Cosmic Words

Joana Escoval, Karlos Gil, Natalie Häusler, Sophie Jung, Meggy Rustamova, Florian Zeyfang


‘‘I want the irrational to be continuously overdetermined, like the structure of coral; it must combine into one single system everything that until now has been systematically excluded by a mode of reason that is still incomplete’’.
[Roger Caillois, letter of 27 December 1934 to André Breton, in Claudine Frank, ed. The Edge of Surrealism: A Roger Caillois Reader (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 84-86]

Standing against prevailing sociocultural acceptances that see language as an arena of texts, ideology, narratives, codes and metaphors, “Cosmic Words” is a group exhibition that traces the movements and interplays between matter and language. Whilst the common use of language designates an intention to communicate, it is ultimately a free, physical signifier in itself, that could serve as bridge towards an understanding of the natural world built upon the basis of physical forces, flows and material exchanges.

Inspired by Roger Caillois’ The writing of stones, the exhibition considers how meaning arises in the vortex of biological processes, energy flows, social dynamics and physical interactions and whether humans can tell about the axiomatics that bind these indivisible forces together.

In his book, Caillois proposes an imaginary of stones that goes back to Ovid’s visions of the cosmos in which the inorganic and the organic, stone and flesh fuse along the continuum uniting of everything. Thus, the exhibition attempts to create an experience where different processes of matter and energy interact with the whim and will of human languages to form a panoramic vision –free of rigid structures and western notions of progress and order– that allows us to envision the physical rhythms of language flowing through materials, culture and the production of meaning. A rhythm that contracts or expands, quickens or slows giving shape to auto-poetic structures of knowledge and socio-natural relations.

Structures as different as plants, stones, animal species and societies may be seen as the result of similar generating-processes. But, does language embody a similar material apparatus? How do language and other physical processes articulate each other?

What kind of logics operate within these dynamics? The accumulations of linguistic materials that are sorted into homogeneous sets are examples of stratified systems, and hence, language can also be said to follow the same physical dynamics.

The exhibition comprises a selection of artists concerned with how language affects the material world. They examine the processes responsible for the structuring of language in relation to these of stones, plants, animals and societies; allowing us to reflect on the current moment of environmental urgency while proposing a material empathy towards the natural and nonhuman cosmos in which we coexist.

– Alejandro Alonso Díaz, curator

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With text by
Cosmic Words
Sara Antónia Matos, Alejandro Alonso Díaz