The NIMK (Netherlands Media Art Institute) of Amsterdam present an exhibition dedicated to read and said langages in the digital works from November 15th till January 24th.
In the late 90s, with the wide spread of new communication technologies, language came into focus of artists fascinated with the possibilities of these new media. Networked computer, whose functions and interfaces are largely based on language systems, offered a new and exciting field of artistic exploration and experiment. Generative poetry, hypertext based projects and the creation of software code as semantic and aesthetic system marked some of the major domains of the broad artistic spectrum of these times. Consequently in 2002, the Netherlands Media Art Institute devoted an exhibition entitled ‘The Pleasure of Language' to this wave of language-based digital art. Shortly before in 2001, Peter Weibel had curated ‘Im Buchstabenfeld.'(1) This exhibition ‘on the future of literature' presented a compelling range of written language based works celebrating interactivity and exemplifying the change of the reading / writing process devoid of paper and books. Eventually in 2004, the exhibition‘p0es1s' tried to decipher the aesthetics of digital poetry, while also reflecting on subjects as distributed authorship.(2)
SPEAKING OUT LOUD looks at the still productive field of language-based media art from a different angle than these previous exhibitions. Speaking Out Loud is less engrossed in the pure ability of digital technologies to visualise or even generate the dynamics of language - although some of the works in this show are great examples for exactly this capacity. However, the exhibition Speaking Out Loud picks up on the anual theme of ‘democracy' under which NIMk's thematic exhibitions in 2008 were developed. Speaking Out Loud centers on the processes of both ‘thinking out loud' and ‘speaking out.' Thinking out loud describes the associative, dynamic and rather uncontrolled process of simultaneously thinking and speaking about a particular topic. We think out loud to make a suggestion, to put forward an idea or a thought rather than to make a claim. Speaking Out Loud advocates this free and creative process of thinking out loud through artworks that enable a playful and surprising experience of language. This happens in the form of what could be summarised as experimental language exercises or canny transformations and alternations of language.
The act of ‘speaking out' demonstrates resistance and the existence of alternative concepts and views. As a democratic act it constitutes a cornerstone of democratic society. In that sense, the exhibition promotes the idea of controversy, dissent and debate as a relevant society shaping strategy. In the light of representative democracies, low voter participation and increasingly leveled concepts of life, Speaking Out Loud subtly attempts to call for taking an active role in the debate. Moreover it explores the subversive power of spoken or written text but also unmasks the inflationary and culturally connoted use of words and phrases. Language is a complex, reciprocal system both coined by culture and shaping culture. The exhibition presents works of Dutch, English and German language. Even though most Dutch speak at least two of these languages with ease, only a small percentage of speakers worldwide are truly bilingual or even multilingual, in that they actually use two or more languages native-like. Most speakers have a first language in which they are more elaborate than in the other(s). A vast variety of cultures - and here I do not only mean ethnic cultures but also subcultures - can exist within one cultural bigger frame such as a nation, these cultural differences are expressed and even established through the use and formation of language. Language is never an abstract system, not even in it most artificial form, but it is always a system of cultural multivalence and manifold semantic layers. Speaking Out Loud also investigates these processes of understanding and translation of language. The artworks in the exhibition deal with the act of speaking, reading and writing. They particularly reflect on and emphasise the performative qualities of language and thus reveal the strong and inseparable connection between words' meaning and their performance/performer. Renowned novelist Paul Auster captured the act of speaking as "When words come out, fl y into the air, live for a moment, and die. Strange, is it not?" It is this fluidity and dynamics of language and its meaning that the exhibition centers on, observes and reflects. In this fluid state, words fl y and dance, thus enabling a mental dialogue between the artwork and its viewer/listener, and opening up to continuous interpretation.
(1) Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria.
(2) Kulturforum am Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany.
Portfolio Speaking Out Loud