White Noise

Bethany Collins
As my father says, one side is unusually—even compulsively—documented, and the other is a black hole that, when you call into it—Who are you?—it only swallows the very question.”[1]

“(Unrelated),” (White Noise series), 2012, Chalk on chalkboard, 48” x 70”

I am interested in the unnerving possibility of multiple meanings, dual perceptions, and limitlessness in the seemingly binary. My current body of language-based work-- made up of chalkboard drawings, dictionary erasures and photographs of erased chalk dust-- highlights the inability of language to fully capture notions of modern racial identity. Rather, language is hidden, revealed, allowed and humored, but rarely settled and always evoking a longing for what author Rebecca Walker refers to in her autobiography as the missing “black outline around my body that everyone else seems to have.” In particular, my White Noise series originated from often-awkward and sometimes-stilted conversations concerning race and racial identity in graduate critiques, studio visits, conversations among friends or even inquiries from strangers. The title of each White Noise work, and corresponding deconstructed text, are questions asked or statements made by those attempting to isolate a simple solution to the binary paradigm of race in the U.S and thus neatly decipher my own racial background. Challenging these notions of identity, each White Noise chalkboard begins with an unsettling statement or probing question and eventually ends with an equally unsettled composition.

I Wish I Was Black, 2012, Digital photograph of chalk dust, 36” x 36”

“Do People Ever Think You’re White?” III, (White Noise series), 2012, 48” x 70”