Cover image of the review
James Nguyen and Budi Sudarto, White shirt installation 2023, installation view, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Courtesy the artists. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

James Nguyen: Open Glossary

21 Oct 2023
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) 16 Sep - 19 Nov 2023

I’d planned to begin this piece with a fracture: on one side of the stage, the before, my attempt to visit the Open Glossary exhibition without actually visiting it. My travel aids: James Nguyen’s Open Glossary exhibition guide, his book Làm Chó Bò ~ Making Trouble, and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s essay “1 (life) ÷ 0 (blackness) = ∞ − ∞ or ∞ / ∞: On Matter Beyond the Equation of Value.”

In each of these aids, language is made to perform a specific function. In da Silva’s essay languages normally considered in isolation from one another are placed in conversation (the language of mathematics, the language of historical materialism, languages that have equated race and value). The international status of English—its ubiquity—means that non-Anglophone countries regularly have to see, hear, and be made aware of English, whether intentionally or otherwise. Meanwhile, Anglophone countries in the main tend to work almost to avoid the languages of others.

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