Installation view at Jerwood Space, London, 2017.  Photo: Anna Arca

This body of work was informed by a period of research undertaken in the archives of the University of Oregon exploring Láadan – the constructed ‘women’s language’ that was developed by Suzette Haden Elgin in her science fiction trilogy Native Tongue (1984-1994).  

An animation, titled The Linguists, draws on imagery of witchcraft and séances to channel the spirit of Elgin’s interest in the production of subversive and transformative knowledges. 

Extracts from The Linguists, HD video with sound, 8 minutes 4 seconds, 2017

The etymology of the word ‘glamour’ – drawn from the Greek gramma, meaning 'letter', and in fifteenth century English coming to mean a witch’s spell that created the illusion of castration – inspires the strange re-imagining of a lipstick-like substance.  This bloody fluid is applied to the mouth by the protagonists’ tongues, and transferred to ritual objects through kisses, before eventually flooding their surroundings.

Fingerspell (“G.L.A.M.O.U.R”), mixed media, 2016. Photos: Anna Arca

The painting objects, titled Mother Tongue and Fingerspell (“G.L.A.M.O.U.R”), take up the ideas around embodied perception and language that underpin The Linguists.  Translating the ritual figure from this animated storyworld into monumental ruins encountered by a viewer in space, these painting objects perform as the fictional artifacts of future histories.  

Mother Tongue, mixed media, 2016. Photos: Anna Arca

The Labours of Barren House was originally created for Jerwood Solo Presentations 2017, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation.  Research in The University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archive was supported by the AHRC London Arts & Humanities Partnership Research Fund. 

︎    Read text by James Gormley ︎


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