My Name is Language

The publication My Name Is Language (2020) explores the key tenets of artist Nicoline van Harskamp’s research and practice, such as the contemporary use and modification of languages, a treatment of names as spoken language rather than spelled identity markers, and the practice of self-naming. In the fictive worlds represented in this book, society is not centralized, not oversized, and self-naming is brought forward as a form of self-empowerment and resistance.

Central to this book are scripts by Nicoline van Harskamp, for the video work PDGN and a series of staged works titled My Name Is Language. A scholar of literary arts and performance culture, Avishek Ganguly reflects in his essay “Global Englishes, Rough Futures” on questions of translation, incomprehension, and untranslatability in van Harskamp’s work. The book also includes a list of text-change algorithms that van Harskamp calls “distorters” and an excerpt from Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) by Marge Piercy.

Nicoline van Harskamp is an Amsterdam based artist whose work considers acts of language and solidarity. Her live works were staged, among other places, at Museum of Contemporary Art Anwerp, Urbane Künste Ruhr (Ruhr Ding 2018), Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Project Art Centre in Dublin, Tate Modern in London, KunstWerke in Berlin, New Museum in New York, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Arnolfini in Bristol, Serralves Foundation in Porto, and the Kaaitheater in Brussels. She has exhibited her video and installation works in art centers, universities, and festivals internationally, see Her works about “Englishes” and artists is accessible as a massive online open course in Van Harskamp is a professor for performative art at the University of Fine Arts in Münster, Germany.

Published by SCRIPTINGS

and Archive Books

Watch the talks given during the book launch at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. The program took place as part of the reopening of “Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals”. In this event literary scholar Avishek Ganguly and art curator Antonia Alampi spoke about translation and untranslatability and the potential of re-naming and self-naming through their own, and van Harskamp’s practice. Also on this occasion, BAK’s Artistic and General Director Maria Hlavajova, writer and literary translator Canan Marasligil, BAK’s Curator of Public Practice Rachael Rakes, and art historian Ilse van Rijn engaged with excerpts from scripts of the eponymous performance series “My Name Is Language” (2018-ongoing). The performance series emerged from van Harskamp’s work “PDGN” (2016), developed in the framework of the artist’s exhibition “Englishes” at BAK in 2016, which inquired into the ways the use of language is entrenched in structures of class and power and which put forward a proposition of an unlikely but desirable world link language.

‘Nobody is interested now in how something is pronounced. Today it’s immediately: “Passport!” Immediately: “Spell me your name!” And so we spell it for an hour, and then sometimes it’s still wrong. Second time, third time, forth time it’s wrong. It isn’t right until the thousandth time.’