For hundreds of years, the English language has existed as an enduring legacy of Western colonial history. It consolidates British influence over Commonwealth countries, and affects international socio-economic activities. In British Raj India, the enforced introduction of English was enacted to civilise the continent and used as a vehicle to implement Western moral values. Today, as writer Modhumita Roy remarks in The Englishing of India: Class Formation and Social Privilege, the study of English ‘follows the uneven trajectory of the formation of an urban middle-class and the reconstitution and rise of an indigenous elite.’ Speaking perfect English without an accent continues to be promoted in schools and workplaces in India.
In the UK, immigrants constitute over 7% of the population. Almost 60% of migrants use English as a second language. Unintended insults from incorrect language use has been identified as a common motivation for racial hate crimes. It can be said that spoken language defines our identities, divides societies, and alienates cultures.
Taiwanese artist, Lin Tzu Huan sees words as merely shapes formed through vocalisation. We all speak differently. We are continually forming our identities by creating unique sounds and expressions that keep falling from our mouths.
Knotted Water Sizzled Tongue 《形聲》 | Tzu-Huan Lin 林子桓 | 2021
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About the artwork
Knotted Water Sizzled Tongue is a story about immigrants. Taking the inspiration from the legend of Cangjie, the inventor of Chinese characters. The work incorporates Lin’s own immigrant identity and personal learning experiences of languages into a story. From the creation of languages to the methodologies of linguistics, it all starts with forming shapes when pronouncing vowels. And how new features can emerge when a language is misunderstood or misused.
In the story, the artist transforms languages into shapes and presents invented species and objectives, as he breaks the fourth wall to instruct Cangjie to invent a new language. In the original legend, the unique hoof of the Chinese mythical hybrid creature, Pixiu, fell from the sky. Similarly, languages are just shapes that have fallen out of people’s mouths.
Making a perfect pronunciation is not a way to break cultural differences but a way to create sounds (using the teeth and tongue to make new sounds becomes a metaphor for rebirth). The collection of sounds will form new species and become unique characteristics used by others to identify you and accept you.
About the artist
Tzu-Huan Lin is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. An alumnus of the Pratt Institute, Lin’s art primarily focuses on narrative film and immersive installation, exploring different facets of art and issues about the digital age by working with issues that deal with various occurrences. Mythology, history, scientific theories, pseudo-documentary films, and experimental films are some contents dealt with in Lin’s artworks and also the approaches he employs. Through his interpretations of certain issues, he uses diverging narratives to dive into the themes being examined and to shape the artworks created. He also creates spatial installations to enhance the way the audience experiences his way of seeing the world.
His work was screened at Flux at ARoS at the ARoS, Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark (2021), and other exhibitions he has participated in recently include: 01_Love – Digital Art Festival Taipei (2020); Offline Browser: The 6th Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition (2018); and the 14th Athens Digital Arts Festival (ADAF, 2018). His solo exhibitions include: Hypothesis Atlas and Voyager at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (2020) and The Yellow Snake Is Waiting at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2017).
林子桓生活與創作於紐約布魯克林。畢業於普瑞特藝術院(Pratt Institute)。創作形式主要以敘事性的影片與沉浸式的空間裝置為主，議題以結合不相同的事件探索藝術不同的樣貌與數位時代的問題。作品內容與方法涉及神話、歷史、科學理論、偽紀錄片以及實驗片等，將議題自我詮釋後以發散的敘事方式漸漸切入主題形塑出作品，另也透過空間裝置強化觀者去感受作者在作品中的的世界觀。作品曾於奧胡斯現代美術館(ARoS Museum)「2021 Flux at ARoS」中放映，近期也參與2020台北數位藝術節「愛情數據」（01_Love）、第六屆台灣國際錄像藝術展「離線瀏覽」（2018，Offline Browser）、第14屆雅典數位藝術節（2018，ADAF）；舉辦過的個展有關渡美術館「假想圖集與旅行者（2020，Hypothesis Atlas and Voyager）」、臺北市立美術館「銜尾蛇」（2017，The Yellow Snake Is Waiting）等。
Knotted Water Sizzled Tongue《形聲》 is our latest commission, in collaboration with videoclub. Having been shortlisted for the 2021 Taipei Art Awards, this programme will run parallel with an exhibition of the work at Taipei Fine Arts Museum till 20 March 2022.
To learn about the making of the film, click here to explore the inspiration from the story of Cangjie, Lin’s American Dream and the development of the work.
Supported by Arts Council England. With additional support from British Council Connection through Culture Grants and National Culture and Arts Foundation, Taiwan.