Language Matters

11 February - 26 March 2000

Joanne Moar & Lucy Harvey, Becoming German, Pronunciation Exercise II 1998

Mary-Louise Browne
Terrence Handscomb
L.Budd et al
Colin McCahon
Joanne Moar & Lucy Harvey
Michael Parekowhai

Language Matters brought together six New Zealand artists who use language in their practice in varied forms and with diverse intentions. The exhibition acknowledged the pervasive presence of spoken and written language in contemporary New Zealand art.

While there are many New Zealand artists who employ and incorporate language in their work, the artists in Language Matters—Mary-Louise Browne, Terrence Handscomb, L.Budd et al, Colin McCahon, Joanne Moar and Lucy Harvey, and Michael Parekowhai—were selected as representative of a particular strand. These artists utilise language in the processes of re-defining art as a mode of inquiry rather than simply as a means of description or expression. Words are not incorporated solely as formal elements nor for their literal definitions or descriptions. Rather they are made material, as signs and sounds, provoking the viewer to ‘see’, ‘read’ or ‘hear’ their varied references and associations.

The artists represented in Language Matters share an attitude to art-making which relies on an understanding that language and sign systems (including the visual) are dependent on context and usage for their meaning, and are subject to rules that are culturally determined. With this idea in mind, their purpose is to question how meaning is generated for each viewer and to work in the difficult physical and mental space left after we acknowledge that there is nothing ‘outside’ language.

Curated by Christina Barton.

The exhibition catalogue, Language Matters, is available for purchase here