Text-works tend towards the condition of images, regardless of their clear relationship with language. In other words, they conform primarily to the way we concern ourselves with images. This position appears to be vindicated when such text-images attempt to dissociate themselves from their linguistic roots by means of erasure or overwriting of text, rendering it illegible. Brüggemann’s Neon Obliteration series employs differently coloured and continuous neon tubing that is bent and overlapped to give the impression of a hastily scratched or drawn line. The action invoked in the title – obliteration – suggests that something beneath is being made invisible or erased. But if a text is crossed out, it does not cease to exist, it remains as a reminder of a previous action, it becomes part of the work’s history in the manner of a palimpsest. Writing and unwriting are not binary but dialectical terms.
Furthermore, unwriting is equally a textual strategy, albeit an oppositional one. It might be imagined that the erasure of the text rendered the work even closer to an image, to be read in formal terms. But, on the contrary, the absence of intelligible words underscores the loss of language; here, the text has ceased to signify in a direct manner, its meaning has been displaced. Nevertheless, that palpable absence of something once present makes us feel its loss to an even greater extent. Finally, what happens when the act of erasure is placed into a void? When erasure precedes writing, when there is nothing to be deleted? What remains is the action of elimination, a gesture without apparent purpose. As nothing eliminated yet, the action is placed in the future; in other words, the gesture anticipates a postponed erasure that might happen at some future stage. By putting the effect before the cause, the artist breaks language’s link with the past, with memory. Instead, the task of unwriting projects us into an anticipation of what is to come: a future tense. Once more, the act of visual perception renders us blind; the unintelligible text suggests that we have lost touch with the past, as we are unable to see what was once visible. We must wait for the unwriting’s next application, sometime hence. The spectator is resigned to waiting; what is no longer cannot be retrieved, and what is to come cannot be divined. Unable to access the past and the future, we find ourselves locked in a perpetual present divested of our sight.