[Isa Martinez is a visual artist and writer from Los Angeles now based in Chicago. Her work is founded on the tension between intent and potential, the inter-casting qualities of thought and language, and the mutations of documentation. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019 with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Studio, with an emphasis in Painting and Fiber and Material Studies.]
(as yet to be titled)
︎ Martinez’s yet-to-be-titled book explores language and its lack as a kind of imagistic oil slick, language’s slippery exaltation on the page towards our possible slippage(s) into and out of and between “inner, outer, and inter - interaction.” Turning to a kind of documentorial process of image making into object to return to the page, Martinez turns to poetry in this process because “[i]t’s compulsive, abstracts itself away from regulated/unguarded language, and gets closer to the flight of the subjects at hand.” Language and its placement upon page and in book is an active, acting occasion for something beyond what we can do otherwise. I think of Anne Carson’s essay on the sublime titled FOAM (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni in relation to Longinus in her book Decreation,
In Chapter 20 of On the Sublime, Longinus congratulates the Greek orator Demosthenes because he knows how to make his nouns rain like blows when recounting a violent scene:
By attitude! by look! by voice! the man who hits can do things to the other which the other can’t even describe.
“With words like these”—Longinus smiles—“the orator produces the same effect as the man who hits—striking the judges’ minds with blow after blow”—and he quotes again:
By attitude! look! voice! when he with insolence, when he like an enemy, when he with bare fists, when he with a slap on the side of your head—
Longinus’ point is that, by brutal juxtaposition of coordinate nouns or noun clauses, Demosthenes transposes violence of fists into violence of syntax. His facts spill over the frame of their original context and pummel the judges’ minds. Watch this spillage, which moves from the man who hits, to the words of Demosthenes describing him, to the judges hearing these words, to Longinus analyzing the whole process, to me recalling Longinus’ discussion of it and finally to you reading my account [to me quoting Carson in this description]. The passionate moment echoes from soul to soul. Each controls it temporarily. Each enjoys it quote by quote.1
Carson’s essay follows from the idea that the sublime is really a form of documentary, either depicting something factual or relying on documents (both definitions of the documentary). Martinez quotes thmselves, quotes the senses, the sensorial, bakes the writing into resin, into images, and allows the page to carry these more freely to the spaces of others. This inter-—which is also a word meaning to place a corpse into a grave, like the poems into the resin block, those little “memorials” as Martinez calls them—brings the spaces to life, creates a new kind of life, a life of ineffable language that provides us with a thought towards something more, something relational.
All quoted material, unless otherwise stated, is from correspondence with the artist.
1 Anne Carson, “FOAM (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni,” in Decreation (New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2005), 45-50.
[My visual work arranges the arcane qualities I find in reflected light, transparencies, surface oils, digital grain, display screens, stretched screens, deposits of water disturbing pigment, the concision of shape, and the irrationality of my hand over material.
As a body, it’s a catalogued reaction to materials that behave out of my control. Reacting to marks that bleed independently of my influence. Each silk piece becoming self referential in its demonstration of my touch altering its congenital design. Pursuing characteristics specific to processes that are unpredictable and variable in result.
In writing, my language is concerned with the traits of complex and percussive fragilities, the limit of applied opacity, and the serration of delivery. Basing diaristic evocations of personal realities on their experience, structure, and fringed interaction with the world on contact.]