Anatomies of Tongues

Testimonies are malleable to the temporality of memory and the discursive potential of language, shape-shifting between contexts that locate them variously, folding and unfolding in space. In her work, anthropologist Veena Das recognizes that testimonies, especially those that emerge from traumatic memory, exceed what can be legible as truth and evidence to the processes upheld by institutions of the state, media, medicine, and law, whose narratives are then reinstated in the public domain. In this torturous route of scrutiny and stifling necessity to conform to established frameworks of reference, so much of the abundant forms of expression that are possible in written and spoken tongues recede into the interstices of language and the body. This calls for redemptive narratives assembled from intimate and engaged inquiry, when possible, into the self and in the world - wherever their visceral traces may reside.
The artists’ projects presented here partake in the essential task of dissecting and suturing together testimonies from memory traces: salvaged in the lapses within official records; discovered in the materiality of archives forgotten alongside the unlearning of a life lived on far away shores that are still home; excavated from accounts in partially familiar tongues; and embedded in the vital functions of the body—perhaps as the only remaining residue of an event. Various aesthetic interventions render visible what was forcibly made illegible, or swept into otherness by dominant apparatuses of power. Fragmented and poetic declarations of inheritance and belonging, as sonic and visual articulations, resist the persistence of erasure and silence to reclaim and re-appropriate linguistic coherence.
This exhibition is a traveling excerpt from Colomboscope 2021, Language is Migrant, that journeys from artist and poet Cecilia Vicuna’s poem-manifesto of the same name where she writes: “Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.” It finds its place at Chobi Mela Shunno as a congregation of testimonies that become critical assertions of inherently plural flows and voices encompassed by the category that is citizenship and have been lost to collective amnesia imposed by parochial attitudes and majoritarian decrees.

Liz Fernando
Imaad Majeed
Palash Bhattacharjee
Hania Luthufi