Doing Language : Word Work
Doing Language : Word Work is a multi-part curatorial project that commissioned five artists—Bryan Castro, Riley Hooker, Joselia Rebekah Hughes, Malcolm Peacock, and agustine zegers—to generate new work in the form of editions and new media. Inspired by Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize Lecture, DL : WW frames language as a tool to help give shape and weight to the gestural, imperceivable, and fleeting experiences of our lives.
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
– Toni Morrison
The project is co-organized by ICA Assistant Curator of Commerce and Publications, Egbert Vongmalaithong, and 2020 ICA Research Fellow, Nontsikelelo Mutiti.
Professor Castro’s Guide to Do Your Language (Edition of 26)
This limited edition print piece looks through the lens of dysfluency while privileging silences, pauses, breath, and the interior space. The hand is visible in each screen print layer, implying gesture and performance. Annotations, redactions, mantras, and directives provide prompts for readers to respond to. Breathe In, Breathe Out, Inhale, Exhale, Do Your Language. Intimacy, care, and performance become tools for coping in times of uncertainty and wayfinding. Un-silkscreened copies are available for free.
Verbena’s Apothecary (Edition of 123)
Playing with words, experimenting with the book form, and referencing the pharmacy, Verbena’s Apothecary seeks to disrupt the conspicuousness of disability and ability. Each edition includes a different set of poems that may respond to notions of time and pain, occasionally using wordplay strategies such as anagramming, alliteration, shifting tenses, and/or repeating phrases. With each edition set including a different combination of poems, finding others who have purchased other edition sets will help to complete the series of 21 poems!
ind.must.y (Edition of 50)
Ind.must.y reads the Institute for Contemporary Art as an odorant text, surveying ICA staff and patrons about scents related to the building. This research responds to notions of erasure in the white cube through HVAC and sterilization. What natural odors and intimate encounters are lost, and can we conjure the building and its space through olfactive memories described by its frequenters? Descriptions of scents were collected through an intake form to create a word map leading to the final production of ind.must.y. Included with each ind.must.y edition are the fragrance, two fragrance blotters, and a zip-up pouch.
nonorien(table) (multimedia installation)
We consume, digest, metabolize, and pass language through our bodies. Bodies are sites, and sites are bodies. Language is an activation of information, and information is an activation of language. Body, site, language and information are all interrelated and continuous. nonorien(table) studies this cycle through a science fictional realm: video fragments, audio loops, and text act parasitically as interventions in space. Dissonant soundscapes provide a backdrop for a single-celled organism’s stream of thought, and a pop diva sings: “So we pour it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…” In the bathroom, a looped meditation is narrated by the sentient microorganism. The basement of the ICA becomes the belly for this symbiotic web in parts.
With a practice in marathon running, Malcolm Peacock embodies and recites the words from Black Radical revolutionaries while running—a symbolic action, considering endorphin release, fugitivity, and breath. This research is ongoing.
GDES 491, SPRING SEMESTER ’21
VCUarts’ Word Work / Doing Language (GDES 491) was a Spring ’21 course that formed an integral part of the ICA’s Doing Language : Word Work project initiated by Nontsikelelo Mutiti and Egbert Vongmalaithong, Assistant Curator for Commerce and Publications at the ICA.
This course brought together students working across disciplines with a range of skills to research modes of production and transmission that foreground language embodiment and consider the velocity at which information circulates. Through this course, students collaborated with contemporary artists working in the field to conceptualize, research, and fabricate a limited edition artist object.
Thank you to VCUarts students Archerd Aparejo, Caroline Barry, Maxine Bell, Velvet Cherry Canfield, Andy Caress, Angelica Credle, Theo Haggins, HH Hiaasen, Erin Jhi, Alex Miranda, Xinyu Na, Nicole Orsolini, Isabelle Roque, Samuel Schneider, Sydni Stearns, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lila Washa, and Allie Watts.