna is one of our favorite ornery Texan fillies and writer. She said we could call this a poem or whatever we wanted. So let's just call it a V-TAV-like-ish-sorta-poem-thing.

T.Whid Umm...M.River, since we've had our 'livley discussion' with Shanna regarding the definition of text-based work, i've sorta rethought our no poetry rule. We approached this project from a tradition of visual art, using fluxus, Cage, and Kosuth as our models. A writer approaching this from a literary tradition may define any text, as long as it makes sense, as poetry. I'm thinking we are creating fertile ground for a renewed dialogue between visual artists and writers.

M.River Well Shanna makes a good argument for an expanded definition of what the V-TAV will show.

T.Whid True, after all, our mission statement does say something about the gallery's nature being defined with the artists involvment, or something like that.

M.River Well said T.Whid. Let's just call it poetry and tip our collective cowboy hats to Shanna.

T.Whid You're right. Shanna's poetry rocks and redefines our V-TAV world. Hey, let's go across the hall and see the work of Erik Mortensen.

Click to view Erik Mortensen's work

M.River The first time I read this work, I felt that something was askew but could not put my finger on it. It took awhile for the hook of the work to show up. The text uses the information given to amputees for post-op care but substitutes the word cavity, implying the removal of an organ (heart or other) or chunk of internal space. In relation to Mike Sarff's piece which deals with that which will not be made, Eric seems to be talking about giving care to physical parts of oneself that cannot be taken away.

T.Whid What about a kidney or a lung?

M.River Oh yeah....well... not easily anyway. Speaking of not easy, let's go into Gallery 3 and look at David Colosi's mindbender of a project

Click to view David Colosi's work

T.Whid (Wiping the sweat from his brow with a fine silk handkerchief pulled from the breast pocket of his very large smoking jacket) WOW! Now that is one kick-ass example of Visual-Text.

M.River You said it T.Whid, way to go Mr. Colosi

T.Whid We had another "lively discussion" with a friend of ours about how text could be neither prose nor poetry--admittedly we were just trying to get thier goat--but Dave's act of mental juggling with reading may come close to being another category.

M.River You can check out another of Dave's manipulations of standard form in his "review" of the film 12 Monkeys. We hope to have Dave back in March of 1999 for a one person show in the V-TAV. Looks like we will have to add some more galleries for his show.

T.Whid Yeah, definitely...and speaking of more gallery space. Let's go out this very large glass door and visit Lynda Abraham's work in the expansive V-TAV outdoor sculpture patio.

Click to view Lynda Abraham's work

M.River Linda's work in the Group Text show actually comes from her real world sculpture. The text is attached to the sculpture as an instructional or promotional pamphlet. She told us to think about them as one would think about instructions for a lawn mower, or weed wacker - Cool!

T.Whid (waving hand across the horizon line of the sculpture patio) Hey M.River, What do you mean by "real world"? In a text based context, in which words and signs can only represent objects or ideas, all of this is real.

M.River True T.Whid. This is why we thought Linda's work would be interesting in the group. Although it is hinged to an object (and event) that can not be seen in the V-TAV, the text is able to stand on its own as a singular work.

T.Whid Quite right...Okay back inside to take a look at the final work in the Group Text show by Colin Keefe.

Click to view Colin Keefe's work

M.River Yes, how could our inaugural show at the V-TAV be complete with out some code? Colin (AKA CKONE) is one of the founders of the now defunct 57 Hope gallery in Brooklyn and a big-wig in a silicon alley start up. He's also recently shown at Roebling Hall(gallery in Brooklyn) models and drawings of utopic worlds. They are quirky and quite wonderful. T.Whid, I'm going to have to ask you to explain how CK's text works.

T.Whid Right...basically, at the top there, you see a java applet running, see it says "VERIFY YOUR SURROUNDINGS" and underneath there you see the code used to create that message, and if you pull down the java console on your browser, you'll see some more info. The code holds the key to this piece in more ways than one, it creates the piece as well as explaining it to the viewer. Umm...perhaps we should ask Colin what it's all about?

M.River (Opening a very large glass door marked "exit") Groovy...well thank you for stopping by the V-TAV Group Text show. We hope that you had an Artaining time and will come on back next month to see what Cary Peppermint is up to.

T.Whid (Giving you a big thumbs up) Yeah... Thanks for stopping by and tell your friends to come on over.

M.River (Shouting as you walk away) Don't forget to stop in at our sales department on your way out!

T.Whid (to M.River) DAMN...I don't think they heard you...oh well, next time.

(exit door closes)

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