Site specific intervention, silk, nettle cotton, sand, wall paint, IKOB, Eupen, BE, 2021

A flag made of airy satin silk hovers above a heap of sand. Above the viewer‘s head a long river of cloth passes through the space, ending outside the gallery’s window, exposed in the open – connecting inside and outside. German original prose, translated into Arabic, French and English, was re-arranged line by line. The empty space between the lines and languages was turned into a twilight-blue positive, printed onto the silk flag.

Installation view, IKOB, 2021
Original prose, re-arranged in different language lines, then connected

Language is an identity building factor within culture, but also is an instrument of power, for example in invasions and colonialization in which one language dominates another or a language is forbidden. Belgium‘s history and present have a complicated relationship with its languages and dialects. The official languages are Dutch, French and German. There is also a notable Arabic speaking community, based on Belgium’s connection to the French colonial

Gentiana Pneumonanthe
(Marsh gentian, Lungenenzian)

history and its related immigration, inviting workers for example from Morocco and other diasporic contexts. As of 2012, Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in Belgium (German: 0,4% – Arabic: 3%). In Brussels it is the second most spoken language.

Alcon blue butterfly

In 2002, a man named Abou Jahjah tried to add Arabic to the list of Belgium’s official languages. Language as a cultural unifier and divider is also exemplified in the German marginalized group around Eupen, represented in the DG (‚Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft‘). To strengthen the community, in 1989 an emblem was created.These contexts of identity and community, powerlessness and agency, political/social systems and their blind spots serve as a starting point for Atempsrachen, exploring identity shaping mechanisms and relations between language, territory and culture in context of migration, niche-/non-spaces, impermanence and belonging.


Bodies in Between, IKOB Museum of Contemporary Art, Eupen, BE, 2021

Space between prose lines an languages
Talstation & Support

Adriana Lemus, Jilan Hosni, Michael, Stefan Leifert, Ellie Marical Duveau, Lisa Domin, Laura Engelhardt, Marlene Kelnreiter

Silk detail
Outside view of cotton river flag
Cotton ceiling river

Photos © Lia Sáile, 2022