Echolalia: Family Stories, Myths and Legends in a Visual Arts Context
In my family of birth we have a form of echolalia. Echolalia is the involuntary repetition of words or sentences spoken by another person. Sufferers are usually autistic or idiot savants. My family suffers from an emotional echolalia. Whenever we are together there are stories that are repeated in a variety of forms over and over. The theme rarely changes. Familial betrayal, narcissism, addiction and deception. When we are apart we rarely talk about it, but when reunited an involuntary reflex takes over and the stories begin again. The idiot savant can repeat tracts of another’s conversation long after the words have been uttered. I can relate events that took place long before I could read and write.
Looking back one can become caught in a cycle of questioning what was real and what was a simulation. Simulacra are flawed copies of an original, a shadow repetition, doppelgangers, homunculus, or are they copies of something that really does not exist. When is a rose a rose and not an allegory for something else?
I have come to realize that most people have these embedded stories and this is what I will explore in my presentation. The paper deals with echolalia and the simulacra in the context of memory, perception and the fluidity of time. There is an elasticity that exists between them, moving backwards and forwards. One event assuming significance, while another fades. There are different truths for all the players in the story and even layers of meaning inside each version of the truth.
As an artist I look both to the personal and the universal for my inspiration. This paper, in the context of my artistic practice, explores echolalia in connection with photography and installation art as a simulacrum of memory. I will look at the way memory is influenced by individual perspective to explore the power of family stories, myths and legends and the power of the “echo” of memory. I will address these questions through a study of Roland Barthes’ theories on photography; Merleau-Ponty’s writing on the phenomology of art; and Jean Baudrillard’s theory on the simulacra. I will also refer to artists such as Henry Peach Robertson, Bill Viola, Pat Brassington and Tracey Moffat whose work also evokes a strong “echo” in the viewer.
Keywords: Echolalia, Family Stories, Simulacra, Meaning,, Photography, Installation Art, Memory, Merleau-Ponty, Baudrillard, Barthes
School of Photomedia