These Rotten Words
Rebecca Ackroyd, David Austen, Johann Arens, Anna Barham, Marie-Michelle Deschamps, Foundation Press, Anneke Kampman, Joanna Piotrowska and Devlin Shea
Curated by George Vasey
Encompassing photography, painting, sculpture, sound and moving image works, ‘These Rotten Words’ focuses on the physicality of textual, gestural and vocal forms of communication. Rottenness is defined as both bad and decayed and, in a world where public discourse has become increasingly dominated by divisive polemics, the exhibition embraces language that is more contingent and intimate. The artists call attention to the physical properties of communication: the mouth and the hand are inextricably linked and while the hand enables us to shape materials, the voice — and our use of language — offers a further tool to manipulate the world around us.
Words become disentangled from the author’s intention. Limbs float freely. Bodies are scaled up and down. The familiar and at hand becomes estranged and unknown. To rot is to decompose, offering an opportunity for reassembly. The artists in the exhibition suggest a form of renewal, probing the possibilities and limits of the body and its voice. Text can be a vehicle for melody as much as meaning. We may talk before we know exactly what we want to say. Speech is slippery, and intention is as much about inflection as content — all languages carry inefficiencies and lacuna.
‘These Rotten Words’ is commissioned by Chapter to coincide with Experimentica: Secret Language. The Festival runs from 29 March to 2 April.
GEORGE VASEY is a curator and writer based in Newcastle. He is currently a curatorial fellow at Newcastle University. His writing has appeared in Art Review, Art Monthly, Apollo, Frieze and Kaleidoscope magazine.