Repeat a word enough times and it loses all meaning. ‘Dog’ spoken 100 times in a row ceases to bring an image of Lassie to mind and instead dissolves into random, foreign babble. This is because uninterrupted repetition breaks a word down to exactly what it is: a series of sounds put together to represent something. In other words, the act of repetition removes representation from language. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as ‘semantic satiation‘.

 

Let’s look at the work of sculptor Tara Donovan and poet Gertrude Stein. Both employ repetition of the common as a disruption of convention. 

 

Each artist asks, how do our inherent perspectives impose limitations?

IF I TOLD HIM: A COMPLETED PORTRAIT OF PICASSO

By Gertrude Stein

If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him.

            Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it.

            If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him.

 Now.

 Not now.

And now.

Now.

            Exactly as as kings.

            Feeling full for it.

            Exactitude as kings.

            So to beseech you as full as for it.

            Exactly or as kings.

            Shutters shut and open so do queens. Shutters shut and shutters and so shutters shut and shutters and so and so shutters and so shutters shut and so shutters shut and shutters and so. And so shutters shut and so and also. And also and so and so and also.

            Exact resemblance to exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.

            Now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all.

            Have hold and hear, actively repeat at all.

            I judge judge.

            As a resemblance to him.

Who comes first. Napoleon the first.

            Who comes too coming coming too, who goes there, as they go they share, who shares all, all is as all as as yet or as yet.

            Now to date now to date. Now and now and date and the date.

            Who came first Napoleon at first. Who came first Napoleon the first. Who came first, Napoleon first.

Presently.

Exactly do they do.

First exactly.

Exactly do they do.

First exactly.

And first exactly.

Exactly do they do.

And first exactly and exactly.

And do they do.

At first exactly and first exactly and do they do.

 

The first exactly.

And do they do.

The first exactly.

At first exactly.

First as exactly.

 As first as exactly.

Presently

As presently.

As as presently.

Presently

As presently.

As as presently.

He he he he and he and he and and he and he and he and and as and as he and as he and he. He is and as he is, and as he is and he is, he is and as he and he and as he is and he and he and and he and he.

Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable.

As presently.

            As exactitude.

            As trains.

            Has trains.

            Has trains.

            As trains.

            As trains.

            Presently.

            Proportions.

            Presently.

            As proportions as presently.

            Farther and whether.

            Was there was there was there what was there was there what was there was there there was there.

            Whether and in there.

            As even say so.

One.

I land.

Two.

I land.

Three.

The land.

Three

The land.

Three.

The land.

Two

I land.

Two

I land.

One

I land.

Two

I land.

As a so.

The cannot.

A note.

They cannot

A float.

They cannot.

They dote.

They cannot.

They as denote.

Miracles play.

Play fairly.

Play fairly well.

A well.

As well.

As or as presently.

Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.