To quote Claire Macdonald “…writing is not merely
about something, it is something.” This issue of
Framework ‘Form . Language . Text’ is exactly that, an
exploration of writing as practice. She goes on to say
“… it acts, it engages, it changes. It has visual, material
qualities, it is temporal, it opens, it re-members,
it produces subjects – it is not inert materially or
conceptually”. As a critical art journal, the relationship
between contemporary art, writing and the ways
ideas can flow between the languages of both acts as
a motivating force behind Framework. We constantly
seek out texts in which emanate the originality and
creativeness that characterises contemporary art, or
reflect on art in innovative and imaginative ways. As
such we hope Framework acts as a forum for critical
dialog on current artistic practices and as a platform
for experimental exploration of these practices.
In this issue of Framework ‘Form . Language . Text’ we
explore writing as practice. Navigating how writing
and artistic process is integrally linked, whether in the
formative phases of creation, spurring on progress, or
in the final product. This issue aims to present a small
window into the diversity of forms and the significance
of words, text, writing and reading in contemporary
artistic practices.
Writers within this issues have extrapolated on writing
as practice, whether writing-about-art-that-is-writing or
writing-about-writing-that-is-art. They have unearthed
the problematic nature of the writer to reader
relationship. Bringing to attention that reading is never
a simple unproblematic transfer of information. Rather
an embodied practice heavily influenced by the context
of reader, writer and content.
Thank you to the contributors of this issue for
your inspiring and to the team at Arc for words of
encouragement, constructive critique and nonsense.
If you would like to contribute to the next issue of
Framework please get in contact:
[email protected]
- Anna May Kirk
Family Love, Alaska USA. Image courtesy of Darcy Padilla/Agence VU
by Liu1993-2014,
photo courtesy of White Rabbit Gallery
Anna May Kirk
Eleanor Zurowski
Laura Kevan
Kieran Bryant
Beth Dillon
Emma-Kate Wilson
Astrid Lorange
Anna May Kirk
Kieran Butler
Anna May Kirk
Arc at UNSW Art & Design
[email protected]
Front cover image:
Polit-Sheer-Form Office
2008, shelves, books, 447 x 732 x
300 cm
Copyright 2016 Authors, Artists,
Contributors and [email protected] Art
& Design
By Laura Kevan
Xu Bing, Art for the people, 2011. Square Word Calligraphy, 1994.
Anyone who has ever been lost in a foreign country
without knowing the local language can attest to
the difficulty of communicating without a shared
verbal base. The second you meet a person, the
relations ahead are shaped by how and if you can
communicate. A shared language allows progress
between people on all levels, be it buying flowers at a
market, or organising a peace treaty between nations.
Through it all communication is key, and language
has the possibility to both divide and bring people
The nature of language is one of the world’s greatest
dichotomies. On one hand it is the equaliser, the thing
that allows people to communicate, facilitates group
sharing, togetherness, and the growth of civilisation.
On the other hand language separates, it divided
cultures and ages, halts progress and causes conflict.
Language itself is at the heart of what it means to be
human; a unique development of the human brain
found nowhere else in nature. In this language can
be the ultimate unifying feature of humanity. When
ethnographic notions of primitivism spawned from
warped visions of Darwinian theory, it was the
biological nature of language that intervened and
evened the scales again. How could other cultures,
races, civilisations, and all women in general, be
evolutionary inferior when all people share such an
innate feature?
First developed in early hominids, the human brain has
evolved the ability to learn any language. Children
form language skills at the same pace worldwide,
picking up any language that exists in the environment
they grow up in. The language you learned from your
peers and elders in the first years of your life is known
as First Language, and the acquisition of it progresses
in a fairly regular sequence until the age of five, when
a child’s ability to speak or sign is refined to the point
of adult language. How can colonial notions of race
or gender continue when so called ‘primitive’ cultures
and peoples had developed languages with complex
linguistic systems that could convey multifaceted
notions and ideas? Here we have racial notions of
difference crumbling under the complexity of the
Shirin Neshat, Speechless, 1996.
Women of Allah, 1993-1997.
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While language connects at a fundamentally biological
scale, it still stands that when you meet someone on
the street and you both speak a language foreign
to the other, you are marked instantly as someone
alien. Language can isolate, and in the absence
of comprehension, understanding can be lost. In
the 1993-1997 series by Iranian visual artist Shirin
Neshat Women of Allah, the women photographed
are overlayed in Persian calligraphy. To a western
audience the Farsi is nothing more than an added
aesthetic quality, but it is in the understanding of the
text that the real heart of the work is revealed. The
calligraphy in her works is often poems or writings
by Iranian women exploring the personal views and
histories from the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The text
reveals more to a viewer with a shared language, it
ties the artworks to a time and place, and deepens the
perception of the images. The women are no longer
docile, becoming instead warriors, connected to a long
history of tattooing in Middle Eastern culture. Neshat
describes the use of poetry as being particularly ‘apt’,
as “literature has historically played a major part in
the struggle against political repression. The poetry
is the literal and symbolic voice of women whose
sexuality and individualism have been obliterated by
the chador or the veil.”
The use of language in Neshat’s artworks makes the
full extent of meaning available to select people,
inclusive to those only upon viewing. It is in the
translation of text that understanding is found. And
yet in translation and sharing of language there is
a new and completely different opportunity for art.
Historically across the globe, multilingualism as being
the norm, with monolingualism as a characteristic of
isolated islands. The diffusion of linguistic traits often
results in change and developments within languages,
as well as other phenomenon such as language
convergence, borrowing, relexification, and in extreme
cases mixed languages such as Tok Pisin, the official
language of Papua New-Guinea.
written forms of language challenges the viewer’s
recognition of what should be familiar patterns.
Estranging the audience from their own language
through combining them to make something new,
Xu Bing calls into question systems of language and
current ideas about how language evolves or stays
preserved. The inclusion of new terms to dictionaries
officiates the development of language, and yet people
still scoff and scorn the new when we have words like
twerk and vlog being added to the Oxford English
Many contemporary emerging artists use language
and the written word in their own work to explore
visual and symbolic meaning of cultural separation
and connection. Art provides a space for the blending
of ideas and form through the use of language,
a place to convey new understanding as well as
personal stories. Sydney based artist Leila Elrayes
uses a combination of Arabic and English writing in
her 2015 work No Direction To Home to discuss her
cultural background and experiences. Nails spelling
out an Arabic prayer at the top of the work, a common
Australian children’s mnemonic to remember compass
direction, and the inclusion of the saying “There’s
no place like home” from 1939 film The Wizard of
Oz, combine together with familiar visual elements to
create connections between cultures. The inclusion of
language provides distinction and facilitates shared
relations, and yet with current global tensions many
would find the inclusion of both of these languages in
one artwork uncomfortable.
Whether artworks like those of Elrayes eventually
become a comforting standpoint in a world of instant
communication, or continue to present cultural
exchange through the great divide of language, one
thing is for certain. When you’re lost in a city and you
don’t speak the local language, Google translate is still
your friend.
Playing with the notion of mixed languages, Chinese
born artist Xu Bing created the nonsense writing of
Square Word Calligraphy, a mixture of English words
and the square formatting of Chinese characters. The
combination of these two
Leila Elrayes, No Direction To Home, 2015.
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Beth Dillon
By Kieran Bryant
01. Frances Barrett, 2014, Flagging. Image courtesy of artist, photographed by Lucy
by Isabella Cornell
Beth Dillon, Dogwoman and Hundebaby, intergenerational dialogue
14 |
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Some people have a natural flair with language. Whiz
with words. Textual talents. Beth Dillon is one of those
people. She uses text [in many forms] throughout
her practice, often focusing on the everyday; the
humorous, the poetic. Kneading nouns and vibrating
verbs Beth utilises words to describe her everyday.
Whether that be the evacuation of her bowels, as
in Shit Poetry - a series of poems and prose written
on the toilet during the Berlin spring of 2014 - or the
contemplation of time both past and present. Her
recent work The younger generation communicates
with Dogwoman [2016] was composed while in Berlin
winter and speaks of a conversation with Bonita
Ely’s 1981 work Dogwoman Communicates with the
Younger Generation, which was itself created when
Ely was living in Berlin. The writing is funny, wryly
observational and achingly true. Framed as a letter to
an old friend it reads like an email sent sporadically.
Questions in between the lines. Giving enough
information to reminisce both sweet and sour.
On the 15th April, Beth presented a solo exhibition at
55 Sydenham Rd. Should I have stayed home, and
thought of here? The exhibtion is a performance and
video installation that takes the wet weather poncho
as a motif of the tourist experience, of contemporary
cultures of wandering and nomadism, as an antifashion icon of shelter, and of the poncho wearer as
both spectator and spectacle. On opening night, Beth
performed as a wandering forest hermit, Poncho,
constructing a wilderness scene in the gallery through
interactions with object, sound and image.
The show is accompanied by a publication of the same
name, featuring contributions from 12 friends met and
made through time spent living between Berlin and
Sydney. Offerings of thoughts, images and words
form a constellation of travel memoirs and speculative
wanders. They speak of experiences of dislocation
and disappointment, long-distance longings, precipice
moments and dead time in dull places.
Beth Dillon, Krumme lanke (2016)
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How to describe Beth Dillon ---Beth can stem from Bethany, meaning house of figs, and Beth itself can have
meaning as either house or
When writing a private thought, and then letting others read it, does it cease to be
private? Yesshhh
Or does it split into two Y/N
Dillon can stem from Welsh Dillyn, meaning handsome, gallant, brave and/or fine1.
[all true]
Do you keep a journal? YES
Is it private? ...
Yes or No —— [answered by Beth herself]
Beth is a woman of yes words.
Beth is no woman of sentences. Yes.
Beth is ----
Beth is a woman of no paragraphs
Yes, Beth is a woman of text
Beth is a woman of language ja si yep oui
Beth is a woman of form like emoticon
What is your favourite word? Ooft.
Please use in a sentence
Ooft, tough question.
Do you need words? Or do words need you? Yes. Very.
18 |
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Heavy Artillery
By Eleanor Zurowski
Polit-Sheer-Form Office, “Library”, 2008, shelves, books, 447 x 732
x 300 cm
20 |
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Along a small Chippendale alleyway, amongst
Sydney’s terraces, there is an utter disturbance of
expectation where traditional Greek statues form
Buddhist deities, ceramic tables appear wooden and
a life sized artillery tank is formed out of leather.
Heavy Artillery, White Rabbit Gallery’s new exhibition
curated by David Williams, is a conversation spanning
over three levels of China’s past, present and future.
Mao Zedong’s declaration in 1942 that artworks
must “operate as powerful weapons for uniting and
educating the people and for attacking and destroying
the enemy ”1, acts as the central inspiration for the
exhibition’s theme, as Williams selected works that
did just this, though not exactly in the way that Mao
had intended. Liu Wei’s work, Density 1-6 (2013)
presents a commentary on his own artistic education
through four sizeable geometrical shapes seemingly
made out of a concrete like material. In reality, the
forms are created from tightly packed textbooks,
weighing around 1.4 tons despite the shapes being
hollow. Through the pieces, Liu disrupts the role of
the textbook, as they become intelligible, presenting
only an aesthetic front. This is perhaps a commentary
on the censorship in China; how Mao in his time and
still today, literature and education has been carefully
curated in order to present a single image. As the
language becomes condensed, the artist represents this
form of ‘artillery’ as being under pressure, both in a
metaphorical and literal sense.
Despite the exhibition’s use of the word ‘artillery’, He
Xiangyu’s leather work, Tank Project (2011-13) is the
only ‘weapon’ in sight, as artists such as Polit SheerForm-Office an art collective from Beijing (members
including, Song Dong, Xiao Yu, Liu Jianhua, Hong Hao
and Leng Lin) meet the theme in a more figurative way.
Their work, Library (2008) is large structure centred
in the room, painted a bright almost cornflower blue,
the colour is one of a kind, crafted by the artists and
a shade ubiquitous in their works. Inside the cube like
structure the walls are lined with books, in that very
same shade of blue, unreadable and unable to be
borrowed. Here, the artists similarly to Liu have
1. Jefferson, Dee. “Heavy Artillery.” Time Out. N.p., 09 Mar. 2016. Web.
17 Mar. 2016. <http://www.au.timeout.com/sydney/art/events/44577/
No Sleep
Till Dreamtime
the artist
and BlackartprojectsInstallation
© Art Gallery of VU
New South Wales, 2014
2013, books,
weightsof Darcy
400 - 1490 kg
subverted Mao’s intentions, taking a library, a place
of education and making it unusable. The 8000 books
lining the shelves are completely blue and completely
blank, a somewhat ironic modern day version of
Mao’s Little Red Book, the only text with which the
artists grew up and which Mao used, weapon like, to
gain control. Power through the written word is further
found in the exhibition through Wang Lei’s Armour of
Triumph (2013) where the armour of emperor Kangxi
(ruled from 1661-1722) of the Qing Dynasty has been
carefully knitted out of newspaper. Wang’s choice to
transform the newspaper into a symbol of status, the
armour, indicates his viewing of the media and written
word as being a dominant force over the public, with
paper cutouts of news stories trailing at the feet of
the woven suit suggesting the long reaching effects of
these words. The materiality of newspaper is also of
note, as its lack of durability could perhaps represent
the idea of this omnipotence of the media as being
As the different works present a spectrum of ideas
on the concept of Heavy Artillery, throughout the
exhibition the boundaries of expectation and reality
become blurred and questions surrounding power
and control are raised. One thing that this exhibition
highlights for certain is that in the contemporary world,
art has become a weapon.
22 |
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Hell Broth curated by Astrid Lorange and Vaughan O’Connor at FirstDraft. Photo: Zan Wimberley
24 |
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Astrid Lorange is a Sydney based artist, curator, poet,
teacher, writer and profound ‘tweeter’. She is currently
involved with the collaborative writing program Bureau
of Writing for the 20th Biennale of Sydney The Future
is Already Here - It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed.
Recently Astrid co-curated Hell Broth with Vaughan
O’Connor at Firstdraft and is a current teacher at
UNSW Art & Design. Framework Editor Anna May
Kirk had a digital chat to Astrid Lorange about the
nuances of writing and reading.
Anna May Kirk: Reading and writing is not simply
an unproblematic transfer of knowledge, but an
embodied, affective practice. As Clare MacDonald
stated “writing is not simply about something, it is
something”. Could you extrapolate on this in terms of
your artistic practice?
Astrid Lorange: Yes! This idea of writing as not
merely, or not only, or even not at all, the transfer
or representation of that which already exists but the
production (occasioning is a word I like for its temporal
sense) of something new is very central to my practice.
I like to think of writing as an historical, social, material
practice that is productive of knowledge; this means
I’m interested in writing and reading as interrelated
and dependent but also different and differentiating
processes. I also think of writing as knowledge in
excess of its writer—in other words, while a writer is
responsible for what they write, they are also not in
possession of what is written, nor are they ever fully
able to account for the possibility of meaningfulness in
the writing.
Writing is of course embodied—a body writes, a
body reads, the public is a body and is constitutive
of bodies. But I like to also think of the strangeness
of writing, as of bodies. Writing is also a way of
perceiving the strangeness of one’s self to one’s self,
one’s body to one’s world, one’s language to the
scene of meaning. This is really important, I think,
because it emphasises not only that which can come to
be known through writing, but also that which remains
unknown and unknowable. As such, writing is also
about an ethics of alienation/alienness as well as an
ethics of encounter/togetherness.
In my own work I try to consider writing as something
that I take up only partially aware of what I am doing
while also being willing to be responsible for whatever
happens. I try to work out ways of engaging my
writing with the conditions in which it is possible; its
material and spatial contexts. I think of my practice as
a kind of expanded indexing, finding ways to register
the act of writing in relation to its emergence in a
particular moment or occasion.
AMK: This idea of writing as simultaneously, yet
independently method and form with consequences
that are subjective dependent on the reader/ writer
interrelationship is really interesting. Written forms
such as lists are produced by, and in turn produce
material effects. You explored the list in your recently
curated exhibition Hell Broth at FirstDraft. Could you
talk about your interest in lists?
AL: Lists have long interested me, as a textual form.
They bring things together in a relation which is both
intimate and arbitrary. The list implies proximity and
difference, togetherness and distinctness. And lists
have long been used as a literary device and as a
formal structure for a poem – an almost-incantation
of what is and what is means as a relation. I find that
lists often, once begun, take on a rhythm and intensity
on their own. Who hasn’t begun a list of things-to-do,
or a shopping list, and found themselves scrounging
for things to add, ways to keep composing. Lists also
betray internal logics and sub-groupings that are
sometimes to do with the one who has written the list,
and sometimes the result of chance or random order.
When Vaughan and I first talked about lists, he was
really interested in Umberto Eco’s historiographic
work to do with lists as they are found in cultural
artefacts like plays, novels, art works, inscriptions, and
so on. I was really interested in the way the so-called
object-oriented ontologists, a group of self-styled
philosophers, had begun to write these ecstatic lists in
their theory. I was far more interested in their poetic
compulsion than in what they were arguing; their
compulsive list-making became the signal aesthetic
gesture of an ontology trying to argue that literally
everything in the world is a species of objects and that
no philosophical difference can be found between this
or that phenomena. Our discussion of these readerly
interests became a discussion about the possibility
of engaging list-making in curatorial projects. Not
just finding works “about” or using lists, but thinking
about the very act of curating as a kind of conceptualmaterial listing. This meant choosing artists who
believed would work well, without thematic or formal
overlap necessarily, in a space in which our curatorial
effort would be to tune ourselves to the emergent and
contingent resonances and logics occasioned by the
works in the same space. Practically, this meant that
after we got the work into the space, we shifted and
wriggled it around – even adding two new pieces –
until we found the right order. This was an experiment,
to be sure, but it was a really interesting experience.
AMK: What do you envision one can achieve or learn
from reorientating the process of reading and writing?
AL: I think one can achieve and/or learn a huge
amount from reorienting reading and writing. Let’s
start with reading: reading and being conscious of
the process of reading can help us to understand, and
therefore challenge or change, the way that language
functions and the way that many language-based
things – law, the media, etc. – settle themselves into
meanings that act like natural facts. So reading is a
huge part of participating in and resisting against the
world in which one finds one’s self. Writing, which
is an extension of reading, is a way of exploring the
possibilities of language in the activity of making or
arranging new propositions, reflections, concepts and
images. I’m not one who thinks that there is nothing
outside of language; language is one thing in a very
complex world. But I do think that because language
is so social, indeed, because language describes and
regulates our social realities, reading and writing
(broad categories that include non-literary things, of
course!) are vital.
Hell Broth curated by Astrid Lorange and Vaughan O’Connor at FirstDraft. Photo: Zan Wimberley
26 |
into Art and text
in relation to
By Emma-Kate Wilson
Wilfredo Prieto’s “Untitled” (White Library)of Sotherby’s.
| 27
28 |
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A recent visit to the Museum of Old and New Art began a personal
investigation into art and text. The Museum hold three pieces that
stood out to me as being a pure form of text causing art, either with
its overwhelming repetition of words or devoid of any text at all.
Going to MONA without ‘O’1 on, a museum without wall text, you
are instead looking for your own interpretations of the art’s meaning
instead of relying on the curator or artists words. This lead me to think
about the use of text with effect to the art industry and the language
used to describe and summarise.
Our own language is something we don’t think about on a day to day
basis. Instead we rely on a personal bank of words collected in our
language memory through the cognitive psychology and cognitive
neuroscience parts of our brains; something that is developed as soon
as we start hearing words. A memory started organically from hearing
our mothers voice; evolving through babbling to words. However in
this fast paced digital world, do we rely on other people to develop
our language for us, from art reviews; bloggers; and social media?
bit.fall (2001-2006) by Julius Popp lets you create your own pieces
of text from singular words. Words are formed from water jets,
suspended from the celling, shooting water words into your eye line.
The words are generated at random from the internet and act as a
metaphor for the incessant flood of information we are exposed to.
Elizabeth Pearce draws on the fact that the work holds its powers
over the audience with “not words, but the textual expression of
experience.” By using a single word, you can become relatable to
every person. Each member of the audience can recall a personal
story inside their head, the continual repetition of words acting as their
news feed.
There is an innate irony as artists are creating works for an audience,
yet these works are to become documented with text and language at
the scrutiny of the critic. Trained or amateur the text that describes art,
for example in exhibition reviews or personal blogs, acts as activator
or barrier to understanding the work. Our own opinion can become
formed from a piece of text from someone completely independent
of our selves. A perfect example of this being John Mcdonald’s
review on the 20th Sydney Biennale idea to present the Embassies
with words to relate to the artworks. “When ideas can be presented
as a shopping list we are being fed too much information,” yet this
‘shopping list’ can introduce ideas to the average Biennale goer that
they may not have thought about2.
Encyclopedia (2005) from Charles Sandison plays on this point of
the single entity of a word. His art is a computer generated data
projection of words. This piece asks the meaning of simple one-word,
or “a bacterium of meaning. ” Displayed on the sandstone wall of the
inner depths of MONA, this piece of text is projected into a mass of
words to finally conclude as the artwork you see before you.
bit.fall 2001-2006 by Julius Popp
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Sandison’s website states “‘I’m a paragraph. Click here to add your
own text and edit me. It’s easy. Just click “Edit Text”… I’m a great
place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more
about you.” I realised this was part of an unfinished website, stock
standard words on a website template, but they fit to Sanidson’s
work: You’re invited to pull away words and put them into your own
piece of text.
A piece of text differs from a single painting and plays into effect
due to its duality rather than being a single entity. Creating pieces
of work to be formed within the audience’s mind, manipulating
and controlling another person’s thoughts for the time you have
them. Not unlike a piece of art sitting inbetween the gallery walls. I
personally like art that lets you reflect on life and our position within
it. A particular room at MONA really stood out to me. It allowed for
this personal contemplation by offering a room full of empty books,
just white pages.
‘Untitled’ by Wilfred Priesto is devoid of text. This absence acts as a
metaphor for what words and text can say or do, the power that a
book or a newspaper has over a person. To take this away makes
the viewer review what is left behind? Wilfredo Priesto has created
a buffer to the text and art investigation. The piece itself is offered
no title by its maker. Instead nicknamed ‘white library’ or ‘blank
library’ by David Walsh. These titles offer a description of the work
but Priesto’s submission of his own title: ‘ ’ says so much more. The
art work is an installation piece that has its own room in the museum.
The simple blonde wooden library holds completely blank books.
The covers have no words or pictures, the pages devoid of any text.
The authors bio left out, the introduction missing. The back of the
book looks like the front and reveals what will be inside. Nothing. By
removing the text, Priesto presents how important it is to us to define
everything with words through doing the opposite and taking words
away. Words can act as a buffer to oversimplify.
Art and text have its links throughout history, working together to
form opinions, commenting on society and culture. With words and
without them. I realised the importance of words at MONA and the
effect they can have on the viewers own interpretations of art works.
The investigation is ongoing and the more I look for the links in
exhibitions; in public art and in the library, I see they would struggle
without each other.
1. ‘O’ is the interactive headphone and iPhone device which give you the titles of the work and
the artist bio/descriptions of the works- including interviews with Walsh and the artists.
2. See John McDonald’s review on the 20th Sydney Biennale http://johnmcdonald.net.
3. A quote from David Walsh from The Story of ‘O’ published by MONA.
Charles Sandison, Escocia, 1969