Frozen Words

Robin Styba

A Space Windows

January 7 – February 12, 2011

Written language is a system of symbols that Western society has developed at the expense of oral tradition. When we began to write things down, written words were given power; books contained our religions and laws. The invention of the Gutenberg press allowed multiple pages to be bound into books – our bibles and manuals and other fictions. Now we have developed a new language by shortening words and dispensing with letters, creating new words so that we now send “txt.”
In Frozen Words, I expose a book of 1960s short plays to the natural environment. The book has been “shelved” outside for over two-and-a-half years, against harsh winter winds and snowstorms, changeable spring rains, relentless summer sun, and the damp cool of fall. The pages of the book have been turned and changed many times throughout the years. I have captured in photographs the transparency of wet pages, words hidden by light snowflakes, frozen pages layered with ice, and near-baked pages brittle under the sun’s rays. My exploration of a book of plays changed by environmental conditions parallels how words are being recalled, shortened, or removed from the English language.
Books reflect the permanence of words. In contrast, my ever-changing work-in-progress will eventually degrade in time to letters cleaving away from sentences originally written. The plays in the book reflect moments of human interaction and struggle; the photographs reflect the impermanence of human invention in the natural environment.


Robin Styba’s art-making began in performance-based movement. She began to take photographs of her constructed tableaux, and now has an active art practice in both commercial photography and photo-based artwork in Canada and the United States. Currently the project lead for the Marshall McLuhan Centenary Group, organizing McLuhan-inspired art exhibitions taking place during centenary celebrations commencing in July 2011, Styba has been a Board Member and chaired the Programming Committee at Toronto’s Gallery 1313, a non-profit artist-run centre. Styba is represented by the Shelley Lambe Art Consultancy.