Patrick Holbrook :: <Back |Main| Next>

Tongue
4 minute video and ink jet print. 2003.

 
I took a photograph of about 150 people’s tongues in Milledgeville. Standing on Hancock Street or at the front of Wal-Mart, I asked everyone I could, “Excuse me. I’m an artist and I’m working on an art project. I was wondering if you could help me for a second. I’m asking around 150 people to stick out their tongues like this (showing them a picture of a my tongue sticking out of my mouth). I’m going to put the pictures into the computer, anonymously cut out each tongue, and make one, large, eight-foot tongue out of everybody’s tongue and print it out. So, could you help me out?” Anyone who participated received a postcard invitation to the show. I didn’t need to take so many pictures, as the print contains only 50 or 60 tongues, but it’s satisfying to know that so many people were willing to be involved in the project.
I appropriated a scene from the Hong Kong film Chinese Ghost Story and digitally edited it together with a video of a dog licking white yogurt off my face, paying close attention to how Chinese Ghost Story was originally edited. I found places to insert the dog video, which would integrate the two narratives together, as if they were playing in the same space, as when the dog footage cuts away to the meek Ghost Story protagonist, lifting his hand out of a gooey substance. Of course, “tongue” is another word for, and symbolic of “language.” If language creates reality, then I find solace in creating my own ‘virtual’ reality which interweaves these narratives, breaking down the binary opposition of “East” vs. “West”.
I also wanted to subvert notions of individuality, collectivity, good, and evil by locating transgression in the charged arena of Chinese, communist culture and American, late capitalist culture. May the evilness of the tongue ghost be ameliorated by making a collective tongue in Adobe Photoshop? May the gross-out factor of tongues be ameliorated by the fact that every individual has one?