Doing Language : Word Work

Doing Language : Word Work

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University

Riley Hooker, nonorien(table), 2022. Multimedia installation. Photo: Keshia Eugene.

June 1, 2022
Doing Language : Word Work
December 10, 2021–June 19, 2022
Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
601 W Broad St
23220 Richmond VA
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm,
Friday 10am–9pm
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“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 multipart curatorial project commissioning five artists to generate new work in the form of editions and extended media. Made 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.

“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” 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).

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’s Professor Castro’s Guide to Do Your Language is a three-layer screenprint that looks through the lens of dysfluency while privileging silences, breath, and the interior space. The hand is visible in each screenprint layer, implying gesture and performance. Through annotations, redactions, mantras, and directives, the artist prompts readers to respond with answers to “fill-in-the-blanks.”

Each edition of Joselia Rebekah Hughes’s Verbena’s Apothecary—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’s 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’s multimedia installation nonorien(table), on view in the ICA basement, 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.

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.

Participating Artists

Bryan Castro
Riley Hooker
Joselia Rebekah Hughes
Malcolm Peacock
agustine zegers

The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University presents the art of our time and provides an open forum for dialogue and collaboration across the region and throughout the world. Opened on April 21, 2018, the ICA is a non-collecting institution that showcases an ever-changing slate of exhibitions, performances, films, and special programs that translate our world into every medium. Admission is free and open to all. Located at the corner of Belvidere and Broad streets on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus in Richmond, Virginia, the LEED-Gold certified building, the Markel Center, was designed by Steven Holl.

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Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
June 1, 2022

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