Four photographs document veils of chalk dust on abused blackboards. Abandoned bits of hastily written text appear everywhere. Chalk gathers in the slates’ cracks, while drips of water vanquish any worthwhile messages. Erica Baum gets intimate with these relics of language and pedagogy. She captures every detail, as if she’s quietly recording the discovery of a new language.
Baum made her “Blackboard” series, 1994–96, while studying at Yale. She photographed these slates in empty classrooms to reveal images—perhaps culled from the university’s subconscious—that get made when written language is