Brianna Becker – Joseph Grigely’s White Noise

Joseph Grigely, White Noise (monochrome), 2000, oval-shaped room, conversations on white
paper, pins, White Noise (polychrome), 2023, oval-shaped room, conversations on colored
papers, pins, 2023, on view at MASS MoCA.

In Joseph Grigely’s White Noise, you are immersed in the silent life of the artist. White Noise is a collection of notes passed to Joseph Grigely, who has been deaf since the age of ten, from those who do not know sign language. The notes are arranged on the walls of two oval shaped structures that are connected in the middle. On one half of the structure is his first collection of notes from 2000, all of which are different shades of white paper. In the next room, is a continued collection all of which are on different colored pieces of paper. The floor to ceiling arrangement of the notes on the walls is incredibly precise and evenly spaced. Each note has its own personality, with different handwriting, spacing, and some even have sketches. Some of the quotes from the notes range from “IF I eat like you I’m gonna explode” to “Do you remember what a loon call sounds like?” to “Whew-wee! This is a DRY martini”. These notes are placed on the walls of a structure built within the gallery space, rather than on the gallery walls itself. The outside of the structure is painted white and is very mundane; however, when you enter through the entrance you are transported into a visually noisy, silent space.

Walking through these two rooms there is an overwhelming number of notes on the
walls. Even though they are strategically spaced evenly throughout the two rooms, it still feels chaotic. It felt loud in the room even though it was silent. As you move through the two rooms, the first being all shades of white and the next an explosion of color, it becomes increasingly louder. On top of the overwhelming notes, the vibrant colors in the second room overwhelm your vision making the room feel visually louder. In Joseph Grigely`s work, he tries to portray what his life is like, which he states is like “watching the world with the sound turned off”. He portrays what it is like to live with a disability through this work. In this work, he brings to light the difficulty he faces with communication, in ways most viewers would not have thought of before. Often times, for people who do not have any disabilities, they are not thinking of the challenges others might have to face. Challenges that most people would never even think could be a challenge for someone unless they were experiencing it themselves. In this work, Joseph Grigely gives the viewer a chance to walk in his shoes–a chance to experience what it might be like to live in a world that is catered to hearing people. Grigely showcases a visual conversation, and the difficulties and different forms of communication.