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Language Is a River

2 October – 4 December 2021

Hannah Mathews and Melissa Ratliff

Akil Ahamat, Archie Barry, Charlotte Prodger, Sarah Rodigari, Wu Tsang and Shen Xin

What if we tuned our attention to language and used it to write ourselves differently? While indispensable as a system of communication, language is a tool that blunts with use and repetition. In its naming function, it can smooth over difference and, with habitual practice, becomes invisible. It is regularly victim to interpretation and mistranslation, and perpetrates discrimination. Yet, as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak reminds us, language is also where boundaries are dissolved: it is the presence of the other within the self. It authors its user, inasmuch as it is a means of rehearsing and creating both identity and power.

Language Is a River presents films and dialogue-based works by a group of international and Australian artists reflecting on immersion in language, and its role in producing self and society. Ranging from philosophical to theatrical, the works explore how language operates in and between meaning-making, reality, fiction, play, community building, narratives, translation, desire and becoming.

Image: Wu Tsang, Duilian 2016 (production still), single-channel colour video with sound; 26 minutes. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin and M+, Hong Kong. Photo: Ringo Tang


New commissions supported by MUMA contemporaries.