a sub-site of language-based works, curated by Michael Gibbs and Charles Rood


(scroll down for descriptions of the projects and contributors' notes)

THE LINGUISTIC TURN is a group exhibition that acknowledges the textual and (im)material dimension of Internet communication, while at the same time taking advantage of the advanced graphical, spatial and temporal features that are possible within the Web environment.

The title refers to a 20th century philosophical strategy to explain how knowledge depends on language as a means of analysing (onto)logical concepts and cultural phenomena. In this postmodern thinking, concepts like "reality", "truth" etc. are taken to be socio-linguistic constructs with no ultimate transcendental foundation. Nor can there be any escape from this linguistic omni-web through "post"-philosophical strategies, for these also have to express themselves in traditional vocabularies and to assume the stable reference of words.

As a form of art, the linguistic turn reflects upon absence and language, not upon ontological questions. For if one cannot say that Reality exists, at least one can say that Virtual Reality exists. for Virtuality negates Reality and, through this reality, virtual language can exist as contradiction. Moreover, this artform is parasitical in nature: it needs the Net to manifest itself but does not use the communicational purpose on which the Net depends for its existence.

THE LINGUISTIC TURN represents a virtual iconoclasm. Although developed to communicate discursive meaning through linear language, cybernetic conditions also allow language to gain artistic momentum without being burdened by iconographic or poetical burdens. Liberated from its immobility, cyberscription annexes the virtual spatiality of the image and incorporates the temporality of factual reality through its dynamics and flexibility.


JON THOMSON & ALISON CRAIGHEAD's "Attributed Text" belies the fears that have been expressed concerning the issue of copyright on the Net. In an age of information overload, anything can be attributed to anyone.

JODI's work is an excerpt from their forthcoming CD-Rom which plays havoc with the user's interface, subverting the protocols that lie at the heart of machine code.

LISA HUTTON's "Victorian.NET" is a narrative inspired by the resurgence of written communications resulting from the speed and accessibility of e-mail. The machine interface acts as an extension of the body; it is both armour as well as avatar, willing to send, reply and forward our most intimate desires without question or physical danger.

LA SOCIETE ANONYME emphasise the continuity between 60s conceptual art and Web art, excising the differences that determine the existence of art in relation to contemporary society.

CHARLES ROOD's "The Human Figure in Contemporary Art" is a cinetico-linguistic sculpture composed for the Internet. Based on his previous work using text-inscribed panels, this new project is presented as a series of "scenes" in which language becomes fluid, ever-changing matter.

MICHAEL GIBBS's "Ex Libris" is similarly an updating of an older piece, reflecting the artist's continuing concern with the metaphysics of the book. Viewers are invited to browse a section of his library and read his comments on each book.


JON THOMSON & ALISON CRAIGHEAD have completed several web projects. Some of these can be viewed at www.ucl.ac.uk/slade/slide/. Their installation "Trigger Happy" was shown recently at the Lux Gallery in East London.

JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) have been working since 1994 on the continuous development of their website jodi.org, which users find delightfully frustrating as it takes over their machine, seemingly causing it to go completely out of control. Their work was included in documenta X in 1997.

LISA HUTTON is a new media artist, writer and teacher who spends her spare time torturing orchids in San Diego. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of California San Diego. She is also a research associate at the Center for Research in Computing in the Arts at UCSD. Her web site "Variety Is..." contains several of her projects and received an honorable mention at Prix Ars Electronica in 1996.

LA SOCIETE ANONYME is a fluctuating group of artists and theoreticians who work specifically on the relations between critical thinking and artistic practices. LSA was founded in 1990 and has so far produced 38 works, including texts, videos, installations and web pieces. Their web works can be found on the Aleph Arts site.

CHARLES ROOD's work has been shown at the Free University of Brussels, the Fodor Museum in Amsterdam, as well as in several international art exhibitions and galleries in Portugal. A selection of his work can be viewed at www.ccc.nl/arti/charles/index.html

MICHAEL GIBBS edits the website 'Why not Sneeze?, writes regularly on digital art for Art Monthly and uses photography and text to create works that examine issues of social space. His online works include "Derive" and a number of other pieces on his Nondescript home page.