Sound art, fine art, art, sound, emilie finney, language, semiotics, linguistics


My interest is in the beauty and power of language. I have sought to understand language on a systemic level. I have broken language down to alter signified meaning, exalted extinct words, mourned the loss of formal language, and explored the confines of common vernacular. My artwork addresses meaning within the context of Semiotics and Linguistics. I have investigated the Semiotic theories and philosophies of Roland Barthes, Jacques Ranciere, Pierre Guiraud, and Erving Goffman. As outlined by Roland Barthes, our language is a semiotic system used to communicate meaning. My work is also informed by the rules of Linguistics and the research of Linguists John McWhorter and Guy Deutcher. In my work I have consistently altered the signifiers within our language (words and letters) to affect meaning. I have also broken linguistic rules of syntax, word order, and word morphology (the arrangement of grammatical units), to obscure meaning. In my thesis work I have narrowed the focus of my artwork to exploring the loss of precision in language in popular culture today. I have witnessed changes in language in our culture: changes in language itself and changes in attitudes toward language. Avenues such as the Internet, social media and texting have altered the language people use and have developed a more superficial type of communication. With a desire for ease of delivery and quickness, people have created and used acronyms and catch phrases to carry content. Thus they have created representations for themselves as well as developed a habit of using minimal content. As a result, people have divorced themselves from responsibility for full absorption and communication of information not only in their personal life, but also in their educational and professional life. My work addresses this lack of understanding and reveals the detriment of growing apathy toward clarity in understanding and conviction. My progression to using sound as a medium was a result of my history and experience with music. Through examining the work of contributing artists in sound art, I found artists Laurie Anderson, Susan Philipsz, and Janet Cardiff among the most relevant to my practice. Musicians such as Philip Glass, John Cage and Trevor Wishart, inspired my creative approach as well as how I think about my work. My exploration of sound is not only relevant to the way I work; it is relevant to the direction of the art world. The medium is growing as more museums, galleries and curators are including sound and new media within their spaces. As I continue to develop my artwork and practice, I look forward to what this medium has to offer.


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Graduation Date





Adams, JoAnne


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities


Visual Arts and Design

Degree Program

Emerging Media; Studio Art and the Computer








Release Date


Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities

Included in

Linguistics Commons