Alphabetum IX
L’écriture avant la lettre
David Antin, Walter Benjamin, Joseph Beuys, Hildegard van Bingen, John Cage, Uta Eisenreich, Octavian Esanu, Res Feber, Ryan Gander, Kenneth Goldsmith, Gary Hill, Victorie Hanna, Nicoline van Harskamp, Toine Horvers, Tehching Hsieh, Hedwig Houben, Emily Kocken, Günter Gerhard Lange, Jude Lombardi, Stephane Mallarmé, Shigeru Matsui, Tine Melzer, Yoko Ono, Annetta Pedretti, The Rodina, Hannah Weiner, Edgar Walthert, Brigitte Willberg and Unica Zürn.
09.10.2021 — 09.01.2022
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Image: Walter Benjamin ‘Mondrian ’63-’95’ lecture, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana 1986. Photography by Goran Đorđević.
Alphabetum IX
L’écriture avant la lettre

With works by David Antin, Walter Benjamin, Joseph Beuys, Hildegard van Bingen, John Cage, Uta Eisenreich, Octavian Esanu, Res Feber, Ryan Gander, Kenneth Goldsmith, Gary Hill, Victorie Hanna, Nicoline van Harskamp, Toine Horvers, Tehching Hsieh, Hedwig Houben, Emily Kocken, James Langdon, Günter Gerhard Lange, Jude Lombardi, Stephane Mallarmé, Shigeru Matsui, Tine Melzer, Yoko Ono, Annetta Pedretti, The Rodina, Hannah Weiner, Edgar Walthert, Brigitte Willberg and Unica Zürn.


Exhibition
09.10.2021 till 09.01.2022
Opening
09.01.2022, 19:00
Location
West in the former American embassy, Lange Voorhout 102

In the 11th century, the German writer, composer and mystic Hildegard van Bingen (1098 – 1179), created the Lingua Ignota (unknown language), consisting out of a 1000 word strong vocabulary, which is meanwhile regarded as the first personal constructed language ever. It also included its own writing system, the Litterae Ignotae.

800 years later, the French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé (1842 — 1898), created his immensely complex lifework Le Livre. A collection of over 200 pages of notes, about a book, supposed to be distributed as loose sheets and which had to be performed in public. Twice.

80 years later, the American poet, critic and performance artist David Antin (1932 — 2016), started to perform extemporaneously, improvised performances at readings and exhibitions, which he called talk poems. Meanwhile, those talk poems are regarded as one of the most crucial contributions, to a new artistic genre known as ‘Performance Lectures‘: public performances, where different media and representations are deployed, to create an engaging narrative.

With the exhibition L’écriture avant la lettre, the Alphabetum wants to investigate the underlying structure of language. What is written and spoken language truly referring to? Is it really pointing towards pure ideas, as explained by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure? Or is there a deeper invisible structure of traces, as outlined by the french philosopher Jacques Derrida in his infamous book De la grammatologie.

L’écriture avant la lettre presents 26 forms of ‘Performance Lectures’, whereby the interplay of spoken, written and performed language is an important element. It presents different kind of works like LP’s, photography, texts, publications, installations and videos from national and international participants. With L’écriture avant la lettre, the Alphabetum* aspires a trans-disciplinary approach. It is presenting unknown works by well recognised makers like Walter Benjamin’s lecture about Piet Mondrian, works by people which have never or hardly be presented in art context before, like the english artist and activist Annett Pedretti and her concept of the cybernetics of language and autopoesi. But also contemporary artists, working and living in the Netherlands and abroad, like Uta Eisenreich, Octavian Esanu, Res Feber, Ryan Gander, Kenneth Goldsmith, Gary Hill, Victorie Hanna, Nicoline van Harskamp, Toine Horvers, Tehching Hsieh, Hedwig Houben, Emily Kocken, Shigeru Matsui, Tine Melzer, Yoko Ono, Annetta Pedretti, The Rodina and Edgar Walthert.

West would like to kindly thank you Walgenbach Art & Books, Fucking Good Art, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, LI-MA Amsterdam, New Documents Los Angeles, Juxta Press Milano and Charles Bernstein for their support. Hannah Weiner on Public Access Poetry is used by permission of Charles Bernstein for Hannah Weiner in Trust.



*
The Alphabetum is an artistic space to explore the formative and formal aspects of language. These aspects are mostly considered separate. Typographers and type-designers are primarily focused on the letterform and writers mostly do not pay attention to the forms of the letters they form into words. The ambition of the Alphabetum is to reveal that these two properties of written language are much more interlinked than is commonly acknowledged. A letter is a letter because it resembles a letter; and because it resembles a letter it is a letter.

The Alphabetum, inaugurated on the 16th of February 2019 with the exhibition Roussel/Brisset/Duchamp, Engineers Of The Infra-Thin, and is part of the regular program of the West Den Haag.