As we Speak – Languages of the Future
We comprehend the world with the way we speak. If speech is limited, thinking is also subject to restrictions. Measuring out the thinkable and expanding its boundaries through forced use of language is an important element of artistic practice. As we Speak, a project by the Goethe-Institut within the framework of the “Maribor 2012” European Capital of Culture, focussed on this topic with several months of program from June until September 2012. A conclusion.
”Speech is the communication for the communality of thought,” said Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher in his Berlin lectures almost 200 years ago. Prior to all modern linguists in the wake of Ferdinand de Saussure, Schleiermacher emphasized the dual nature of language as, on the one hand, a language system which embraces all speakers and the rules of which have to be followed in the interest of successful communication and, on the other hand, the use of language, a set of rules, which is only brought to life by speech acts. However, the language system, although in the first perspective considered as a prerequisite of speech ability, is, in turn, modified and transformed by use – and, even more so, by repeated use. Schleiermacher held a structuralist consideration of language in an interesting contrast with the dynamics of change through its use.
As we Speak also operated within this double course. The initial thought referred to the indication of the unfortunate reduction of linguistic diversity. UNESCO predicted that at least half of all of the 6,000 languages still spoken worldwide will die out in the 21st century. Associated with that is a concentration on the most common languages. Already today, 80% of the population speak one of only 50 languages as their mother tongue. In Slovenia, this general observation corresponds, amongst other things, to the decline in the use of Croatian in academic activities. Unless counteracted, in general, smaller neighbouring languages will fall behind to the benefit of the major global languages, i.e. English, Chinese, Spanish, French. This will have both regional and ultimately global implications. With regard to diversity as a survival strategy, such development would be regrettable.
However, As we Speak also acted in a field characterized by opposing tendencies such as nationalism and “nationalistic masquerade” (see text by Rastko Močnik). With the intention to avoid the definatory power and ideological charge of language, As we Speak was mainly orientated towards soundscapes. Historic layers were examined, such as Stefan Rummel’s sound installation Within the Range of Transition in the urban space of Maribor where field recordings of the former nearby industrial areas were used. MariborMaps, a sound map by Udo Noll measured out the sounds of the city and transferred them into the digital space, while the International Turntable Orchestra of the Youth produced resonances and interferences with partly self-made records and thereby participated in creating a new language. The level of control by the individual “language participants” was quite different – which alluded to the flowing, sometimes delicate, however in its dynamics, also often inspiring character of conveying sense and meaning.
The workshop Europe of the Regions or Province Europe focussed on the fact that speaking usually means speaking in different languages and therefore requires translation. Here, the attempt of the European bureaucracy to regard all EU languages as equal and equivalent, to acknowledge originals only in the multiple form of parallel translation and to regard translation as a mechanical transmission denying respective language and cultural contexts was assessed as illusionary (see text by Boris Buden).
Roman Bezjak’s photographic Archeology of an Era – Socialist Modernism in architecture may be understood as proof for the mixing, resonance and echo effect of certain forms and patterns transcending borders.
As we Speak called attention to the fact that language and speech – understood as a multitude of systems of acoustic and/or visual signs, as well as their use – always also transport hidden meaning, create contexts and trigger different associations in different situations.