#293 Words Will Never Hurt Me
84x64 cm each | Filler, oak frame
This work was produced as a temporary installation in the Tablet exhibition at Risør Kunstpark, Norway in 2020. The words on the panels were made out of sticks and stones found outside the gallery. Efter the exhibition the work was finished in my studio.
In the old nursery rhyme which the work is based on, it seems as if words are soft, stretchable and floats on top of the hard kernel of reality. Like they’re possible to ignore by choice and ultimately have no physical impact. But is it true? If the self-conscious self - the subject - is a phenomenon of language, i.e. that it is only within a strict sphere of language that a delimited and cohesive self can exist, then it is primarily words that can threaten it, and vice versa the physical reality that can be ignored by willpower. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but only words will ever hurt me" would be more appropriate.
The call for perseverance, to endure the social circumstances even if it´s toxic is the power calling to preserve the status quo. Ideology is managed through language and to challenge power structures we have to challenge language. To understand that words might mean different for sender and receiver is useful, but to judge a statement only by the intentions and not by the effect, is deceiving and harmful.
To the mind, a word is always also an image. In that sense, understanding words function no different than normal perception. When we see, images are constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is an interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as understanding words.
However, to use language, we have to speak or write it. We have to realize it. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. But how words are inserted into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through, and how we shape it, reflects on who we are, it can reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.
Humans inscribed the first written words in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future, to protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must initially submit his or her attention to the message. No matter how insignificant, its meaning will always in some way change the receiver forever.
There is a constant tension between language and reality as matter. The human subject is defined by an individual will, as opposed to the strict causality of nature. This will strive to be expressed through language. Maybe self-awareness is a result of language at use. Language as a way for the ego to invent itself, to inscribe itself into the world. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers, laws or inventories — different ways of trying to influence and master reality.