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from September 19 2015 until January 10 2016
This autumn Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents works by various artists that explore the possibilities of language. The display centres on the video work ‘The Joycean Society’ by the Spanish artist Dora Garcia (1965), which deals with the book ‘Finnegans Wake’ (1939) by the Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941). Joyce’s book is rich in word plays, cryptic references, free associations, sound combinations and invented words compiled from many different languages. In addition to the video ‘The Joycean Society’ the exhibition features works by Carl Andre, Dina Danish and Christopher Knowles in which a playful approach to letters, words and meaning is also central.
‘Finnegans Wake’ has no plot: the story sometimes shifts abruptly with corresponding changes to names, characters, locations and perspectives. This makes it a highly impenetrable book but also a story that can be endlessly re-read and re-interpreted. According to Joris van Casteren, who has interviewed the Dutch translators of this ‘untranslatable’ book, ‘Finnegans Wake’ is like a linguistic hand grenade exploding in your face. One of the translators adds that it is not so much to be read as to be swum through.
The joy of reading and re-reading ‘Finnegans Wake’ is central to Garcia’s ‘The Joycean Society’. The film portrays a group of people who have been coming together for thirty years to read ‘Finnegans Wake’ over and over again. The act of reading has become a ritual and the reading club is like a secret society. Garcia zooms in on the readers, revealing their responses to the sounds, words and shifting perspectives.