Giuliana Racco

GIULIANA RACCO. Languages In Danger/ous Languages

Languages In Danger/ous Languages is part of an ongoing investigation that looks at integration policies via language instruction and the relationship between identity and collective consciousness in three contexts (Sweden, Spain, France). The pieces here move from literary references to interviews, from models to text-based graphic works in order to contribute to a discussion on how we approach and communicate with one another and what we expect in terms of fitting into greater systems.

The works on show speak (of) three different languages and are materialised as photographs, drawings, video and prints, transforming the space into a place for sharing reflections on the relationship between language, power and identity.

The silkscreened posters are the collaborative result of a workshop with third year students of Escola Massana. Using English – a language that is not their own –, the students reflected and made resolutions concerning language, identity and the global contemporary art system.

A simple 3D model rests on a table based on the 2D graphic of the steps for reaching Catalan proficiency, as promoted on the official website of the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística, an organization aimed at normalizing, preserving and instructing the Catalan language. A brief video* dialogues with the model, presenting students, filmed at two of the Consorci’s Barcelona centres, humorously expressing their difficulties with the language and the learning process. The model alludes to a staircase, a steep climb to integrate into a society in terms of language learning and not only. Emanating from within, a voice reads a short excerpt from the Catalan translation of Italo Calvino’s “Tutto in un punto”.

The form of the model is echoed in the row of books – a selection of works connected to the ongoing research that generated this exhibition moment – propped up by the model itself. One of the books contains an image of a cliff with a fortress – Scilla in southern Italy. Racco recently visited this place she has known since childhood after discovering that the term ‘risk’ has origins in this site. Referencing a Greek navigation term rhizikon, rhiza – root, stone, cut of the firm land; a peril or danger to avoid at sea –, the etymology has been attributed to the Homeric voyage, specifically when Ulysses, steering his ship and crew, had to choose between the sea monster Scilla and the vortex Charybdis –  the classical paradigm of risking the choice between two evils in a moment of extreme peril.

Exiting – or entering – the space, one encounters a light box illuminating a photograph of a light box: a Tel Aviv street sign scripted in Hebrew and Arabic. This object points to the other photographs of street signs and plaques taken in different countries and all bearing the name of Dr. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto. Prohibited as a ‘dangerous language’ by both Nazis and Communists during the Second World War, Zamenhof’s language was based on his own experience of cultural conflict in turn of the century Europe. Never completely successful, the images nonetheless attest to the legacy of this utopian attempt at a unifying lingua franca.

 * The video is a fragment from a work in progress supported by a grant from La Escocesa centre of artistic production and investigation and with the assistance of the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística.

Thanks to Sara Agudo Millán, Floy Krouchi and Near Kelava.


“In conclusion to the opening at Languages in Danger/ous Languages at Homesession on January 19, 2018, I am sending a grouping of images to extend a special thanks to all those who contributed to the event. This includes all of the students of Escola Massana who participated in the collective work: Meritxell Abad Oller, Mariona Benaiges Pecanins,Sebastià Carbonell Buti, Helena De La Fuente Martínez, Laura Domínguez Solé, Genís Fabrega Sans, Maria Gil Ocaña, Berta Guardia Tauste, Alba Hugas Rodríguez, Neus Martínez Farran, Ana Miguel Pérez, Mariona Miquel Ros, Carmen Puig Martínez,Rut Revuelta García, Núria Romeu Caudet, Iason Saïtas, Paola Sartor Gómez, Marina Sayol Ramos, Berta Vallribera Gallifa, Mireia Vila-Puig Borrell, Gabriel Virgilio Luciani y Darta Kalmuka, as well as Isabel Banal, Jordi Canudas, Imma Ramos and Josep for their support and enthusiasm. Thanks also to Olivier Collet, Danilo Pioli and Roc Domingo Puig for the space and assistance in producing, communicating and installing, and to Sara Agudo Millan, Nera Kelava and Floy Krouchi for their production assistance, as well as to the teachers and students at the UB Faculty of Fine Arts for organising and participating in the talk and workshop in December”

Giuliana Racco

Giuliana Racco (Canada, 1976) graduated in Visual Arts from the University of IUAV in Venice and then worked as an assistant professor in the visual arts courses of Lewis Baltz. He has participated in research and residency programs in spaces from Spain, Portugal, the West Bank and Israel and his work has been seen in museums such as the Fundació Suñol in Barcelona; the López Museum in the Philippines; the Museum of Modern and Contemporary in Rijeka (Croatia); the Fotomuseum in Winterthur (Switzerland) and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg (France).

Focused on field research and people, Racco’s work process is formalized through a variety of media such as drawing, video, installation, photography, printed material and public interventions related to narration, desire and movement. His work often deals with conflicts about workers, migrants and refugees and explores representations of media, archives, language processes and spaces of exception.