Curated by Irene Calderoni and Bernardo Follini
Opening 24 June 2021, 6.30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
“Burning Speech” is the group exhibition part of the first season of VERSO, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s programme, which was conceived and produced in collaboration with the Assessorato alle Politiche Giovanili della Regione Piemonte, within the scope of the Fondo nazionale per le politiche giovanili.
The exhibition explores the power of language, its capability to act on reality, and its function of establishing communities and political debates. Stemming from speech act theory by philosopher J. L. Austin, which states that saying something equates to producing a real effect in the world, “Burning Speech” investigates language as a tool for establishing subjectivities and a collective body. The exhibition addresses the concept of performativity and the performative aspect of the speech, the emancipatory and aggregative value of the word and its critical implications, drawing inspiration for the title from the essay “Burning Acts: Injurious Speech” (1995) by the philosopher and activist Judith Butler. Language is revealed as an incandescent matter, a burning element that needs to be treated responsibly, as it entertains with our bodies a constant relation of representation and production: a self-affirming tool, capable of defining its own identity and post-identity horizon, but also a violent conveyor of discrimination and incitement to hatred.
“Burning Speech” is articulated within a system composed of different voices, an evocation of political and student assemblies, in which individual speeches alternate with collective discussions and stances. The exhibition questions different perspectives by examining the postures and configurations words can assume in our contemporary landscape: The language of protests, seen as a self-determining field joining together private and communal, able to generate porous community identities and rights; The assembly as an architecture of discourse and gestures, a field for sparking civic and political debates, where conflict can be addressed by playing by democratic rules; The poetry and rhythm of words as a generative agent for a new awareness, removed from production’s economic grids; The performativity which is required in educational and work environments as a modality for attaining objectives, as well as its standardized communicative lexicon, aimed at efficiency and efficacy; The algorithm as a new language, capable of building interest and opinions on social platforms, paired with the current complexity of regulating it in regard to its social, political and privacy implications.
Language is a socio-political device able to shape opinions and conditions in the society we experience as our own community. Speech, or the space of discourse, represents a performative dimension that can’t be neutral, a space where are continually negotiated the conditions of inclusion and exclusion, and where it is possible to inscribe new communal anti-discrimination policies.
Artists: Ruth Beraha, Anouk Chambaz, Claire Fontaine, Antonio Della Guardia, Simon Denny, Beatrice Gibson, Sharon Hayes, Adelita Husni-Bey, Bouchra Khalili, Barbara Kruger, Liz Magic Laser, Hanne Lippard, Eva Marisaldi, Slavs and Tatars, Cerith Wyn Evans.
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