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The Unspoken Word

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If we were to analyze dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something that is at the essence of dialogue itself : the word. This word is itself made up of two gestures – reflection and action. Both these constituents are in close relation with one another where if one fails the other suffers. A word in its best and most desirable state is a study of such reflection and action, and to speak such a word has the power to transform the world1. The Unspoken Word seeks to reflect upon this ‘word’ that Paolo Freire refers to and in that process invites artists and practitioners to reinterpret it and reconstruct a vocabulary that represents their truths and “naming” of the worlds.

Dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming – between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied to them. Those who have been denied their primordial right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing aggression.

Paolo Freire on Dialogue in Pedagogy of the Oppressed

The Unspoken Word is thus a haunting ghastly silence of erasure and invites us to reflect on three silent agent-citizens : First, one who is able and yet speaks no word, second, one who is unable ( denied agency or silenced forever) and therefore utters no word, and finally third, one who speaks often and yet is effectively silent or unheard. In addition to these agents and their silences is also the desired silence and unspokenness of contemplation and preparation. The pregnant deliberate silence of profound meditation as Freire continues being only “authentic if the mediator is ‘bathed’ in reality; (and) not when the retreat signifies contempt for the world and flight from if.” At the end of the silence however is a continued act of speaking and utterance. Such a ‘word’ is a practice and a study.

To speak an effective word requests a silent ‘present’ mind, in a certain state of meditative, empathetic and silent listening, an essential corporeal, visceral sensation that transcends the aural-cognitive relationship of intellectual comprehension.

The Unspoken Word is a potent stimulus but however requires to cross the qualitative threshold of the metaphorical “half­second”,2 in Massumi’s words “the present is lost, with the missing half-second, passing too quickly to be perceived, too quickly, actually to have happened:’ The exhibition a mere ‘word made up of words’ and a drop in an ocean of affect and super-articulation3 hoping at best at reflecting on Dialogue and through that on Praxis.

The Unspoken Word, the first edition in a series of curatorial forms is a call to collectively listen.

Participating Artists

Abdullah Al Othman

Diya Naidu
Leuli Eshraghi

Manu Ananth

  1. Paraphrasing Paolo Freire on Dialogue in Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  2. Brian Massumi The Autonomy of Affect.
  3. Amar Kanwar The Sovereign Forest. p61 as interviewed by Monika Halkort on super­articulation.

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