Every ten days another language disappears—at the present rate about half of the world’s 6000 languages will disappear in the course of a few generations. What is lost when a language dies is a many-faceted issue which can be viewed in several perspectives, for example cultural history, linguistics and the philosophy of language. With a background in art, music and philosophy, Espen Sommer Eide has taken various approaches to the phenomenon.
His main interest is in the complexity of the processes behind the destruction, evolution and creation of languages.
The archiving of languages can function as both a destructive and a creative process. One of the works in the exhibition revolves around how linguistic structures are stored in a collective consciousness, and how in certain cases the voice can neutralize the destructive power of time and memory. The sacred Vedic texts of India have been passed down through generations (since 1800 BC). Despite exclusively oral transmission their content has been preserved word for word thanks to the special way in which they are recited, in complex paralinguistic patterns.
In the exhibition the theme is also dealt with from a purely aesthetic point of view. For example is there a unique aural imprint embedded in all languages, and can such an aesthetic aspect be separated from the knowledge-bearing and identity-forming aspects? What is the sound of a dead language and can it be revived? When Edison invented the first recording apparatus for sound, the phonograph, it was quickly seen as a medium not primarily for reproducing music, but for listening to recordings of voices from people who had passed on. The voices from the phonograph were experienced as voices without bodies, as spirits in space. Through deconstructions of language and the voice Sommer Eide deals with issues such as the boundaries between living and dead languages, between meaning and sound, and between linguistic-metaphorical structures and the musical organization of sound. In addition to the exhibition, the project consists of a series of performances with a point of departure in self-made instruments (“Philosophical Instruments”).
Espen Sommer Eide has participated in a number of group exhibitions and theatrical productions, and has had a wide-ranging career as a performing musician and composer. Since the end of the 1990s the projects Alog (with Dag-Are Haugan) and Phonophani have been among the most prominent representatives of experimental electronic music in Norway, with a series of releases from the label Rune Grammofon. “Dead Language Poetry” is Sommer Eide’s first solo exhibition.
The exhibition is part of an annual collaboration between the Borealis Festival and Bergen Kunsthall. This year’s Borealis has ‘The End’ as an overall theme for its programme, with cue words like endings, old age, obsolescence and decay.
Espen Sommer Eide (b.1972) grew up in Tromsø. He lives and works in Bergen.
The exhibition has been produced by Bergen Kunsthall in collaboration with Borealis Festival.
Curated by Åse Løvgren and Steinar Sekkingstad.
The exhibition is supported by Bergen City Council, Arts Council og BEK (Center for electronic art).
FRI 01.03. 20.00
Performance by Signe Lidén, Mari Kvien Brunvoll, Tolga Balci, Trine H. Friis, Espen S. Eide.
WED 06.03. 17.00
Performance by Alexander Rishaug, Janne-Camilla Lyster, Signe Lidén, Tolga Balci, Trine H. Friis, Espen S. Eide.
SUN 10.03. 14.00
Plattform: A Presentation by Espen Sommer Eide and a performance by Trine H. Friis.