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Doing Language : Word Work presented by Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University

Bryan Castro, Riley Hooker, Joselia Rebekah Hughes, Malcolm Peacock, agustine zegers. Project co-organized by ICA Assistant Curator of Commerce and Publications, Egbert Vongmalaithong, and 2020 ICA Research Fellow, Nontsikelelo Mutiti.

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” —Toni Morrison

Doing Language : Word Work is a multi-part curatorial project commissioning five artists to generate new work in the form of editions and extended media. In collaboration with students and artist friends, the works consider how information gets encountered and distributed through modes of language—including the senses, speculative space, interior space, and performance. Inspired by Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize lecture, DL : WW frames language as a tool to help give shape and weight to the gestural, imperceivable, and fleeting experiences of our lives.

Artist editions
Limited edition handheld objects sold through The ICA Shop are intended to circulate beyond the museum space and to be shared with others.

Bryan Castro
Professor Castro’s Guide to Do Your Language (Edition of 26). This three-layer screenprint (22 ⅝” x 14 ¾”) looks through the lens of dysfluency while privileging silences, breath, and the interior space. The hand is visible in each screen print layer, implying gesture and performance. Through annotations, redactions, mantras, and directives, the artist prompts readers to respond with answers to “fill-in-the-blanks.”

Joselia Rebekah Hughes
Verbena’s Apothecary (Edition of 123). Each edition—a set of three pill bottles—includes a different combination of poems and prescriptions. Playing with words, experimenting with the book form, and referencing the pharmacy, Verbena’s Apothecary seeks to disrupt the conspicuousness of disability and ability.

agustine zegers
ind.must.y (Edition of 50). Ind.must.y—a 20ml perfume with notes of rubber, fennel, dampness, black tea, hydraulic oil, and plywood—reads the Institute for Contemporary Art as an odorant text, surveying ICA staff and patrons about scents related to the building. This research responds to notions of erasure in the white cube through HVAC and sterilization. What natural odors and intimate encounters are lost? And can we conjure the building and its space through olfactive memories described by its frequenters?

Extended media
Riley Hooker
nonorien(table) (multimedia installation). currently on view in the ICA basement. nonorien(table) studies the cycle and interrelations of body, site, language, and information through a science fictional realm. Video fragments, audio loops, and text act parasitically as interventions in space. In the bathroom, a looped meditation is narrated by the sentient microorganism. The basement of the ICA becomes the belly for this symbiotic web in parts.

Malcolm Peacock
With a practice in marathon running, Malcolm Peacock embodies and recites the words from Black Radical revolutionaries while running—a symbolic action, considering endorphin release, fugitivity, and breath. Peacock’s work also considers the trace of performance blurring beginning, end, and linearity. This research is ongoing.

Doing Language : Word Work is a project initiated by Nontsikelelo Mutiti, ICA Research Fellow 2020, and Egbert Vongmalaithong, ICA Assistant Curator of Commerce and Publications, and was developed from the undergraduate graphic design course Word Work / Doing Language (GDES 491) at VCUarts in Spring 2021.

Special thanks to VCUarts students Archerd Aparejo, Caroline Barry, Maxine Bell, Velvet Cherry Canfield, Andy Caress, Angelica Credle, Theo Haggins, HH Hiaasen, Erin Jhi, Alex Miranda, Xinyu Na, Nicole Orsolini, Isabelle Roque, Samuel Schneider, Sydni Stearns, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lila Washa, and Allie Watts and our collaborators Dennis Williams (performer), Nina Carelli (special fx makeup), Ziur (sound design), and Steven Harwick (blue screen videography).

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
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