Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Artists on LANGUAGE

by Artists Respond

01 Dec 2011

We asked six artists to respond to the theme LANGUAGE by telling us about a piece of literature or form of language that has influenced their life or practice...

Daniel Mudie Cunningham: Rolling Stone's 'Special College Issue' (1991)

My greatest philosophical inspirations are Bataille, Sontag, Sedgwick, Foucault. More recently I’ve added Richard Wilkins’ memoir Black Ties, Red Carpets, Green Rooms. But nothing beats what Yale scholar Jodie Foster has to say.

I’ve dedicated my life to a branch of Cultural Anthropology called Jodie Foster Studies. Google ‘Jodie Foster’ and you get millions of hits. Google ‘Daniel Mudie Cunningham’ and you get millions of hits. Google ‘Jodie Foster + Daniel Mudie Cunningham’ and you get a restraining order.

Ignore Google and get from eBay a back issue of the best piece of Jodie literature: Rolling Stone’s ‘Special College Issue’ from March 21, 1991. In it Jodie reflects on the big issues, special college issues:

  1. Fantasy: “I do create a lot of illusions for myself. I say I’ve got a lot to do today, gotta go to the post office, pick up my laundry.”
  2. Domesticity: “I love my pots and pans, my beautiful ice bucket, luxuries like linen sheets, bath soaps, lace pillowcases.”
  3. Downtime: “I’m going to do my mole thing. I’ll call you when I come out of my hole.”
  4. Subculture: “I play disenfranchised people. Part of my agenda with that is out of some need to save them.”
  5. Childhood: “My mom painted the house terra cotta. We were the original sun-dried tomato family.”
  6. Psycholanalysis: “I get analyzed to death and that’s okay. That’s what I’m here for.”
  7. There you have it: Jodie’s here. Get used to it.


    Kelly Doley: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5 (1969)

    More than science fiction, Slaughterhouse 5 is a time travel novel that captures the voice of a generation disillusioned by war. This book has been significant in shaping my worldview for its astute observations of human nature. Verging on jaded and cynical, Vonnegut always gets the balance right with a good sense of humor. But it is the non-linear narrative in Slaughterhouse 5 that gets me the most. The constant flicking between the protagonist’s past, present and future is an experience of time as circular, connected and happening all at once. This always gets me excited because it makes space to imagine other possibilities of perception (an obsession of mine).

    “And so it goes…”


    Rachel Feery: Sylvia Plath, Mirror (1961)

    There’s a pulse to Plath’s writing that is hers. A language that flowers and dies. Words laid side by side, forming visuals as textual as the actual object, event and life. You get in her head where sad truths pang like bruised flesh. Others are cryptic and of exquisite beauty. The poem, Mirror (appears in Selected Poems, compiled by Ted Hughes) illustrates a conversation with the self and ones perception of ones self as it shifts over time.

    “Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

    Searching my reaches for what she really is…

    In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman.” (p34)


    Samuel Hodge: Scholastic Lucky Dip

    I never had any access to books when I was a kid. But when I was ten I ordered the Scholastic Book Club Lucky Dip.

    In it was the usual crap you would expect, including one book called Born Into Light by Paul Samuel Jacobs. It was about a bunch feral children found living in the New England woods during the Great Depression.

    As a poor lonesome kid in the Australian New England countryside I finally had a friend in these mutant children. Maybe I related to them too much.

    Unfortunately all those feral children died within two years. I however keep on going.


    Tom Polo: One Liners

    I don't admit this much but I don't read a great deal of literature. It's not that I don't like reading, it's more that by page 3 I'm begging "AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED!?" Yes I admit, I do have a short attention span. I am however a big fan of comedy and one-liners, as you may have guessed from my art practice. That’s the main reason why I joined Twitter. Nothing over 140 characters. Comedians like Rob Delaney, Megan Amram, Sam Simmons and Melinda Buttle are some of my favourite people to follow. They are funny and that, dear reader, is fun.


    Giselle Stanborough: Internet Language

    As an artist and a person I am heavily engaged with internet culture. Net language is differentiable from typographic language in that it is hypertextual – that is, non-lineal – and changeable, copiable and distributable in a way that no printed text is. Even more relevant to my practice is the way recognition of particular memetic devices establishes and confirms a sense of identity and inclusion in online communities. I am interested in the durational aspect of meme dispersion and I whistled for a cab and when it came near the license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror. If anything, I could say that this cab was rare but I thought, ‘Nah, forget it. Yo home to Bel-Air!’ I pulled up to the house about seven or eight and I yelled to the cabby 'yo Holmes, smell ya later!' I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there, to sit on my throne as the prince of Bel-Air.