“The Rustle of Language”

Galleria Francesca Kaufmann

Taking its title, “The Rustle of Language,” from the collection of forty-five essays written by Roland Barthes between 1967 and 1980, this group show offered a study of the relationship between word and image in contemporary communication. By necessity, the works chosen showed tremendous variety. The exhibition began with two yellow polygons, painted on the wall next to a pair of plinths, also yellow, which in turn supported two monitors showing a loop of two different moments from a 1970 Carpenters concert in which Karen Carpenter performed the hit “Close to You.” The work in question, Candice Breitz’s Double Karen: Close to You, 1970–2000, is from Breitz’s 2000 series “Four Duets.” Arranged on the wall opposite the entrance were three drawings by Lily van der Stokker, one in acrylic on cardboard, one in marker and pen on paper, and one in acrylic on linen; made between 1989 and 1993, they present a series of dates, written by hand one after another in a seemingly endless calligraphy. This first room also included a work by Roman Ondák—a shelf supporting a pile of coins, Pocket Money of My Son, 2007—and photos by Christian Marclay from 2003–2004, depicting various urban signifiers ranging from a public telephone to bags of food in gaudy colors; a collage made by superimposing a landscape over a photographic portrait of a human face, John Stezaker’s Mask XVIII, 2006, and Housemeister, 2008; and a video by Yoshua Okon showing a suspicious figure with a grotesque face emerging from a little door in a white cube—each perhaps meant to signify how the word can also be only evoked, alluded to by gestures.

The second part of the show examined the juxtaposition of signs in greater depth. Fikret Atay’s video Theorists, 2009, depicted a prayer in motion, or rather the continuous hustle and bustle of the faithful gathered inside a mosque; Until It Makes Sense, 2004, by Mario Garcia Torres, consisted of the title’s words projected onto the wall; they seemed to float lightly in the space. In these rooms the overlapping of imaginary voices left no room for silence. Writing becomes painting, as in two 2009 works by Ricci Albenda that faced each other, one yellow, the other pink, with the titles pff and eek painted on the monochrome canvases. The very contiguity of the works generated a kind of babble, a rhythm in which phrase and gesture intertwined through the most widely varied expressive means and, once again, the resulting synesthetic mishmash left no room for silence. Even when the word disappears, as in the photo of an untouched ruled notebook by Anne Collier, Guilt (Page 107), 2008, it seems only to reappear, signified by the projected drawings of Dan Perjovschi, Diorama of the Venice Biennial, 2008, or by Stezaker’s collages of overlapping faces and views, 2006–2007; or to become fragmented, as in the individual letters and punctuation marks typed out in three works by Henri Chopin, all 1983, and finally intuited, through Collier’s Sylvia Plath, 2008—photos of the cover of a spoken-word LP.

Marco Tagliafierro

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.