When language seeks its other: an exhibition in Geneva explores the links between writing and art

At CAC, an exhibition focuses on the relationship between writing and the visual arts, between word and image, analysing the common fields of drawing and writing.

Bruno Munari, Scritture illeggibili di un popolo sconosciuto sn, 1975, Tecnica mista su carta a modulo continuo, 30,5 × 41,5 cm, Courtesy Repetto Gallery, Londra Foto Daniele De Lonti

On 29 January, at CAC - Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, ninety-two artists and their works will inhabit a special terrain vague in which the act of writing is more about potentialities of meaning than about signification.

Gianfranco Baruchello, Tomaso Binga, Irma Blank, Nick Blinko, Alighiero Boetti, and Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, among the others, will be demonstrating that “Scrivere Disegnando. When Language Seeks Its Other” is not ultimately an exhibition about writing but it’s rather an exhibition about its hidden aspects and aesthetics.

As the very first collaborative project between the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, 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.

What these very different individuals have in common is the desire to capture an “elsewhere” within writing, to move past the semantic dimension and freely mine the innovative and imagina­tive resources of language. 

The use of the written word (with or without images and figures) was a recurrent practice throughout the 20th century and continues up to the present. Several exhibitions have explored individual aspects of this enormous body of work. The first that leaps to mind is “Poésure et Peintrie,” which opened in Marseille in 1993 and remains perhaps the most complete survey to date of the relationship between word and painting over the course of the last century. That exhibition and its catalogue covered a broad spectrum of literary and artistic experiments: Mallarmé’s Coup de dés and Apollinaire’s calligrams, Futurist “words in freedom” and Dada experimentation, Raoul Hausmann’s phonemes and Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate, André Breton’s poem-objects and Christian Dotremont’s logograms, concrete poetry and its later outgrowth, visual poetry.

Maria Lai, Untitled (livre cousu minuscule), 1979, Tessuto e cuciture, 7 × 6 cm, Courtesy Collezione Giuseppe Garrera, Roma, Foto Giorgio Benni
Maria Lai, Untitled (minuscule stitched book), 1979, Fabric and stitching, 7 × 6 cm, Courtesy Collezione Giuseppe Garrera, Rome, Photo Giorgio Benni

As one of the curators, Andrea Bellini, affirms: “Without claiming to be exhaustive, this exhibition examines a broad array of experiments that fit into this universe. It includes figures from the historical context of so-called outsider art, and alongside them — without any hierarchy — are various members of neo-avant-garde movements. Individuals who were active around the end of the 19th century, like Hélène Smith, are juxtaposed with very young artists currently bent on exploring the question of the sign, of asemic writing, and of glossolalia, not only through works on paper but through moving images, algorithms, and computer screens as well. The writing practices presented here obey no geographic, cultural, linguistic, or religious boundaries, because they reflect a fundamental pattern of human behaviour found at every latitude and in every era. Alongside figures active in Europe, the exhibition features work from other continents: Africa, Asia, and the Americas.”

Scrivere Disegnando. When Language Seeks Its Other
Opening Dates:
From January 29 to May 3, 2020
Curated by:
Andrea Bellini and Sarah Lombardi
Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève
Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, 1205 Genève, Switzerland

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