Quand la langue cherche son autre

curated by Andrea Bellini and
Sarah Lombardi

Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève

Jan 29 – 3 May, 2020

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Press Release

Scrivere Disegnando (Writing by Drawing) is an exhibition about writing and its shadow side. Its aim is to look back over a number of practices, from the early twentieth century to the present day, in which writing leaves the function of communication behind and moves toward the sphere of the illegible and unspeakable. It sets out to explore the tension inherent in script, the way that it hovers between the genuinely semantic realm and the uncharted territory of mere arabesques, automatisms, repeated marks and scribbles.

All of the works on view inhabit a special terrain vague in which the act of writing is more about “trying to say” than “saying” itself, more about potentialities of meaning than about signification, to paraphrase Giorgio Agamben. It is writing that has transcended communication, becoming a trace of existence and affirmation of self, but also an element of fancy, a metaphor for the mysterious weft of the world. Our investigation centers on this ancient human impulse to move past the communicative side of writing, toward the unfettered, absolute reclamation of the mark, with its wealth of imaginative possibilities.

As the very first collaborative project between the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and a contemporary art institution, this exhibition brings together a diverse range of personalities: from “outsider” artists, some of whom carried out their work while institutionalized, all the way to “official” artists, some of whom played key roles in twentieth-century avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements.

Another aspect that the exhibition highlights is the indissoluble link between writing and power—between language and gender. In this sense the project also represents an exploration of the status of women’s voices over the last century. Since the early 1900s, many women have used compulsive, often illegible handwriting to express an existential need for personal affirmation, often in response to a patriarchal world that preferred them to be politically invisible and socially voiceless. The moment of writing becomes a moment of life, a private act, a sign of existence, and tool of self-knowledge—but also an instrument of rebellion and artistic expression.

This ambitious project includes works commissioned for the occasion from artists who have focused for some time on constructing their own “private languages.” Placed throughout the exhibition are showcases presenting an impressive selection of books and documents which allow visitors to examine the question of personal languages, secret alphabets, and indecipherable codes in relation to the history of literature.

with works by
Douglas Abdell, Vincenzo Accame, Rosaire Appel, Tchello d’Barros, Gianfranco Baruchello, Tomaso Binga, Irma Blank, Nick Blinko, Alighiero Boetti, Marcia Brauer, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Elijah Burgher, Axel Calatayud, Gaston Chaissac, Laura Cingolani, Guy de Cointet, Aloïse Corbaz, Dadamaino, Betty Danon, Hanne Darboven, Michel Dave, Michael Dean, Mirtha Dermisache, Emmanuel Derriennic, Jean Dubuffet, Giordano Falzoni, León Ferrari, Chiara Fumai, Pepe Gaitán, Jill Galliéni, Ryan Gander, Anne-Marie Gbindoun, Marco Giovenale, Rafael González, Giorgio Griffa, Mariangela Guatteri, Gustav, Elisabetta Gut, Brion Gysin, Ana Hatherly, Emma Hauck, Takanori Herai, Joseph Heuer, Susan Hiller, Steffani Jemison, Carlo Keshishian, Annalies Klophaus, Maria Lai, Fabio Lapiana, Jürg Lehni, Dwight Mackintosh, Kunizo Matsumoto, Viviane Van Melkebeeke, Reinhold Metz, Henri Michaux, Miriam Midley, Bruno Munari, J.B. Murray, Gastone Novelli, Palanc, Giulio Paolini, Luca Maria Patella, Enzo Patti, Jean Perdrizet, Nathalie Perrin, Laure Pigeon, Renata Prunas, Justine Python, Svetlana Rabey, Carmen Racovitza, Judit Reigl, Jane Ruffié, Valeri Scherstjanoi, Salome Schmuki, Greta Schödl, Luigi Serafini, Jeremy Shaw, Hélène Smith, Ivana Spinelli, Martina Stella, Lina Stern, Laurence Sterne, Barbara Suckfüll, Jenna Sutela, Cecil Touchon, Louise Tournay, Jeanne Tripier, Pascal Vonlanthen, August Walla, Robert Walser, Galaxia Wang, Melvin Way, and Adolf Wölfli.

Installation view at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève 
Steffani Jemison 
Installation view at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève 
Galaxia Wang, Courtesy the artist.  
Bruno Munari, Courtesy Repetto Gallery, London Photo by Daniele De Lonti  

© Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève.
Photo by Mathilda Olmi

Featured image
Jenna Sutela, Courtesy of the artist

LAYR, Vienna
High Art, Paris
Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
Lafayette Anticipations, Paris
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris