Healy & Phillips: "Figures of Speech"

Art reviews :

"...not to be missed is John Phillips and Carolyn Healy's site-specific, multimedia installation, "Figures of Speech," on the second floor of a rowhouse at 3820 Lancaster Ave.. Healy and Phillips explore the patterns that form communication in a sculptural environment (by Healy) of hanging and wall-mounted found objects (marquee letters, metal shapes, ham radio call cards from the 1940s) animated by sound and video (by Phillips, including a modified recording of a reading of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake). Together, they have transformed this spooky, un-renovated floor into an eerie laboratory for wordplay."

- Edith Newhall, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -10/16/2011

"...It’s a totally mesmerizing piece and one that seems alive with movement, although the only moving part is virtual — the video image. It’s a piece to linger in and let your senses imbibe."

- Roberta Fallon, Artblog - 10/20/2011



“Figures of Speech,” 2011 - “Figures of Speech” is a site-specific installation located on the 2nd floor of a row house undergoing renovation at 3820 Lancaster Avenue. The multimedia work is being shown in conjunction with the Look! Lancaster Avenue Festival in West Philadelphia.

Healy has created a sculptural environment animated by sound and video components by Phillips that provokes one into considering how patterns form the basis of communication. How do we make sense of the sensory “noise” around us? What systems have we devised to move us from direct perception to a translation of our experiences? Alphabets, mathematics, music, literary and visual symbolism, digital coding, broadcast signals, morse code of early ham-radio operators—all these find reference in the work.

The installation is sited in what was a second floor parlor, now framed out in 2 x 4's which serve to accentuate remnants of the original structures: joists, plaster and lath, brick, bits of wallpaper are all visible. Two walls feature diagram-like arrangements of materials such as plastic laboratory grids for holding pipettes and ham radio call cards from the 1940’s, while in the center of the space there is a grove of marquee letters and metal shapes, among many kinds of objects hanging from springy cords, that cast shadows while intercepting light from video being projected onto windows at the end of the room. A fire bucket spilling over with old-fashioned molecular models, a stacked construction of glass lighting components, a tree branch with inverted globe serving as another video screen, add to a sense of pervasive metaphor…

Phillips, who contributed the sound and video components of the work, juxtaposes the orderly with static and electronic artifacts in his multiple screen projection. The sound track for the work uses a heavily modified 1992 recording of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, read by actor Patrick Healy, to ask whether words can both be symbols and music simultaneously.