Saxa Loquuntur Stones Speak

Site specific installation. Oxford dictionary, archival inkjet prints, mandarine peels, Nespresso coffee machines and its parts hand-carved in limestone, Slide projection (80 slides): carbon paper mounted on 35mm slides, kodak slide projector, rear-projection on acrylic screen. 2015

“Imagine that an explorer arrives in a little-known region where his interest is aroused by an expanse of ruins, with remains of walls, fragments of columns, and tablets with half-effaced and unreadable inscriptions. He may content himself with inspecting what lies exposed to view, with questioning the inhabitants––perhaps semi-barbaric people––who live in the vicinity, about what tradition tells then of the history and meanings of these archeological remains, and with noting down what they tell him––and he may then proceed on his journey. But he may act differently. He may have brought picks, shovels and spades with him, and he may set the inhabitants to work with these implements. Together with them he may start upon the ruins, clear away the rubbish, and beginning from the visible remains, uncover what is buried. If his work is crowned with success, the discoveries are self-explanatory: the ruined walls are part of the ramparts of a palace or a treasure-house: the numerous inscriptions, which, by good luck, may be bilingual, reveal an alphabet and a language, and, when they have been deciphered and translated, yield undreamed-of information about the events of the remote past, to commemorate which the monuments were built. Saxa loquuntur![`Stones talk!` Sigmund Freud, ‘The Aetiology of Hysteria’, (1896)]

For her residency-end exhibition, Keren Benbenisty presents Saxa loquuntur stones speak. She transforms El Museo de Los Sures into a temporally ambiguous location, a scene of excavation where objects from the past are revealed. In his Freudian analysis of the concept of the archive, Jacques Derrida established the authored nature of the archive as a recording method though which the past is ordered and the future controlled. This is contrasted with the immediacy of archeology, where the context and history of objects arise directly from their immediate being, without the categorization of the archivist. By conceptualizing the gallery space as an archeology site, the exhibition questions contemporary interpretations of language and codes; the spoken versus written, the word versus the image. In Benbenisty’s work, speech is not audibly spoken but inscribed across layers of history.

Mary L. Coyne


Installation views, Saxa Loquuntur Stones Speak, El Museo de Los Sures, Brooklyn, NY (Photo credit Jeanette May)