On the 5 Proofs of God

“A Postmodern Meditation on the Five Proofs of God” is an exhibition of the art-work by Mark Cameron Boyd that features an installation addressing logical propositions by Thomas Aquinas to explore language and its putative conveyance of ‘reason’ to ‘ways of know-ing.’

In his ‘Summa Theologica,’ Aquinas introduced the ‘quinque viae,’ or ‘Five Ways,’ that he felt offered rational proof of the existence of God. Aquinas’s medieval theories on God’s existence extended the Aristotelian tradition of ‘rational philosophical truths’ and issue forth from Aquinas’s application of reason, thus they do not rely on ‘faith’ alone to prove there is a God.

Since 2003, Mark Cameron Boyd has been creating paintings with words, which were initially based on his own writings. Since then he has appropriated texts from a variety of sources, includ-ing Derrida, Nana Last, Rosalind Krauss, and most recently, Thomas Aquinas. On a variety of surfaces, usually wood or wood painted to resemble a black-board, or even glass, he writes sentences across horizontal pieces of tape laid on the surface. He then peels the tape away, leaving half of the words, and sentences floating in a field. These ‘text bisection’ paintings are original and fascinating works of art. Their surfaces are covered with lines of writing comprised of pieces of letters, which, at first glance, are indecipherable.

As viewers we are compelled to complete the words and sentences of the text-bisection works, to make meaning out of the ghostly textual images. Actually, viewing is a two-step process, of first determining what the words are, or could be, some are too fragmentary, and second, putting those words into sentences, and then making meaningful statements. One can always bypass reading or opt out of the conceptual demands and enjoy the beauty of the fragmented words.

His text bisections subvert the process and idea of language as signification. Although viewers are invited to participate in completing the words, there is always room for error and creativity. In fact, the paintings depend upon the creative input of the audience. The meanings of his state-ments are suspended and incomplete, left open to play and to change. The irony of some of his titles, which derive from the text written on the surface, also plays a role in this process.

Boyd’s art making process is informed by his reading and teaching of theoretical texts. The idea of obscuring half of the written text is derived from Jacques Derrida’s idea of ‘sous rature,’ placing words under erasure, to signify that meaning is always deferred and words carry the traces of other meanings. His interest in semiotics, the interrelation of word and image, and the process of making meaning in art and language, falls within the tradition of conceptual art and the ‘linguistic turn’ in American art criticism and art history of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. However, what began as a simple transcription of random thoughts ex-perienced during art-making has evolved into actions upon the text, in particular the text bisec-tion, which undermine the conventional meanings of the words at same time that his writings have become more complex and theoretical meditations on the nature of art, subjectivity, and the process of signification.”

Gallery statement by Dr. Lisa Lipinski, exhibition curator, Associate Faculty at Corcoran College of Art + Design, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America. © Copyright 2010.

Image: Visitors decipher “Quinque viae: Proof 3” on Nov. 11; exhibition runs thru Dec. 17, 2010.
Photograph by Scott Boyd; © Copyright 2010.