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                1. Future Vocabularies
                2. Instituting Otherwise
                Englishes
                24.09.–20.11.2016
                exhibition by Nicoline van Harskamp
                BAK, Utrecht (NL)
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                1. BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht is pleased to present Englishes, a solo exhibition by Nicoline van Harskamp. Since 2013, the artist’s work has been engaged with exploring the widespread use and modification of the English language by its non-native speakers. Englishes depicts the development of the plurality of spoken-English that displaces the perceived position of primacy occupied by dominant strains of the language. The work addresses the political import of this linguistic development, pointing out how our use of language is consistently entrenched in structures of class and power. Challenging these connotations, van Harskamp proposes a dissolution of English into "Englishes", co-opting it as a common and ever-growing linguistic resource. Englishes thus becomes a site of solidarity—be that through the expressivity of speech or by a claimed common right to edit.

                  The exhibition consists of a series of episodic films comprising interview, performance, and scripted fiction that explore the myriad variations of English spoken between people who do not have any other shared tongue. The episode Portrait of an Englishes Collector (2015) sees an amateur linguist conduct a telephone study of the "Englishes" spoken in the remotest corners of the globe. In another work, Darling Good Night (2016), people waiting for their residence permits in a very isolated part of Norway, retell—in various "Englishes"—their “linguistic journeys” from their home countries to Europe. A propositional, commonly-shared language is further elaborated in Wer Mae Hao (2015), in which a group of children tell a story in an English constructed from their individual, self-made varieties.

                  A new short fiction film PDGN (2016) draws conclusions from previous strands of the project and puts forward an unlikely, but desirable global link language. This predicted version of English, which may not sound like any language we know today, is partly automated by “PDGN software” designed specifically for this occasion. It is conceptualised with the help of software designers, Esperantists, recreational language inventors, and academics in fields such as creole studies, computational linguistics and language evolution. PDGN is produced by BAK and realized with support from Centro Andaluz de Art Contemporáneo (CAAC), Sevilla.

                  Nicoline van Harskamp (Amsterdam) is an artist whose work considers acts of language and communication in relation to ideology and solidarity through video, installation, and scripted performance. Her previous projects include Yours in Solidarity (2011–2013), which addressed the recent history of anarchism through an archive of correspondence, and was presented in different stages of completion in Mexico City, Frankfurt, London, Shanghai, Zagreb, Mumbai, Montreal, etc. Her live work, including Expressive Power Series (2010) and English Forecast (2013) among others, has been staged at Tate Modern, London; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Witte de With, Rotterdam; New Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Arnolfini, Bristol; Serralves Foundation, Porto; and Kaaitheater, Brussels. 

                  Curator and writer Mihnea Mircan has been commissioned by BAK to write an essay on the occasion of Englishes, that has been publishes online at www.bakonline.org. A public reading of the text by Mircan takes place on 28 October 2016 at BAK, on the occasion of a Q&A with the artist and a number of invited experts, including software designer Ogaday Willers Moore of e-2.org, London.

                  The activities of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst have been made possible by financial support from the City Council of Utrecht and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. The project Future Vocabularies is realized with generous support from the DOEN Foundation. The project Englishes is kindly supported by the K.F. Hein Fund, the Fentener van Vlissingen Fund, and the Mondriaan Fund.

              1. Future Vocabularies
              Instituting Otherwise
              2016
                1. Within Future Vocabularies, a long-term, multifaceted research, education, exhibition, and publication project, the leading concept to shape BAK’s program in the course 2016 is that of instituting otherwise. The series is prompted by the desire to engage publically with the ideal of institutional innovation that would sync the operations of the infrastructure in general—and of the art infrastructure in particular—with the rapidly developing world that is enveloped in a series of concurrent crises (political, social, environmental, military, cultural, aesthetic, or other). BAK research, discursive projects, exhibitions, publications, and education will thus engage with an inquiry into the following subjects of social, political, and cultural relevance: the alternatives to the state; the organizations of learning; and the questions of language that co-define and shape the infrastructures of collectivity and solidarity, and thus of new ways of reclaiming the notion of the “public.”

                  At BAK, three exhibitions take place in this context over the course of 2016, as well as a series of discursive sessions under the title Institute for the Contemporary, leading to a publication of the BAK Critical Reader under the same title. In parallel, BAK’s key educational platform for art and politics, Learning Place, unfolds throughout the year as a continuation of BAK’s structural collaboration with MAHKU (MA program, Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Utrecht) and MAR (Master of Artistic Research program, Royal College of Art/KABK, The Hague).

                  The collaborative practices, both within the city of Utrecht and transnationally, are at the core of BAK’s institutional work; within this ethos, BAK takes initiative to co-realize two significant transnational projects. New World Summit #6—the sixth iteration of a public gathering initiated by the artistic and political organization by Dutch artist Jonas Staal—takes place in Utrecht in January 2016 as a result of a collaborative effort of the Utrecht-driven institutional consortium consisting of BAK, Utrecht University, and Centraal Museum. Secondly, BAK continues its collaboration with the refugees’ organization We Are Here and organizes an international gathering of refugees at the “Drielandenpunt” as an artistic project (re)negotiating the border at the times of unprecedented European—as well as global—refugee crisis.

                  Further, in the publishing line of BAK Critical Readers in Artists’ Practice BAK will release a publication on one of the most influential artists and cultural producers since the 1980s, Marion von Osten, titled Once We Were Artists, charting the qualitative changes in the artistic practices in relation to social change in the course of the last four decades.
              1. Research
              2. Itineraries
              Future Vocabularies
              2014–2017
              long-term research and propositional trajectory rethinking art's conceptual lexicon
                1. Future Vocabularies is a long-term, multifaceted research, education, exhibition, and publication project through which the program of BAK unfolds over the course of 2014–2016. Future Vocabularies both stems from and is developed in parallel to (the concluding phase of) BAK’s flagship research project FORMER WEST (2008–2015).

                  The project takes as its point of departure the transitional period in which we all find ourselves: an intricate moment of parting from the modern under the pressures of new contemporary realities. Referred to at present as a time of multiple crises—political, social, environmental, military, aesthetic, and other—it can in fact be understood as an interval in between two historical epochs; an interregnum (Antonio Gramsci), so to speak, when one era has ended but before a new one is born. It is our own time when the contours of the future seem extant, palpable even, but are yet unsettled and escape any meaningful synthesis. How can art, then, with its faculty of imagining and ability to connect to other terrains of thinking and acting—the terrains of politics, ecology, economics, aesthetics, and other—provide us with the tools to grasp that which is forthcoming? How might we imagine, and thus potentially shape, the world to come?

                  Future Vocabularies
                   is inaugurated with a year-long exploration driven by an opening vocabulary entry on survival. In order to draw a line of continuity from BAK’s past and ongoing projects, this foundational sequence of the series is developed in dialogue with artists, scholars, and activists from our variety of long-standing collaborations, in order to postulate propositional research trajectories into how to think—with and through art—about some of the most urgent issues that define our contemporaneity: the livelihoods of refugees, the endurability of the planet, and the future of (institutional) infrastructures. From 2015 onwards, the project evolves as a succession of four additional semesters, brought to life in dialogue with research fellows—artists, scholars, and activists—who accompany BAK in codeveloping the semestral agendas. Future conceptual lexicon marked for exploration include artistic, intellectual, and activist itineraries around the notions of “the posthuman” and “degrowth.”

                  The current and upcoming BAK Research Fellows are: Aernout MikJonas StaalRosi Braidotti, Simon Sheikh and Boris Buden.

                  1. past

                      1. Future Vocabularies
                      Instituting Otherwise
                      2016
                      1. Future Vocabularies
                      Human-Inhuman-Posthuman
                      2015
                      1. Future Vocabularies
                      Future Collections
                      2014–2016
                      1. Future Vocabularies
                      Survival
                      2014
              1. Research
              Itineraries