September 29, 2009

The Language Moment

Yesterday was the big day - the Language Moment was presented to the North West Panel of the Olympic Artists Taking the Lead Commission. I was accompanied in the presentation by Phil Davenport and Diana Hamilton from the Hamilton Project I haven't said much about the proposal here or anywhere else really - basically because I was working too hard on it to the last minute. But now it's in and we await the decision - it will be announced on 22 October.

The Language Moment is a festival of international language in art, recognising and creating a cross-artform dialogue from poetry to sound art, from sculpture to multimedia. The Commission would create new worldwide possibilities for art and communication. In so doing, it aspires to change the course and discourse of contemporary art and poetics establishing a new definition and a new field of international linguistic art practice and dialogue. It would locate Manchester at the centre of this breakthrough.

Its structure is envisaged in three interconnected parts:

Seeds. Truce. Legacy.

Seeds (2010-2012)

Building audiences in the North West and beyond, creating a sense of excitement, engagement and understanding about creative uses of language and the possibilities of dialogue between languages. Working with regional arts development agencies, Time to Read, North West libraries and local arts services, venues and artists, it will feature:

• Community and schools projects – integrated into the Olympic Get Set structure
• Taster performances and temporary installations
• Academic symposia engaging with theory & analysis of contemporary language art
• Global networking of text-based artists
• Pre-festival professional development workshops
• Negotiation with artists and partners in identifying sites/forms for new commissions
• Programme development and planning
• First phase marketing activities


Mirroring the Ancient Olympic truce, in which the Greeks stopped fighting so they could train and compete, the Language Moment would run for the same symbolic 60 day period – referred to as the Language Truce.

Through April-May 2012, the festival would celebrate and make accessible language in all art forms

• Exhibitions in most of Manchester’s major galleries & museums
• Public art commissions and world premiers of new performance works
• Temporary installations (sound, visual, multimedia, etc) in arts and non-arts locations
• Poetry and other language performances across multiple venues and in public spaces
• Community projects and workshops
• Broadcasts of community projects locally and across the Live Site Screens
• New publications and launch events
• Residencies & artist dialogues with artists from all over the world coming to Manchester


I think it is fairly obvious that the language moment is coming - looking at any artform shows artists engaging with language as a material and field of enquiry; though the understanding of the possibilities are clearly variable. There is an historic possibility to grasp. Fundamentally as the Commission concept focuses on the importance of the artist in celebration of the Olympics, it is also celebrates the pursuit of risk, of the artistic unknown, of innovation, of discoveries yet to be made – and the Language Moment by its very nature grasps for something new. Its ultimate legacy will be the legacy of the new.
In the insanely short time I was allowed to develop the idea I managed to confirm more than 100 artists from 24 countries - it could have been much bigger with more development time - supported by most of the galleries in greater Manchester plus various other partners such as Shisha (South Asian Arts Agency), Mid-Pennine Arts, the North West Libraries network, etc. To all the partners who helped and all the artists who trusted me to pull them into a conducive moment, I say thank you. In addition, I pulled together a delivery team, which in the words of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in the last episode of Star Trek Next Generation, "I would trust with my life". To all of them who worked hard to develop their sections of the proposal, I would offer my thanks.

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