March 29 – April 17, 2013




Nikolaus Gansterer, Sarah Elliott, Kevin Clancy, Beyza Boyacioglu, Jose Andres Mora, Patricia Reed

Curated by
Yulia Startsev

•Keep Taking it Apart•



»Keep Taking it Apart« is an exhibition of works by six artists investigating language and its errors through dictation, hijacking, and dialogue. These three axes are formed as responses to various compromises made in conversation, translation, and repetition – processes which are prone to errors, yet invariably inform the production of meaning. However, the study of how miscommunication functions as a semantically significant aspect of language is absent from many linguistic theories, or is treated as an artifact of the language’s inherent limitations.

Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) developed a theory of language which took the utterance as the basis of language instead of the word. In his analysis of works by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), the acting signifiers within the text were not in the words the characters were made to speak, but in the coexistence of, and conflict between, different types of speech between the characters, narrators, and author[1]. Bakhtin referred to this as heteroglossia, or other-tongue, and emphasized that this could be applied beyond the literary, that implications of heteroglossia and the utterance could be found in banal daily conversation. His model is borrowed from the behavior of pidgin and creole languages, wherein two (or more) languages are hybridized[2].

Errors and mistranslations in such contexts as pidgin languages, rather than being artifacts of language, become the generating aspect of some forms of meaning. The analysis of meaning produced within dialogue, in which error and mistranslation play a crucial role, requires that a much larger context (including gesture, intonation, and situation) is taken into account rather than relying on the definitions of the words that compose a sentence. With every new layer of language and (mis)understanding, what has been said in the past and what will be said in the future is in tension with the present linguistic play.

The works of Beyza Boyacioglu (*1985), Kevin Clancy (*1987), Jose Andres Mora (*1969), Sarah Elliott (*1986), Nikolaus Gansterer (*1974) and Patricia Reed (*1977) play with and manipulate different linguistic and signifying systems in an attempt to make clear some meaning that is perpetually misunderstood and reinvented. The relationship between the works might be imagined as a Cartesian axis whose abscissa (x), ordinate (y) and applicate (z) may be used as a basis on which to map dictation, hijacking, and dialogue, respectively. Each axis is populated by a pair of artists who chart a conflicting narrative in relation to one another.

Fig A. »Dictation«

In her two-channel video installation In a Manner of Speaking (2012), Beyza Boyacioglu attempts to dictate the precise position and quality of movements of a pre-recorded gesture to an actress. On a large screen, a two-channel loop juxtaposes the same actress eating an apple in real time, and the stop motion re-enactment of the same action of eating the apple, side by side. As the actress shudders and jerks through one half of the diptych and gracefully shifts another, a second monitor in the corner reveals the live production of the stop-motion video. Much like a magician revealing the hidden rabbit in the hat, Boyacioglu lays her method bare by quietly remarking: »No, move the lemon a little to the left... to the right... A little higher... Can you drop your elbow a little? No... no... Okay, that’s perfect.« The gesture of eating takes place at the same location of the body as Boyacioglu’s dictation – her mouth – but the direction is inverted. The work focuses on its own failure of re-production. This is paired with Kevin Clancy’s Babel (2011), a hybrid instrument built from a piano electronically wired to a typewriter. Babel similarly uses the body as a location for speech, this time taking place in the hands. An inversion takes place here as well: As text is typed, the piano plays corresponding notes. The mistranslated mapping of fingers searching for words on a QWERTY keyboard to the keys of a piano echoes Schönberg’s Twelve-tone technique of evenly distributed tones, however in a random and haphazard way. The translation occurs not in echoing the semantic meaning of the words intended, but in displacing the gestures used to express them on another tool – linking the potential acoustics produced by text to those produced by strings as products of the fingers.

Fig. B »Hijacking Tongues«

Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin defined heteroglossia as »another’s speech in another’s language, serving to express authorial intentions but in a refracted way.«[3] Jose Andres Mora’s Interlocution (2012) features interviews with eight individuals whose manner of speech has influenced the artist’s own patterns of articulation. The video places the audience in the position of the interviewer, whose absent voice prompts the interviewees to answer banal questions on topics ranging from philosophical musings to how to properly prepare kale. They answer, however, with a voice that at times clearly does not belong to their body but closely emulates their inflections and intonation. The emphasis of the accent, the way in which words are pronounced, acts as a meaningful gesture. Sarah Elliott’s three-channel video installation Notes for a Forthcoming Detective Novel (2013) depicts the artist’s attempt to substitute her own voice with the voice of another artist, Laure Prouvoust (*1978) – a self-hijacking. A three-channel video installation presents a brief, textually based sketch read aloud by Elliott about three undefined characters whose relationship to the author, reader, or to each other is never fully formalized. The three screens carry a restrained black glare that occasionally flashes an image, a shaky video of the artist performing, or a word – obliquely echoing the function of subtitles in Prouvoust’s work which supplement the uniqueness of the voice. Elliott’s recitation fluctuates from a grotesque exaggeration to a close resemblance of Prouvoust’s accent, and back to Elliott’s own American English throughout the performance.

Fig. C »Dialogues«

In his project Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), Nikolaus Gansterer collected three years of correspondence with writers and philosophers in which he exchanged ambiguous diagrams for textual interpretations. The written responses range from long, elaborate texts to short poems, occasionally supplemented with the diagrams directly. The book became the basis for a performance by Nikolaus Gansterer and Emma Cocker. Together, they pulled moments and gestures from the book as a point of departure for a two-person live video performance in which Cocker would read and Gansterer would draw. Both this performance and the book itself require that, as one reads, the gaze must shift according to the page. One must look at the philosophical texts in the same way that one examines diagrams. Much like the book, the overall exhibition is marked by a strange silence, with all of the sound in the works whispering out of headphones. Likewise, silence surrounds The Two (2013), a sculptural work by Patricia Reed. Two loudspeakers are held in an embrace, silent but in constant tension. The exchange exists here not of words but of silence, and of the potential of non-speech. Yet to speak would be too loud. If the loudspeakers actually came into use, they would quickly pull apart. Dialogue here functions as an exchange of silence, abstaining from speech.


[1] Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Problematics of Dostoevskys Poetics, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1984. Print.

[2] Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogical Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holoquist, Austin: University of Texas Press 1981. Print. pp. 381

[3]  Bakhtin, Mikhail.The Dialogical Imagination: Four Essays Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holoquist, Austin: University of Texas Press 1981. Print. pp. 324


Nikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation viewNikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation viewSarah Elliott, Notes for a Forthcoming Detective Novel (2013), three-channel video installationPatricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpturePatricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpture
Nikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation view

Nikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation view

Nikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation view

Nikolaus Gansterer, Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (2011), installation view

Sarah Elliott, Notes for a Forthcoming Detective Novel (2013), three-channel video installation

Sarah Elliott, Notes for a Forthcoming Detective Novel (2013), three-channel video installation

Patricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpture

Patricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpture

Patricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpture

Patricia Reed, The Two (2013), sculpture