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Lingual Net: 100% Real Human

2018

In this new exhibition, Melbourne-based artist Mia Salsjö has drawn inspiration from the written word and from spoken language to develop a body of work that responds to the question of what it means to be human in today’s technological and globalised world. Inspired by local commercial advertising, and by personal experiences in the Footscray area, the artist posed a question to members of the local community - what does it mean to be one hundred per cent real human? These responses, which were drawn from a wide range of cultural perspectives, were recorded and transposed into text panels and video animations. What they reveal is a striking ensemble of ideas, concepts, insights and feelings. Human existence is considered in relation to tradition and change, to the present and the future, in small gestures of kindness and empathy, and in the arcane possibilities of advanced spiritual potential.

On the opposite wall, the phrase ‘100% Real Human’, being the signature title of the show, appears across three fabric banners. However, rather than weaving these words into existence, the artist has unpicked extant swathes of fabric to enable viewers to see through the words to the reflective surface behind. In doing so, Slasjö creates a contemplative yet partially obscured mirror as the frame for this piece.

Having captured the various comments and conversations that were prompted by her question, Salsjö further transposed the words into visual forms and musical elements. In this instance, the artist developed woven fabric totems and colour banded poles, which appear throughout the exhibition. As an abstract representation of language, the fabric totems interweave multi-coloured textiles into a single and entwined unit, while the poles appear as segmented bands of colour reminiscent of bar codes and Morse Code cyphers. These pieces were later presented to a local Afro-Cuban percussion ensemble who responded to the pieces by creating drumming rhythms and vocalised ‘scat’ solos, thus returning the project to its origins in the spoken word.

Salsjö’s ‘Lingual Net’ is a striking response to language, for it considers that ubiquitous communicative mode as more than a device for stories and ideas. Rather, language is presented as a complex web that is intertwined with all aspects of life. Further still, our sense of what it means to be human is revealed as something that can never be fully uncoupled from the tools and techniques that we use to formulate and express it. We are, it would suggest, creatures at heart of language.

– Dr Damian Smith