emic/etic, 2010, mixed-media three channel video installation, dimensions variable.
Taima Smith (b.1975) grew up in Woodstock in the 1980s and 90s, studied Anthropology at Oberlin College then returned to the area. Her piece examines the summer cult of swimming holes, both from the point of view of the teenagers who take refuge there, and through the filter of her own nostalgia – having done the same thing in the same places, but a decade earlier.
The installation is cocooned within a translucent screen with two avenues of approach, one at each end. In the center, back to back, are two monitors. One shows sequences of youths in swimming holes, above the water and underwater, and captures the floating sensation of an out of time, endless summer. The other takes the same footage, but treats it ‘esthetically’ using time manipulation, looping, speed variation and layering, to give a more mediated, less personal view.
In referencing the influences in her installation, Taima Smith notes that in anthropology, emic refers to an analysis of culture from within the culture, where the event or behavior is meaningful to the insider but may or may not be to an outsider. Etic refers to an objective description that can be understood by someone who is not a part of the experience. A culture member may create an emic or an etic account, but there is a great deal of debate about whether an outsider can ever describe a culture emically. So this is my piece about swimming holes, but also about youth, about the fleeting golden summertime, about objective and subjective description, and the problematic relationship of perspective and romanticism.