Meghan Hedley – Ogham Now, Woman Here: A study of language and mark-making

Full moments pile. Memories layer. My thoughts and emotions trace time and space as I move backward, as I veer forward, and as I remain still. This is disorder and order, sound and silence. I proceed from point A to point B, but also from point Z to point H to point M to point P to point X to point D. My painting and writing space is composed of intuitive, layered mark making. I return to past and reform my present to sketch an open, not always comprehensible language between-two different subjects. Following Luce Irigaray’s words, I intend ‘to lay out space so that a spatial architecture will allow for the existence of each one and the meeting between each one’ (Luce Irigaray, ‘Towards a Mutual Hospitality’ in The Conditions of Hospitality, ed. Thomas Claviez, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013, p. 43).

I find alternative possibility within both the Celtic world and Irigaray’s work that values multiplicity, hospitality, contradiction and creative subversion of both hierarchical linearity and the dangerous concept of neutral equality; this juxtaposition returns to the origin of culture and invites new and revitalized discourse (op. cit., p. 48). My work is to openly welcome a narrative of reconciliation by spending time with mark-making as a speaking mechanism in conjunction with the aforementioned creative values.

My draw toward conflict and reconciliation between-two began with my first breath; each breath initiates piles and layers of time, each layer building world that is with self in relation to other. Where does conflict begin? One point of conflict evolves out of a culture that quests for a sameness between participants, denying unique existence and development of each member; the sameness quest intensifies and enacts harsh resistance to difference.

I became a student researcher in Rwanda in 2008 and Northern Ireland in 2009, where I stood in gaze of bodiless clothing and confrontational walls. This mirrored my own wall-building strategies. After living in these places and noticing paralleling personal and communal challenges associated with difference, I returned home to create artwork, and found that my intuit aligned with Irigaray’s discussion of sexual difference, of new language, and assertion about the formation of woman’s subjectivity. To approach conflict the first need is to approach self.

Irigaray suggests a space of welcome. Sharing non-hierarchical speaking space is an entry into reconciliation. To invite another here, however, I must develop my own interior envelope. Irigaray writes:

To go in search of oneself, especially in the relation with the other, represents a work not yet carried out by our culture of speaking. It has little investigated this being on the way toward and into interiority, still leaving it to the silence of the without-words, to the night of the without-light, to which the poet at the end of their course, or the mystic on their journey should be resigned. The task of discovering, beyond the customary rationality of the West, a different speech and reason has not seemed imperative. It appears however the most indispensable and the most sublime task for the human subject… (Luce Irigaray, The Way of Love, London: Continuum, 2004, p. 43).

As I paint, I work toward the formation of new possibility within non-hierarchical language. My installation language is always re-forming while considering mark-making, color, environment, and intuition. I make marks on a surface or within a space as expression of my interiority ‒ much as I would make noises to another in a shared speaking space. Through paint, extension cords, thread, and other mixed material, I knot, bind, scribble and release. I push the paintings beyond the white wall in order to enter three dimensional explorations of spatial welcome. Irigaray writes that rhythm is broken and repressed by forms of order and law, but could bring about harmony and fluidity rather than obstruction (Luce Irigaray, ‘Flesh Colours’, Key Writings, London: Continuum, 2004, p. 114). My work is centered on this conflict between fluidity and order as I explore new linguistic structure. A viewer is invited to approach artwork as she would approach another human, but a gallery offers alternative entrance into communication. I say to a viewer, ‘You, enter with me; I will enter with you.’ The difference between us will tell us how to enter and create the space. Patient time spent here may open up speaking and reconciling possibilities.

I am beginning to connect Celtic culture and Irigaray’s work. The Ancient Celtic Alphabet called the Ogham alphabet may be helpful for this work thanks to both the historical origins of language and the dialogue’s development. What began as an entrance into societies of obvious conflict ultimately turned my studies back toward my own subjectivity. This return to self drew out visceral connections to elements within Celtic culture. I am considering the roots of language, combining them with contemporary possibilities, to develop a new relationship to conflict and difference. How might this juxtaposition, particularly within an artistic space, initiate a dialogue of hospitality? In placing both Celtic culture and the work of Irigaray alongside the study of physical mark-making as an approach to language, I find the uncategorized space necessary for life is ‘kept around the bodies that want to welcome, to meet one another’ (Luce Irigaray, ‘Towards a Mutual Hospitality’, p. 47). This space, neither specified nor limited, is one of opportunity for reconciliation and creation of new life.

I am not the same
as who I was before that Fall.
I am not at the station
nor in the shop.
Look here,
this widening, miniature world.