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Exhibition, A Language Under My Skin

A Language Under My Skin

“I am both a stranger and a native to the same land, to the same mother tongue. This century told us too many times to stay alone, to cut all ties, never to look back, to go and conquer the moon: and this is what I did. This is what I do.” – Etel Adnan

We are born into worlds, environments, and circumstances that are outside of our control—we are born into language. The language(s) we speak impact how we think about, and interact with, our environments. They influence our thought processes, our feelings, how we think about time and space. Questions surrounding language not only touch on linguistics, but they have engaged philosophers, lawyers, religious scholars, cognitive scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, and many others.

So how are we shaped by language? Are languages merely tools for expressing our thoughts, or do they actually shape them? In this solo exhibition, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji explores the complexities inherent in these questions. Encompassed in the animations, large scale drawings, and murals that make up this exhibition, are the questions of what makes a language. Is it the words themselves? Or the images of the words? Is it the alphabet or the sounds of the words or even the physical gestures of expression? Everything together is what shapes and forms a ‘language’. As a storyteller, Alfraji is trying to bring forth one of the faces of language.

A Language Under My Skin features all new work from Alfraji, including an animated film, graffiti murals, and large-scale drawings that transform the exhibition space. Sadik’s drawings and animations echo the notions of the body as a language, a manuscript, a carrier of languages, shapes, meaning. The works in the show give form to, and entangle, the multiplicity of parts that shape language—from the alphabet books we use as children to link sounds with symbols to the complex metaphors and idioms that often resist translation.

The exhibition will also encompass a public program of workshops, film screenings, and talks that will expand on, and provide new points of contact with, the exhibition and its conceptual, narrative, and philosophical underpinnings.

Photography by Pieter Kers.

Curatorial text (pdf)