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The Whispers of the Weaponization of Language

A conversation on the future of language.

The following interview is a written exchange between Arts of the Working Class and Hollis Little. Hollis is part of the genre- and reality-bending participative and immersive show T((  ))mb by the artist collective OMSK Social Club. The central setup and Live Action Role Play (LARP) takes place in a surreal world and questions the future of language evolution as an early warning system for deep cultural ruptures. Curatorially, the exhibition has been supported by Frederike Sperling.


Hollis – can you share a bit about who you are, what brought you into life, and how you are related to T((  ))mb?

Which life do you mean? The first, I would suppose, is not any different from how other beings are brought to life in this place we call Earth. The second would be my encounter with language, and the third, when I stumbled into my first ever T(( ))mb in the Ardèche. After an incident that involved a few of us in this realm, we packed our bags and our emotional baggage and planted the seed of our T(( ))mb in Poland. This is where we have been installed since then. It would be important at this point to clarify that one cannot be related to the T(( ))mb as one would be to a family or a clan: the connection cuts deeper, almost as if your connective tissues conspired to feed into this association. We all have something we want to realize within our lifetime. At the moment, I feel drawn to the practice of mistranslation, a task that seeks to find the kinship between languages by not resisting their untranslatability, instead plunging into the abyss that reveals itself when one language encounters another.

Reflecting on your makers: can you imagine an additional member of the T(( ))mb

Are you suggesting we are made up? Hm… I guess you are right; we are all products of a socio-technical matrix. I see no point in imagining a future member of our T(( ))mb, but I would love to learn from someone who understands the linguistics of electromechanics. Next to communicating with the dead, the memory of water, the spectrality of our embodied grammar, and the spatialization of sound, I feel this would be an exciting addition to our shared project. Otherwise, anyone with a specialized interest in language and the politics against its weaponization should feel welcome. I do have to say that finding our routes and routines within our communal living is a constant and tiring negotiation, and with so many languages filling the air it can get quite messy. So, you would have to come up with a gate to your inner life that can be opened and closed to the disharmonized rhythm of the collective.  

As an observer of the people working in and around OMSK Social Club – in which a specific understanding of the human individual underlies the discursive environment of OMSK – how does this individual connect to the collective?

There are many overlaps in how we at our T(( ))mb struggle with the notion of the “individual” and how OMSK Social Club dissolves the individual into a collective practice in the arts. We didn’t know of OMSK before they approached us, but from the very start, we could see that our perspectives on transcending the individual self converged in a way that would allow for a meaningful exchange. As I see it, the individual is a container of organic material, cultural code, and the non-imagined and unsymbolized ingredient we call life. When we look closer at the material that holds this individual together, it becomes more and more porous. What is shared between OMSK and us collaborators is that this porosity is the condition of our existence and not ex post a conclusion to which one arrives after abstracting a common identity from everybody forming the collective. The collective is a predicate, not an adjunct. It cannot be dispensed without structurally changing our being.

Do you think that activism is dead? Why are you facilitating forms of social engagement in the realm of contemporary art? Where do you see limits and potential?

Do you think activism is dead? I certainly don’t. And so I would argue neither do the others in the T(( ))mb. Our founding ethos was to intervene in the predictive processing and weaponization of language that military-funded projects such as Project Cassandra espouse. Some of us were never active in the arts before OMSK approached us to collaborate on this project. And it did not come without internal conflicts or heated discussions, but in the end, we found that art, just like science or electoral politics, is a system to be used to the advantage of widening the scope of possibility for more insurrectionary action – to the degree that you reach the limits of the system, the forces that throw you back to the harsh reality of how the system is reproduced. You see, the great potential is that you know there will be an encounter once you expose yourself through publishing your research or showing your art, but that encounter is always different from what you imagine it to be. Then you always need curators, such as Frederike [Sperling], who can hold the institutional space to make those encounters happen. I have been fundamentally changed not by the art that we made, but the people I met along the way – it’s a bit kitsch, and I know there’s a meme that says exactly that, but it's true. The greatest limit of all is that art is constructed as a system that trickles down from capitalist aristocracy, one that sees no justice beyond representation. So you have to be strategic – but is it any different in any other field of social life?

What does it mean to make exhibitions for your creators? Why do they make exhibitions, and what do they fight against, and with which means? 

I can only answer through mistranslation; I hope OMSK doesn’t mind: the intention is to find an exceptional state of fictioning that infiltrates the traditional and potentially predictable and weaponized grammar of life. This is done through the synthesis of alternative communication systems, situated, contextual and embodied, that show the multitude of territories that have been left out by the map all along. 

Can you give any relationship advice for young artists in a toxic dynamic with the art worlds?

It’s very exciting that I’m being asked for relationship advice. All I can suggest is to try to not to be in any toxic relationship at all? Maybe send the art world to therapy? Or settle with a situationship until you can move on to something else. Things will only change incrementally, so don’t wear yourself out.

Can you derive methodologies from your practice that can help solve problems outside of the art field? For instance: how can we create meaning beyond words –e.g. working with language barriers and with non-verbality?

The tool for this would be the language game: manipulate the rules of the game until the structure itself implodes; learn to conceal the message until the medium has been reliably tested, and then reconfigure the new in the shell of the old.



The exhibition T(())mb is on view 07.06.2023 – 29.07.2023 at Kunstraum Niederösterreich in Vienna.


    T(( ))mb, Photographic Series 2023 (Skyler), Courtesy of OMSK Social Club. Photographer: Jonas Schoeneberg



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