An altered look at banned books

Altered Esthetics’ Altered Pages exhibit challenges local artists to create art inspired by censored and burned literature.

Toni Dachis’ The Message Is Clear is part of the exhibit’s focus on censored written works.

Toni Dachis’ “The Message Is Clear” is part of the exhibit’s focus on censored written works. PHOTO COURTESY ALTERED ESTHETICS

by Mark Brenden

WHO: Altered Esthetics WHAT: âÄúAltered PagesâÄù Display WHEN: Feb. 4 – Feb. 27 WHERE: The QâÄôarma Building, 1224 Quincy St. NE Noted professor Laurence Peter once said, âÄúA censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.âÄù That man is not invited to Altered Pages, the newest exhibition at NortheastâÄôs Altered Esthetics. The project asked artists to construct a work inspired by burned, banned and censored books. Feature artist Toni Daches contends that the essence of art labors within the very existence of words. âÄúThere is a personality to every font, every letter, in the different shapes of every letter. Colors can be involved too, but they are not necessary,âÄù she said. DachesâÄô fascination with words steered her interpretation of the topic in a historical direction. âÄúI was thinking about how the Hebrew language does not need vowels, and ours doesnâÄôt really either,âÄù she explained. Her piece, the feature image entitled âÄúThe Message Is Clear,âÄù involves a short paragraph describing a fear of an Orwellian-style devolution of a language, written (remarkably legibly) sans vowels. Daches doesnâÄôt only find art in the shapes and history behind words, but also in the pertinent political undertones therein. âÄúFreedom of speech is the most important thing to our country, and especially to an artist. Probably more for an artist than for anybody,âÄù she explained. MFA sculpture student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and featured artist Omkar Fnu took a different, more complex approach to the project. His work combines all the senses into an all-encompassing spectacle. There are light bulbs pouring through holes, producing a visual spur, with Braille pieces for the touch and audio clips derived from the Internet of what he calls âÄúliteral soundsâÄù (the sound of a train humming, a clock ticking, etc.). The only thing missing is taste; you cannot lick his piece. Fnu finds an abstruse dynamic in his use of Braille. âÄúThe person who can see it cannot read it, and the person who can read it cannot see it. ItâÄôs about the irony of the whole thing.âÄù The display will feature work from 18 other artists, with a gamut of media incorporated, including hand-painted silkscreen, linen, silver gelatin print, acrylic, gouache, colored pencil and books. When talking censorship, Ray BradburyâÄôs oft-banned classic âÄúFahrenheit 451âÄù is sure to be thrown around âÄî it is unsurprisingly featured in one of the pieces in the gallery. âÄúOut of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; thereâÄôs your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more,âÄù wrote Bradbury in his canon, touching on the exhibitâÄôs themes of language regression and censorship. Altered Pages seeks to reverse the said intellectual pattern and keep people from heading back to the cribs.