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Take Cover 

A thoughtful response to the media’s flurry for comments after tragedy, artist Ryan Josey speaks in abstract, poetic ways.

South boardwalk of Dartmouth Ferry Terminal

Ryan Josey was finishing this year’s Nocturne application when his newsfeed became flooded with reports of the tragic Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

“I called the project Take Cover hours before it happened. A synchronicity occurred that I had to take on. The shooting became my emotional place of departure.”

Take Cover threads interdisciplinary practices together, exploring the “increasingly complicated relationship between language, bodies and identities experiencing violence.” Each medium becomes translated to the next, starting with a specific musical reference whose lyrics Josey treats as poetry. The poem has been coded into symbols, hybrids of Marine Signal Flags and American Sign Language. The symbols are printed on tall mesh banners and have been further ciphered into corresponding poses. Large photographs of each pose spell out the original poem.

The photographs, originally meant to be scans of Josey’s hand, are now full body portraits of Josey and his partner, revised to “recreate the sea of bodies at Pulse that night.”

Take Cover's abstract language is meant to counteract “the press’s desperation to get comments from the queer community about the shooting, and the pressure within to say something before even processing what had happened”. Josey’s use of song, symbols and physicality is considerate and thoughtful, an attentive shelter in a sensationalized sea of social media commentary.

“I am moving in a particular direction, toward my gay queer body and my partner’s gay, queer body. I want to move my emotional response away from the typical public discourse that happens around tragedies.”

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Vol 25, No 38
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