WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amanda Noel Gaebel (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Ron Laboray

Abstract: Change is constant. We constantly change ourselves. This personal “overwriting” is similar to a tradition called palimpsest, which is the incomplete erasure of text from books to make room for new text and ideas on the same surface. Here, I have embraced this as a metaphor and applied it to the palimpsest of self, or the building up of an individual over time. We are seemingly born a tabula rasa, or blank slate. Over time we are molded by our experiences and influenced by our environments. We make mistakes, we change our tastes and as we grow we cover over and “rewrite” what no longer suits us. However, there are always remnants of our old selves that persevere. A large determining factor in my personal journey has been the geographical and cultural influence of place, and it also influences each method of this work. I have visually represented palimpsest of self through three different and visually distinct methods. The first method is demonstrated with a constructed wall. The wall piece, a literal stand in for the self, is an assemblage that implies erasure through overlay and describes palimpsest of self through charting the impact of my personal geography on building my individual palimpsest of self. For the second method, I drew on top of and cut out sections from preexisting maps of places I have lived, redacting pertinent information to the point of abstraction. For the third method I manipulated old family photographs with software adding imagery from more recent photographs. Viewers of this work most likely have very similar family photos, have handled maps and have seen layers of patterned wall coverings. These are all rather common experiences to share. This allows them to imagine the work being about their personal palimpsest, or at least to consider how we all exist as layers of imperfect and re-written drafts of ourselves. I am interested in semiotics and in our reliance on signs to filter information to make sense of our worlds. Specifically, I play on the expectation of the audience who are looking for some explanation or purpose when confronted with imagery which is traditionally understood through conventional data interpretation, in the case of the maps, and which might imply a narrative, in the case of the family photos. When the sign hierarchy is reconstructed the message is confused, and often completely obliterated. I achieve all of this by interfering with textual and numerical signs, as well as facial expressions as sign. I remove them, cross them out, cover them up, or transform them to expose new relationships. This reduces the imagery to its formal base and allows the viewer to participate aesthetically, while also pondering origins and references inherent within common information. Part of this research brings attention to the idea that by not completely obliterating it from vision, but instead intentionally leaving behind a trace of that which has been erased, what is missing becomes a focal point. Instead of eliminating it this has the opposite effect. The ghostly remnant of the text that has not been meticulously rubbed out is now what attracts attention. That which has been removed, but leaves behind a trace, implies importance and relevance. The act of erasure acts as a sign to point to that which has been partially eliminated.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Identity (Philosophical concept) in art
Self (Philosophy) in art

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