Het is of de stenen spreken (silence is a commons)

Four solo shows of the distinguished artistic practices and languages by Babi Badalov, Ansuya Blom, Ama Josephine Budge, and Mire Lee.

14 September–3 November 2019

The Autumn 2019 exhibition program at Casco Art Institute presents Het is of de stenen spreken (silence is a commons), featuring four solo shows of the distinguished artistic practices and languages by Babi Badalov, Ansuya Blom, Ama Josephine Budge, and Mire Lee. Each artist presents forms of communication that transgress the norms and habits shaped by power and capital-driven media.

Misunderstanding, incommunicability, and distressing language are some of the most frequently encountered obstacles in collaboration and sharing practices, even among affinity and coalition groups. These cracks and rough stones are the study of our Autumn 2019 exhibition program: the four artists offer insight into expressive ways to communicate when verging on failure to do so. Their works take up the possibilities and limitations of language, as a departure point or reconciliation, in performative and material ways. The result is an affective resource of new vocabularies, syntax, and stories that break the tensions around ideas of simple understanding.

Babi Badalov offers us a jumble of words fetched and twisted across mother tongues drawn on second hand t-shirts, papers, or walls. “Immigration becomes yougration becomes hegration.” We can follow the words that crawl away from correctness to celebrate and harness mistakes as the source for new images, words, and meanings, while creating the heterogeneous cultural landscapes in which artists live and travel through.

Ansuya Blom invites us to sense a dreamworld or a dark corner of the mind through her delicately rendered paintings, drawings, collages, sculpture, and films. Revealed vital organs in a series of paintings refer to the consequences of putting words to what you cannot describe yet what’s happening irresistibly on your “insides.” The partially concealed interior scenes of psychiatry clinics on collages draw a hazy line between confusion and clarity.

In her speculative fiction, Ama Josephine Budge pictures landscapes whereby enhanced, human-hybrid and often queer protagonists have adapted to the melting, polluted planet. War-torn and dry catastrophic sceneries are depicted in which inhabitants, like the flora and fauna, not only remain resilient but are pronounced with ecstatic feeling in their every movement and detail. Words decree that the only future possible is one of queer Black joy and multispecies justice.

We see objects reluctantly moving in Mire Lee’s sculptural work. They look like human bodies or mobs, abandoned and struggling to move, and express their abject existence in spite of themselves. They counter the worlds of words, inviting them to face their hypocrisy: plastic tubes adhered to a small motor slap like the habitual eloquence of speech, slowly moving and getting stuck in the glistening wetness of glycerin.

In the Netherlands, one cannot turn a corner without encountering Dutch spreekwoorden en gezegden (proverbs and sayings), pithy expressions stating wisdom to be true by the majority. The exhibition title, Het is of de stenen spreken, is borrowed from a less common expression that refers to unexpected information that surfaces as if by miracle. “Silence is a commons,” the title of an inspiring address on contemporary communication given by philosopher Ivan Illich in 1982 (available online), is included in the exhibition title not in direct translation of Het is of de stenen spreken but to complement it. Nearly 40 years ago, Illich talked about how, like other commons, the commons of language has increasingly become enclosed and made vulnerable by machine-based communication. Fast-forward to now, and our current moment shows how information is manipulated for political gain – take for example hate speech, fake news, and algorithms – translated yet dulled by the dominance of English, and standardized but stumbling or indifferent to culturally situated knowledges, notwithstanding the nonhuman languages that other species may speak. (silence is a commons) is to offer a context in which we try to communicate with this exhibition.

While considering a number of the study lines at Casco Art Institute, the exhibition program is conceived around Language & Dissemination, which is one of several study lines on art and the commons.


Casco Art Institute team
Binna Choi, director
Yolande van der Heide, deputy director
Staci Bu Shea, curator
Marianna Takou, producer
Erik Uitenbogaard, head of diverse economies
Rosa Paardenkooper, curator of language and dissemination
Juliana Orrego, intern (July – November 2019)
Sophie de Serrière, intern (April – June 2019)

Extended team
Michael Klinkenberg, Jochem van Grieken, Tim van Elferen, Sacha Dalhuijsen, construction
Clementine Edwards, English language editing
Loes van Beuningen, English – Dutch translation
David Bennewith (colophon.info), visual identity
Dongbin Han, visual identity support
Martha Stroo, photography
Amy Pekal, Agustin Faundez, Asja Novak, Ego Okoro, Rowena Buur, Charli Herrington, Gordon Williams volunteers
Faisol Iskander, cleaning
De Kopijwinkel, printing
Raddraaijer, invitation printing
Bosman Letters, vinyl

Exhibition assistance
Amy Pekal, Agustin Faundez, Asja Novak, exhibition assistants
Nisrine Chaer, Arabic translation installation Ama Josephine Budge
Robin Rutenberg, audio engineer installation Ama Josephine Budge
Albertina Sybila, Shibari consultation installation Ama Josephine Budge
Stichting Tafelboom, tree stump donation installation Ama Josephine Budge
Raphaël Verhoeven, tailor installation Ama Josephine Budge
Kanithat Tith, sculptural fleshes installation Mire Lee
Benga (Sasha’s dog), support

Casco Coffee and Communication
Juliana Orrega, project lead
Merel Zwarts, (Not) Lost in Translation, with Kimiya, Nariman, Maram, Shanaaz, Rabieah, Sheima & Sulafa and others at De Voorkamer, originally developed in late 2018
Babi Badalov, CCC Signage
BAK basis voor actuele kunst, De Voorkamer, Le Guess Who? partner

Common Air
Luke Cohlen, Irene Cassarini, Max Casey, collaborators
Stranded FM, partner

Birgit Kaiser, Kathrin Thiele, collaborators
Mari Pitänen, vegan chef
Terra Critica, partner

Financial support
Gemeente Utrecht
Stichting DOEN via Arts Collaboratory
Foundation for Arts Initiative
Mondriaan Fonds

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