One notable highlight from the Center’s Fine Arts Collection is Helen M. Brunner’s Primer: Ritual Elements (Book One).
Brunner assembles an oddly symmetrical host of materials into a composition of a seemingly rough-edged D-I-Y style pamphlet binding. The nature of the text is cryptic, providing more of a visual context than a narrative.
One of Brunner’s pages contains a skepticism pertaining to media, stating:
“THESE NOTES ARE NOT TO BE
TRUSTED PICTURES ARE NOT TO
BE TRUSTED LANGUAGE
IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED”
creating a visual rhythm through repetitive text and torn, obscured images.
Here, Brunner characterizes all media as a biased and risky informer. The implied message is our willingness to trust notes, pictures, and language can be treacherous. And who could disagree? The weight of Brunner’s message is not argued in a neatly formatted journal essay, but thrown across pages in a composition that deliberately avoids the conventions of informative communication.
The images also imply the replication of media into an undecipherable and cloudy state. We can’t trust the shapes of the object to dictate meaning, just as we sometimes can’t rely on language to accurately describe a situation or to report fact.
In Primer: Ritual Elements (Book One), Brunner plays with the conventions of titling. A primer is a very basic guide, a stepping stone to a larger interpretation of the world. Here, we find the opposite of what we’d expect. The guide is neither instructional nor intended as an introduction to a topic, but a personal conjecture on account of the artist. Brunner implies that the ritualistic reading of images and texts on the basis of trust is the key to interpretation and the touching stone for a “book two.” While warning us that pictures and text cannot be trusted, she asks us to trust her: to trust her work, her ethic, and her method of compilation and construction.