'I have but one language – yet that language is not mine', wrote Jacques Derrida in what is supposed to be an autobiographical essay, reflecting on the loss of one’s mother tongue as a consequence of colonialism in Algeria.
But in what language does one write memoirs when there is no mother tongue? Whatever language we speak, and no matter how proficiently we master that language, the truth is we never quite own it. Language is an implant as much as it is a product of discipline and domestication. It is a foreign body within one’s own body. 'I have but one language – yet that language is not mine'. Departing from this paradox, this exhibition is meant to be experienced as a passage between languages. A proliferation of voices whose identity remains in question. Some of them appear to be thrown into absolute translation. Others provide a line of flight from native culture and the politics of cultural belonging. Away from national identity and its dominant linguistic forms. A line of flight from the authority of the mother tongue. This exhibition wants to be a place from which to conjure up those voices that sound the most alien to us, not because they belong to another language, but because they are foreigners in their own language and so they make ours foreign to us.
M/Other Tongue interrogates language politics and cultural identity through the work of five international artists whose practice is not widely known to a London audience.
The exhibition presents for the first time in London the work of two artists, Iñaki Garmendia and Mónica Restrepo. Originally produced on the occasion of the Taipei Biennial 2003, Iñaki Garmendia’s work Kolpez Kolpe [Blow by Blow] consisted of inviting a Taiwanese punk-rock band to perform songs by Kortatu and Zarama, two flagship bands from the so-called Basque Radical Rock scene of the 1980s. Beyond the cultural and historical specificity of these songs, intrinsically linked to the collective imagination of leftist pro-independence movements in the Basque Country, there is the transnational language of rock culture with its globalised gestures, sounds and rhythms, which are immediately recognisable for any audience. Here Garmendia presents the documentation of this performance, which took place in a stage-like structure built by the artist, alongside a display of archival materials including historical posters and fanzines.
Tacones (in the making) by Mónica Restrepo recreates scenes from a lost film with a soundtrack that does not match. In this performance recorded in 2014, a group of the artist’s friends and collaborators read out aloud a series of dialogues from a musical film produced in Colombia, intermingled with testimonies from the actors, technicians and salsa instructors that participated in the shooting. In a picturesque adaptation of West Side Story, Pascual Guerrero’s original film Tacones (1981) chronicled a rather unlikely confrontation between gangs of salseros and disco club-goers in the streets of Cali. Restrepo’s remake of this lost film is a ventriloqual tour de force: there is a confusion of times, voices and contradictory accounts, in which identity reveals itself as an ever-unfinished conversation.
Olivier Castel was invited to produce a newly commissioned work in response to the themes of the show. Castel’s work connects the two adjacent gallery spaces of Tenderpixel — 8 and 10 Cecil Court — implicating the viewer in a play of reflections, echoes and doublings that extends into the reflective surface of his sculptures. Installed in the gallery storefront windows, Melted Metal consists of two blades floating at eye level, in which a series of cut-up phrases and oblique statements are projected, including citations by the likes of Édouard Glissant and Paul Valéry (“What would we be without the help of things which do not exist?”). In Castel’s work, the artifice of language is made visible together with its violence.
Anna Barham’s text-based drawings consist of intricate word architectures and arborescent structures made of anagrams of the phrase “Return to Leptis Magna”. Her series Ampler Tongue Transit (2012) forms an ever-proliferating network of verbal permutations, including bewildering combinations of words such as “mutant lisp generator”, “muttering anal tropes” and “stranger latent opium”. Subject to a high degree of chance and unpredictability, her improvised drawings are the recording of a thought process that ventures into the labyrinth of language. Barham’s video Argent Minotaur Slept (2012) presents an animated section of a large volume of text, of which we perceive nothing but shifting fragments, challenging the viewer’s capacity to generate readings as words break into pieces and language goes into meltdown.
Going beyond mere documentation, Katarina Zdjelar’s videos touch on the bodily dimensions of language politics, by exploring the labours of speech and calling attention to the power relations that affect speakers in the moment of the utterance. Shoum (2009) depicts two Serbian workers struggling to decipher the lyrics of a nineteen-eighties pop megahit. While The Perfect Sound (2009) portrays an accent removal class for immigrants conducted by a speech therapist in Birmingham, a city that is ironically best known for its strong accent. The therapist imparts an allegedly neutral English —the Queen’s English— to his student so as to eradicate the inflections that mark him as a foreigner in a highly stratified social context.
Gauaz parke batean (In the Park at Night...)
Saturday, 24 January, 6 to 8pm
Performative lecture by Iñaki Garmendia in collaboration with Itziar Bilbao Urrutia
Reading by Olivier Castel followed by Skype conversation with Mónica Restrepo
Saturday, 31 January, 6 to 8pm
Guided tour by the curator, Sabel Gavaldon
Saturday, 14 February, 3 to 4pm
Anna Barham: Production reading group
Saturday, 28 February, 6 to 8pm
Since 2010, Anna Barham has produced an ever-proliferating body of anagrammatic texts departing from a single enigmatic phrase: ‘Return to Leptis Magna’. This reading group will expand on the performative aspects of the human voice while exploring the idea of reading as a form of co-authoring. By reading aloud sections of these intricate and unpunctuated texts, participants will collaboratively animate the anagrams, opening them up to new potential interpretations.
Anna Barham (b 1974 Birmingham, UK) lives and works in London.
Recent solo exhibitions include Site Gallery, Sheffield (2014); Arcade, London; Site Gallery, Sheffield (both 2013); Frieze Frame, London (2012); CCA, Glasgow; and Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm (both 2011). Group shows and performances include What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Hayward Project Space, London; Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; Artefact, STUK, Leuven (all 2014); Words to Be Spoken Aloud, Turner Contemporary, Margate; Collection, GCAC, Santiago de Compostela; Provisional Information, Camberwell Space, London (all 2013); Revolver: Part 2, Matt’s Gallery, London; Eye Music for Dancing, Flat Time House, London; Switch, Baltic 49, Gateshead; Weighted Words, Zabludowicz Collection, London; Formas Breves, MARCO, Vigo (all 2012); Graphology, MHKA, Antwerp; Enter Slowly, The Lab, San Francisco (both 2011); and Prisoners of the Sun, Frac Ille-de-France and Le Plateau, Paris (2010).
Olivier Castel (b. 1982, Paris FR) lives and works in London.
Recent solo exhibitions were Des distances dans lâme, Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz SP (2015); Once Across the Bridge, Phantoms Came to Meet Them, Andor, London; Fountain, Ibid, London (both 2014); The Back of an Image, Rowing, London; Imaginary Lives / Eight Hearts, Concrete Café, Hayward Gallery, London (both 2013); and Vive l’Amour, Schneeeule, Berlin DE (2012). Group shows and projects include M/Other Tongue, Tenderpixel, London; Golden Age Problems, Auto Italia, London; Insomnia, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna AT (all 2014); Spieltrieb, Ibid, London (both 2013); Rock My Religion, Das Weisse Haus, Vienna AT; Memory Marathon, Serpentine Gallery, London; A Trusted Friend, Carlos/Ishikawa, London; Sweets in Jars, Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel CH (all 2012); In the Belly of the Whale (Act III), Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz SP (2011); Surreal House: Fun House, Barbican Centre, London and No Soul for Sale, Auto Italia, Form Content and Tate Modern, London (all 2010).
Iñaki Garmendia (b 1972 Ordizia, ES) lives and works in Bilbao. Recent solo exhibitions include Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz, Madrid (2013); Bulegoa z/b, Bilbao (2012); La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona (2011); and Centre d’Art La Panera, Lleida (2010). Group shows and projects include Constelación Europa, San Telmo Museoa, Donostia-San Sebastián; Garmendia, Maneros, Salaberria: Proceso y Método, Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao; Critical Episodes: Collection, MACBA, Barcelona (all 2013); Materiality, Wyspa Art Foundation, Gdansk; Gravity and Disgrace II, CGAC, Santiago de Compostela (both 2012); 1979: A Monument to Radical Instants, La Virreina Centre de la Imatge; Barcelona; Montajes de Atracciones, ARTIUM, Vitoria-Gasteiz; Feria de Arte ARCO, Madrid; Contemporary Image Collective, CIC Cairo (all 2011); The Shadow of Speech, MACBA, Barcelona and National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, Seoul; Culture Rock, Carre Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (both 2010); Expanded Box, Feria de Arte ARCO, Madrid; and Itinerarios, Fundación Botín, Santander (all 2009). Iñaki Garmendia’s work has never been featured in London.
Mónica Restrepo (b 1982 Bogotá, CO) lives and works in Cali.
Recent solo exhibitions include Galería Jenny Vilá, Cali (2014); BLOC 2013, Garcés Borrero, Cali; and Hotel del Sena, Bogotá (both 2013). Group exhibitions and projects include La interrupción de la siesta, ArteCámara, Bogotá; Testigo de oídas, Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia; and La novia del viento, Museo Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín (all 2014); Des(okupados), VIII Bienal de Bolivia, La Paz; X-Apartmlents, Homeworks Forum 6, Beirut (both 2013); CDD, Galerie 360, Lyon; Standard and Poor, Galerie Hypertopie, Caen; Desde el Malestar, Museo La Tertulia and Lugar a Dudas, Cali (all 2012); Otro día negro en la ciudad, Caixas do Sul, Portoalegre; Crudo y Exquisito, Museo Contemporáneo de Salta; Selección: Salón Regional, Festival de Cine de Cartagena (all 2011); Acrochage Éphémère, La Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille (2010); e-flux Video Rental, Fondazione Giuliani, Roma (2010). She is the recipient of a graduate fellowship at the École Européenne Supérieure de l’Image, Potiers. Mónica Restrepo’s work has never been featured in London.
Katarina Zdjelar (b 1979 Belgrade, RS) lives and works in Rotterdam.
Recent solo exhibitions include Kunstverein Bielefeld (2014); ARTIUM, Vitoria-Gasteiz (2013); SpazioA, Pistoia; Galerie Stadtpark, Krems (both 2012); Circus Gallery, Berlin; Tobacna 001, Ljubljana; Centre for Contemporary Art Celje (all 2011); Centre d’Art Contemporain Fribourg; and AR/GE Kunst Galerie Museum, Bolzano (both 2010). Group shows and film screenings include Der Leone Have Sept Cenbeças, CRAC Alsace, Altkirch; Father Can’t You See I’m Burning, De Appel, Amsterdam; Invisible Violence, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; 5th Marrakech Biennale (all 2014); Change the scenario, Le 116 centre d’art contemporain, Montreuil; Constelación Europa, San Telmo Museoa, San Sebastián; His Master’s Voice, HMKV, Dortmund (all 2013); The Silent University, Tate Modern, London; Time, Trade, Travel, Stedelijk, Amsterdam (both 2012); Frieze Film, London; Rearview Mirror, The Power Plant, Toronto; and How to Work, Kunsthaus Basel (all 2011). In 2010, she represented the Serbian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale.
We are grateful for the support of:
Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz; The Block; Hato Press; Rowing and Kunstraum.