by Ute Thon

One of the greatest misunderstandings about art is that art is self-explanatory. Nothing could be more wrong. Art doesn’t explain a thing. It creates a different universe with its own language and often the artist who creates the artwork is the only one who speaks and understands the language of this particular universe. Explaining art is the profession of other people – critics, curators, art dealers, art historians – and mostly they do the talking and writing of texts while the artist stays silent.

Artists who use text in their art have many reasons to do so: he/she might want to highlight a certain message by using words from our common language to make sure everyone gets it. Then there are artists who use text mainly because they are interested in the graphic quality of certain words or letters. Others find absurd poetry in random texts, in manuals, advertising, newspapers. They deconstruct existing texts by writers, philosophers, politicians or the letter of a lost lover. Then there are artist who write manifestos for a better world or lament a lost one. They might want to make a bold political statement and provoke a debate. Or they just want to tell a joke.

That’s no small thing. Specially in times when we are loosing our common ground, language and text, the communication systems that inform the world, are also used to divide and polarize people. Words become more and more toxic, truth and fake two faces of the same coin. This ambiguity makes text a tempting material for curious artists.

Text in art can be the cherry on the cake, the ornament on the canvas, the fist in your face, the alternative fact in a new universe, the angry inscription on a fake granite stone, the bridge we all have to cross, shouts and murmurs in the lily white cube.