Sujin Lee

Text on mirror, dimensions variable

The "others" who hear or speak a language that the majority of people do not hear or understand have been a subject of fear. They have been called "blessed," "demonic," or "delusional," and there were attempts made to torture, isolate, and cure their bodies. The word glossolalia is not just to be read in a religious context, but its dictionary meaning "an incomprehensible speech in an unknown language" should be interpreted in a much broader sense. The artist wanted to contemplate the "unintelligible speech" in relation to humans/humanity in Glossolalia. Is it language that makes us human? Which language belongs to humans and is human enough? Glossolalia consists of seven mirrors with text printed on the surface. The light that hits the mirror reflects and casts a shadow of the text, which the artist sees as a "glossolalized translation." Each mirror is titled with a name (or names) such as Joan of Arc, Antonin Artaud, and Lewis Carroll—referring to the original "speaker" of the text.

1. Joan of Arc
Taken from the transcript of Joan of Arc's trial.

2. Gregg Shorthand: A Witch's Laughters
Gregg shorthand used to be the most popular form of pen stenography in the US. It is a phonetic writing system, which means that it represents the sound of the words, not the spelling. Therefore, if two words with different spellings and meanings sound the same, Gregg shorthand records them identically. The text shows typical sounds of a witch's laughters found in literature and media, written in Gregg shorthand.

3. Antonin Artaud

4. Eadweard Muybridge's "Nude woman sitting with artificially induced convulsions" and Benjamin Franklin

5. Martín Ramírez: Humming
Martín Ramírez was around the border between Mexico and the US when a cop was suspicious of him not speaking a word in English. Ramírez was sent to a mental hospital in California, where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. He spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals, continuously painting. It is known that during his confinement, Ramírez did not speak at all but only hummed sometimes. However, there is an anecdote that a visitor asked him a question in Spanish and he answered, "Si."

6. "Jaberwocky" by Lewis Carroll
is a nonsense poem in Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. The poem includes wordplay, made-up words, and glossolalia. Despite its seeming untranslatability, Jabberwocky has been translated into many languages. Whichever the target language is, made-up words and glossolalias are newly produced.

7. Talking Animals
NOC, a beluga whale, was legally captured in 1977 and lived in captivity at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego until his death in 1999. He made human-like sounds by varying the pressure in his nasal tract and inflating the sac in his blowhole.

Installation views from the exhibition Panorama Object at d/p in 2020

© Sujin Lee