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Mary Fashbaugh | The Birdsell Project

Mary Fashbaugh


The brailed text on the walls of this installation translates into quotations and passages from The Poetics of Space, a book by Gaston Bachelard written in 1958. Bachelard is a French philosopher interested in applying phenomenology to architecture, implying that intimate spaces are poetic vessels of lived experience. He examines locations in the house as places of intimacy and memory, which are manifested in poetic imagery.

I am attracted to Braille for its visual and physical presence. It is a language that few learn to read unless necessary. Unlike other languages, there is typically no desire to learn to communicate in this tactile way. Braille is passed up on elevators and public restrooms, blending in to its surface, “visible” only to those who seek it. It is the most immersive language, as it requires direct contact with the external world. This form of physical communication works in my art as a reference to material connection and the significance of bodily presence.

The audio track heard serves to bridge the gap between the Braille and the viewer. The voice recites the passages, layered on top of each other allowing access to the text, while also signifying the multitude and difficulty of deciphering specific details committed to memory. The messages are covert yet impactful, calling for engaged listening while experiencing the space.

Braille has a poetic relationship with our interaction of lived space. It is a symbolic representation of an embedded language, not seen nor heard, but felt. We leave behind physical evidence of our dwellings. The structure of a home is witness to everything that takes place within its walls. Some believe that walls have the ability to absorb our energy and reflected back on tenants for years to come.

The domestic space of the bedroom is a private one, where sleepless thoughts, fears, dreams, and conversations have occurred. The possible energy enclosed within architecture remains and accumulates over time, giving off a “feeling” or traces of acquired memory. It is my hope that the viewers find beauty in the inherent poetry of the Braille language, and consider the physical, lived experience that only the remaining material of the structure can tell.