Skip to content

In the text “أجنبية بلغة الكتابة / To Write in a Foreign Language” (2000), the Lebanese writer and artist Etel Adnan describes how her artistic practice, as well as her very existence, have been profoundly influenced by the linguistic tools that came to her throughout her life. From the Turkish absorbed within the home, to the Arabic and French encountered in her school education, to English, subsequently learned following her time at the American University of Beirut. In a passage of this text, Etel Adnan writes: «I didn’t need to write in French anymore, I was going to paint in Arabic». 

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2010. Collection of Karen E. Wagner and David L. Caplan, New York. © ETEL ADNAN

In May 1997, a group of 40 men and women from the Walmajarri, Wangkajunga, Mangala and Juwaliny communities came together to collectively create “Ngurrara II”: a 10 x 8 metre painting which translates into pictorial form the territorial claim to the Great Sandy Desert, in Western Australia, which has belonged to Aboriginal people since time immemorial. The painting represents several bodies of water, or “jila”, which extend over a vast territory of more than 83,000 square kilometres. It is a map, in the cartographic sense of the term, but also a legal document designed to overturn the colonial concept of terra nullius, bearing witness to the intergenerational relationships that link the aboriginal populations to a conquered and exploited territory since 1788. “Ngurrara II” will be presented in a hearing before the Australian Native Title Tribunal and will help establish native title for that territory. 

Ngurrara II, Rights of Future Generations, Courtesy Sharjah Architecture Triennial. Photo by Marco Cappelletti.

The Open Call BABEL REBUILT grows out of the ambiguous nature of language – an indispensable, yet imperfect, tool of creation and communication – striving to collectively build new forms of imagination, knowledge and resistance. Inspired by Etel Adnan’s text and “Ngurrara II”, the call to artists invites participants to experiment with the creative potential that resides in the gap, or slippage existing between different forms of language – the Arabic being painted, a painting becoming a legal document.

With which tools (linguistic or otherwise) can we embrace the complex facets of reality, without losing degrees of resolution, precision and accuracy? When language fails, what remains?
What is the relationship between language and reality?
Can this relationship be hacked? What happens when the Word is understood as a Sign?
Can the voice give life to an architecture? Can we sculpt with music, or dance with colour? 

What new forms of synesthesia can be invented and materialised to “repopulate the devastated desert of our imagination?” (I.Stengers, 2015).

Open Call 2023
Babel Rebuilt

Applications accepted
30 June – 10 August 2023

Announcement of winner
4 September 2023

Period of residence
18 – 30 September 2023

Public presentation
November 2023

Send your application to:

Open Call coordination
Erica Petrillo

From a research project by
Laura Lamonea

Discover how to participate

Discover how to participate