Tauba Auerbach. Text by Phillips de Pury:
Sold for $86,500 at the Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 8 March 2012, New York, achieving an auction record for the artist.. [Video]
Tauba Auerbach’s suspiciously simple compositions explore both the freedoms and limitations of Semiotics through a visual word-play on palindromes, anagrams, ligatures, and other abstract sequences. Her work ranges from an idiomatically familiar study of phonetics to the obscure and esoteric origins of human communication. While her designs and explorations are clean, pure, and simple, they are woven with complexities and intricacies that are deeply rooted in Fluxus and Constructivist utility. Behind the razorsharp lines of her designs lies a language that both abides and challenges our laws of linguistics. The marriage of language and the visual in the present lot, Binary Lowercase, 2006, converts arbitrary marks into a moment of conceptual awakening.
The binary numeral system, or base-2 number system, represents numeric values using two symbols, zero and one, and is used internally by almost all modern computers. The binary system is in fact the most familiar language to the modern world; however, it has an invisible presence in our lives. In explaining this body of work, Auerbach says, “In binary code there are zeros and ones, which for a while I was thinking is like ‘yes’s’ and ‘no’s’. But zero is not really its own thing. It’s just the absence of one. It’s more accurately described as ‘not yes’” The language symbols of modern computers are comprised of combinations of ones and zeros, and in Auerbach’s terms, “yes’s” and “not yes’s”. Auerbach translates this wordless language into a visual system, showcasing the ingenuity of the binary language in its inability to reach gray from black and white. In this system, one functions as a unit and zero as its negative, suggesting that all information is black or white, never gray. Binary Lowercase, 2006, is a portrait of the paradox of modern language, providing a disarmingly simple and somewhat ironic discovery of the absence of “maybe” in today’s binary code of “yes” and “not yes.”