SPEECH was conceived in response to concerns I have experienced when invited to make works in countries and situations that I am not familiar with…
How can the foreign artist make work for a context they have a superficial understanding of? Can an audience in the host country engage with the incoming artist without viewing him/her as either exotic, patronizingly didactic or irrelevant? Can artists from different cultures work with each other in ways that are not simplistic (based on understandings that are without the subtleties and complexities of lived experience) or homogenizing? If I acknowledge my lack of knowledge, can this be used as a starting point?
SPEECH addresses the (white) West's lingering historical image of itself as centre of cutting edge contemporary cultural production - a notion sometimes propped up by a vagueness of knowledge of other cultures. Other components are the English language's growing ascendancy (internet, world distribution of American film & TV programmes etc) coupled with the phenomenon that in general British people are famous for an inability to pick up other languages. This is an uncomfortable mix of power and ignorance.
SPEECH attempts to expose and critique this situation while working within the situation itself. It does not assume that both collaborators want the same thing from the performance.
In each country I develop and perform SPEECH in slow and careful collaboration with a different art worker. These can be artists, theorists, curators, critics, or writers – people with lived knowledge of contemporary art within their own culture. The collaborator is able to make me say whatever they want, though of course my physicality, voice, hesitant pronunciation etc will inevitably interact with their words. One of my collaborators has described SPEECH as a situation of mutual vulnerability. Because the collaborators have control of the content of the work, the performances are very different from each other. SPEECH generates a huge range of interpretations and questions in the audience and in myself too. The idea is to feed these questions back into the development of the work.
2007 Speech Kurdistan/Iraq
2007 Vashon/Speech Bangladesh
2006 Ræõa /Speech Iceland
2006 Ried/Speech Luxembourg
2005 Dibur/Speech Israel
2005 Araith/Speech Wales
2005 Parole/Speech France
2005 Shuo Hua/Speech China
2004 Przemówienie/Speech Poland
2003 Discurso/Speech Mexico
2002 Kõne/Speech Estonia
translating each other's words
In a series of performances across the globe, artist Clare Charnley has attempted to communicate speeches, written by local collaborators and utilising a diverse range of languages from Chinese to Estonian, none of which she understands.
This title collects works, many newly commissioned for the book, by an international selection of academics, visual artists, photographers and writers illuminating themes drawn from Charnley's perfromances, in essay, polemic, photography and short fiction.