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
EXHIBITION: 18 March- 11 June, 2017
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.
Anna Barham presents a new, single-screen video exploring the cicada — an insect with tongue shaped wings that is primarily heard rather than seen, its distinctive rasp acting as a kind of sonic camouflage for other sounds. Marie-Michelle Deschamps and Anneke Kampman will each be producing a series of new sculptures and audio works that examine the sonic and acoustic properties of the voice. Kampman’s work, a kind of alternative audio guide, will provide a narrative through the exhibition. Devlin Shea, Rebecca Ackroyd and Joanna Piotrowska recall John Bulwer’s assertion that “gesture is the only language natural to the body,” each focusing on bodily gesture. David Austen will present a text painting alongside a series of figurative watercolours. Johann Arens' sculptures promote tactile engagement, framing the spectator’s gestures alongside the other work on display.
Foundation Press, a platform for experimental publishing activity in Sunderland, will undertake a micro-residency during Experimentica in collaboration with the Foundation Course at the University of Sunderland. Together they are presenting a series of risograph print workshops based on artist Tom Hudson's colour workshops at Cardiff School of Art and Design in the 1960s.
‘These Rotten Words’ is accompanied by a screening of artists’ films during Experimentica dealing with language, voice and gesture, including Cara Tolmie, Abri de Swardt, Anna Bunting-Branch and Rob Crosse.
Experimentica is Chapter's annual festival of international live art. This year Experimentica is exploring ‘Secret Language’. The Festival runs from 29 March to 2 April, with the artist film screenings on Saturday 1 April at midday.
‘These Rotten Words’ continues on from a number of exhibitions curated by Vasey exploring ideas around intimacy, language and gesture including ‘A Small Hiccup,’ at Grand Union, Birmingham (2013) and ‘Emotional Resources’ at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland (2014).
Image courtesy of Foundation Press and in collaboration with students on the Foundation course at the University of Sunderland, 2016