Xenoglossia, a research project part 3 with f.u.c.t fridays


Xenoglossia, a research project by CHR presented screenings of work by mounir fatmi, Jakup Ferri, Imogen Stidworthy, work in progress by the NON-NON collective and a proposal by Nothando Mkhize. Xenoglossia was an ongoing project employing historical references that foregrounded questions around language and its central role in shaping some of our recent history’s contradictions and misunderstandings

With this third part of events forming part of "Xenoglossia" CHR presented a screening of fatmi’s film "The Beautiful Language" (2010) whose imagery consists of sampled scenes from François Truffaut's L'enfant sauvage (1970). fatmi’s cut-up editing technique in which he has layered eerie and repetitious sounds and texts as both language and visual aesthetic objects presents moments of mutual communication and misunderstandings in which the haunted references in Truffaut's film come to represent a “clash of civilizations” that speak of current clashes between the “West and the rest.

Liverpool based Stidworthy’s film “Barrabackslarrabang” picks up on a local slang, ‘backslang’ that evolved as a liguistic disguise to protect speakers especially from the ears of the law. In this way she continues her ongoing concern with the social landscape of the voice, its space and borders by interweaving standard and subverted English with tropes of class and race, trade and desire in hidden backwaters and idealized forms of the voice. The Liverpool slang has absorbed fragments from the language streams of global trade, passing through the docks: Spanish, Dutch, Yiddish, Chinese and African languages. Backslang could be seen as a sign of economic and social conditions and as a form of resistance – a necessity, or a possibility for different social paradigms.

In his video Jakup Ferri renders the Croatian artist Mladen Stilinoviç’s statement expressed in the famous 1992 embroidery: “An Artist Who Cannot Speak English is No Artist” as a way of questioning the dichotomy of the local and the global. Ferri’s earnest attempts at telling a story in his ‘broken’ English reflects the futility of language whilst revealing that communication contains within it the possibility of miscommunication. 

The ‘NON-NON’ collective (Donna Kukama and Kemang Wa Lehulere) present a second incarnation of an ongoing performance titled “The Unknowing Grammar of Inhabiting a Text”, which narrows in on ideas around translation whilst still making visible the impossibilities within its processes. 

Also featured were research materials and references selected from a growing archive including a commissioned photographic performance by Zanele Muholi "Izidwedwe as part of Insila Yomuntu after Pistoletto" (2010) as well extracts from literature and theory as well as photocopied references and footnotes drawn from contemporary art including Khosi Xaba, Lewis Nkosi, Brett Murray, Tracey Rose, Hlonipha Mokoena, Pablo Helguera, Andrew Putter, Anawana Haloba and Thierry Fountaine among many.