Exhibition

24 September–20 November 2016

Englishes

  • Nicoline van Harskamp, PDGN, 2016, set photograph, photography by Javi Zilbermann

  • Nicoline van Harskamp, Portrait of an Englishes Collector, video still, 2015

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht is pleased to present Englishes, a solo exhibition by Nicoline van Harskamp. Since 2013, the artist’s work has been engaged with exploring the widespread use and modification of the English language by its non-native speakers. Englishes depicts the development of the plurality of spoken English that displaces the perceived position of primacy occupied by dominant strains of the language. The work addresses the political import of this linguistic development, pointing out how our use of language is consistently entrenched in structures of class and power. Challenging these connotations, van Harskamp proposes a dissolution of English into “Englishes,” co-opting it as a common and ever-growing linguistic resource. Englishes thus becomes a site of solidarity—be that through the expressivity of speech or by a claimed common right to edit.

The exhibition consists of a series of episodic films comprising interview, performance, and scripted fiction that explore the myriad variations of English spoken between people who do not have any other shared tongue. The episode Portrait of an Englishes Collector (2015) sees an amateur linguist conduct a telephone study of the “Englishes” spoken in the remotest corners of the globe. In another work, Darling Good Night (2016), people waiting for their residence permits in a very isolated part of Norway, retell—in various “Englishes”—their “linguistic journeys” from their home countries to Europe. A propositional, commonly-shared language is further elaborated in Wer Mae Hao (2015), in which a group of children tell a story in an English constructed from their individual, self-made varieties.

A new short fiction film, PDGN (2016), draws conclusions from previous strands of the project and puts forward an unlikely, but desirable global link language. This predicted version of English, which may not sound like any language we know today, is partly automated by “PDGN software” designed specifically for this occasion. It is conceptualised with the help of software designers, Esperantists, recreational language inventors, and academics in fields such as creole studies, computational linguistics and language evolution. PDGN is produced by BAK and realized with support from Centro Andaluz de Art Contemporáneo (CAAC), Sevilla.

Nicoline van Harskamp (Amsterdam) is an artist whose work considers acts of language and communication in relation to ideology and solidarity through video, installation, and scripted performance. Her previous projects include Yours in Solidarity (2011–2013), which addressed the recent history of anarchism through an archive of correspondence, and was presented in different stages of completion in Mexico City, Frankfurt, London, Shanghai, Zagreb, Mumbai, Montreal, etc. Her live work, including Expressive Power Series (2010) and English Forecast (2013) among others, has been staged at Tate Modern, London; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Witte de With, Rotterdam; New Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Arnolfini, Bristol; Serralves Foundation, Porto; and Kaaitheater, Brussels.

Curator and writer Mihnea Mircan has been commissioned by BAK to write an essay on the occasion of Englishes and a public reading of the text takes place on 28 October 2016 at BAK, on the occasion of a Q&A with Nicoline van Harskamp and a number of invited experts.

The activities of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst have been made possible by financial support from the City Council of Utrecht and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. The project Future Vocabularies is realized with generous support from the DOEN Foundation. The project Englishes is kindly supported by the K.F. Hein Fund, the Fentener van Vlissingen Fund, and the Mondriaan Fund.

Made possible by

Suggestions from the archive

Panel Discussion

5 December 2019, 19.30-21.00

Urban Practices and the Future of the City

Urban Practices and the Future of the City with Urban Front (David Harvey and Miguel Robles-Durán)

Join us at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht on Thursday 5 December 2019 for a discussion on contemporary urban practices, specifically in relation to the transnational urban consultancy Urban Front. Buy tickets (via Eventbrite) | Facebook event With Distinguished Professor David Harvey, Associate Professor Miguel Robles-Durán, artist Jeanne Van Heeswijk, curator and writer Laura […]

Lecture

4 December 2019, 19.30-21.00

Lecture: David Harvey on Urban Front [ SOLD OUT]

[Update: this program is now sold out!] On Wednesday 4 December 2019, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht proudly presents a lecture by Distinguished Professor David Harvey. The lecture focuses on the theory and practice of Urban Front, a transnational urban consultancy co-founded by Harvey and Associate Professor Miguel Robles-Durán. Buy tickets (via Eventbrite) | […]

Performance

23 November 2019, 20.00-22.00

Performance: Black Quantum Futurism

BAK invites you for a special performance on Saturday 23 November, by interdisciplinary creative collective Black Quantum Futurism. Buy tickets (via Eventbrite) | Facebook event Black Quantum Futurism is a Philadelphia based interdisciplinary creative practice between musician, poet and activist Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother and artist, author and activist Rasheedah Philips. The duo explores […]