Experimental Jetset & Ian Svenonius
Curated by Atelier Impopulaire
Produced by Volksbühne Berlin with Atelier Impopulaire
Supported by Königreich der Niederlande
Editions by Experimental Jetset
Alphabet Reform Committee is a project by Amsterdam-based collective Experimental Jetset and US musician Ian Svenonius, conceived specifically for the Volksbühne Pavilion.
Taking the form of a textual/spatial/sonic intervention, the installation explores the notion of the city as a platform for language.
ARC The Urgen Need for Alphaber Reform / The Provisional People's Army for Alphabet Reform
Question: Why can’t words express the sublime?
Question: Why are we confounded by our inability to communicate the “inexpressible”?
Question: Why do we find ourselves at a “loss for words”– stymied by the insufficiency of language?
Question: Why does humanity retreat so often into an anti-intellectual abandon of hard narcotics, kinky perversion, religious cults, violent crime, & dissonant rock ’n’ roll?
Question: Why does the globe reel from humanity’s insatiable tendency toward viciousness, greed, callousness, & destruction?
Answer: The alphabet
The alphabet. 26 letters, a rogue’s gallery of desultory, contrived devices, arbitrary and idiotic, each one representing a particular sound, each intended to be singular and indispensable. Every letter – though intended as conspicuous – is meant to be utilized in endless variations with other letters to form different words. A clever idea certainly and one that was perhaps modern in its time, but like the corporate landscape we endure and the TV dinners we consume, the alphabet has outlived its usefulness and indeed can now be recognized as the principle root of the ills which plague the earth.
Why? Because the alphabet, intentionally compact to ensure mobility, is simply insufficient. The paucity of its letter forms means the sounds we are able to emit is constrained, as are the words we can build, and the things we can do, dream, & imagine. The alphabet as we know it has annihilated what could be words, sounds, expression, communication. Our emaciated vocabulary has not only starved our speech but also our imagination; our ability to transcend ancient models of tribalism, authoritarianism, social roles, and bogus moralities. The alphabet was invented during the time of the Caesars; an era of slavery, imperial brutality, fascist caprice, and cannibalistic class terror. No wonder our world is so twisted; we teach and are taught through the toolset of tyrants, despots, & zanies. When we paint ourselves with the palette of Nero, Tiberius, and Caligula, can we expect the outcome to be different?
An Apollonian gewgaw, the alphabet as we know it is a functional thing. Built and designed with an architect’s eye for order, sense, rigidity, and inflexibility, its designers created a useful tool which worked well for commerce, governance, and commanding a cohort. But they excised the gasps, pants, & pagan incantations of intuitive communication as they didn’t easily fit into their bureaucrat’s framework. By doing so they relegated love, pain, intuition, and the senses into a netherworld where they were discredited; treated as superstition, madness and / or hysteria. Thus, all sensory reactions are wordless, while materialist concerns can be expressed with ease. Only in our dreams are we freed of business lingo, sensory deprivation, and the general sadism of speech.
The structuralists who dreamed up the alphabet were afraid of these dark splaces and turned the most vital part of expression into non-language in a cruel and arbitrary demarcation which has impoverished mankind’s ability to express, explore, or even truly feel. There are speeches , books, volumes of written pages and oratory; spoken word, poetry. Books on tape and talk radio; people gossiping, discussing talking points and hosting interview shows. But all of them are in a state of expressive poverty, all of them idiotic, living in a staunch, uptight, martinet’s fantasy where everything makes logical sense while the elephant in the room is all that’s unsaid; the clamour of madness, unexpressed,, impossible to express, the spectral spooks of what’s become the “sub conscious.” These non-words are the language of love, fear, pain and also dreams. Dreams, once the guideposts to mankind’s ambitions & desires, are inaccessible to the modern person because the alphabet has rendered them strange, nonsensical, incomprehensible. The “word made flesh” was a font.
Who built the alphabet? Functionaries. Fascists. Priests & praetorians who understood that control of the basic element of language would give reign to the content of thought & communication. Crazies who desired that expression suffer the fate as the rest of their domain; imprisoned, enthralled, chained, parceled, exploited, mined, eroded, exploded in nuclear tests and flung through the air as dust. The sort of imperialists who demarcate the globe through treaties and monopoly of violence. Why is there a word such as “sublime”, which means “beauty which is experienced but cannot be explained or put into words”? Because the alphabet is an impoverished abomination which must be reformed post-haste.
Unconditionally, the alphabet is a supremacist tool for regulating certain kinds of language and certain kinds of expression, for elevating some kinds of animals and some forms of expression, and subverting, undermining, and denigrating others. Its a tribal and xenophobic phenomenon whereby those who are unlettered are savages; “barbarians.” Why was God’s name unspeakable in the Old testament? The ancients were warning us, with a symbolic alert, that language – as conveyed through an alphabet – was deeply flawed, insufficient.
We need to reconfigure the alphabet. Rend it , warp it, bend it to our needs. Demolish its hierarchy of some letters over others, some in front and some more prominent, and consider how this guides our speech and our thoughts. The alphabet needs to be re arranged. Changed. The alphabet needs to be reformed. Alphabet Reform now
On the occasion of the opening, November 2ns at 8 pm, the Roter Salon will present a one-off DJ-set/sound-piece by Amsterdam-based musician Loma Doom.
The event will also include the launch of an accompanying publication, as well as the presentation of a limited-edition 7-inch single.
Experimental Jetset is an Amsterdam-based graphic design studio founded in 1997 by Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen. Focusing on printed matter and site-specific installations, EJ have worked on projects for a wide variety of institutes, including Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Centre Pompidou, Dutch Post Group, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Experimental Jetset taught at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam) between 2000 and 2013, and are currently tutors at Werkplaats Typografie (Arnhem). In 2007, a substantial selection of work by Experimental Jetset was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (New York). Other institutes that have collected EJ material include Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), SFMOMA (San Francisco), Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago), Museum für Gestaltung (Zürich), Centre National des Arts Plastiques (Paris), and Cooper Hewitt (New York). In 2015, Roma Publications (Amsterdam) released a monograph titled ‘Statement and Counter-Statement: Notes on Experimental Jetset’.
Ian F. Svenonius is one of underground culture’s most provocative singers and thinkers. From leading impassioned Washington D.C. bands (like Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up, Weird War, XYZ, Escape-ism, and Chain and The Gang), writing books like The Psychic Soviet, and serving as the host of the revealing interview show Soft Focus, Svenonius has left an indelible mark on music, influencing the way many people contemplate and consume it. Svenonius’ projects and writings have all shared an anti-authoritarian Marxist political viewpoint.
Loma Doom is the new moniker of arts curator and (radio) DJ Femke Dekker. Best known for her monthly show Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting on Red Light Radio and being half of DJ duo Strange Boutique, she is a masterful selector, weaving together dark world music rhythms, moody psychedelia, light-headed folk and slick electronica. She is also part of the editorial team of Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee, the online radio platform for visual arts and culture and teaches at the Radical Cut Up department of the Sandberg Instituut.
November 2 - December 29
Opening hours: every Saturday 12-5 pm
while the rest of the week the installation can be observed from the outside.
Glasspavilion & Roter Salon