Installation by Visiting Professor John Phillips Featured in 'Philadelphia Inquirer'

'Figures of Speech,' a site-specific sculpture and video collaboration created with his wife, artist Carolyn Healy, is 'not to be missed'

October 18, 2011

Take a walk along the Lancaster Avenue Corridor in West Philadelphia and you will see vacant buildings and windows transformed by art. Part of the “LOOK! on Lancaster Avenue” art project, installations like the site-specific sculpture and video collaboration titled “Figures of Speech” created by Visiting Associate Professor John JH Phillips and his wife, artist Carolyn Healy, are on display through November 30 in various locations, starting at 34th Street and extending westward to 41st Street.

“Figures of Speech” was featured prominently in the October 11 and October 16 issues of The Philadelphia Inquirer, which deemed it “not to be missed.”

Located on the second floor of a row house undergoing renovation at 3820 Lancaster Avenue, the multimedia work combines Healy’s 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.

Phillips 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 Patrick Healy, to ask whether words can both be symbols and music simultaneously.

“Figures of Speech” is open on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. There are additional hours from 5 to 9 p.m. on November 11 during Second Fridays on Lancaster Avenue.

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