Vienna

Thomas Locher, Lumpenalphabet (Z), 2019, silk screen on acrylic glass, 18 7⁄8 × 18 7⁄8 × 2". From the series “Lumpenalphabet,” 2019.

Thomas Locher, Lumpenalphabet (Z), 2019, silk screen on acrylic glass, 18 7⁄8 × 18 7⁄8 × 2". From the series “Lumpenalphabet,” 2019.

Thomas Locher and Willem de Rooij

Georg Kargl Fine Arts

In David Mitchell’s 2010 novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, the protagonist, a young Dutch East India Company clerk stationed in Japan in the late eighteenth century, surprises the court of the magistrate of Nagasaki by speaking Japanese, which he has been learning in secret. No one has ever heard a foreigner speak Japanese, and afterward, one of the stunned advisers mocks the Dutchman’s accent for sounding “like a crow’s,” whereupon the magistrate chides his subordinate by asking if he speaks Dutch “like a nightingale.” This scene encapsulates the dual character of language. On the one hand, it is a system to be studied and acquired through hard work, the domain of linguistics. On the other hand, this rational system can be beautiful, mysterious, and startling; it is lyrical like birdsong. A comparable synthesis of intellectual rigor and poetic sensibility permeated Thomas Locher

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