If to name something is to attempt some ownership over it – some fixity or hold – to pinpoint some integral meaning or to assert a structure for experience – then it is destined to slip and miss, since the associated meaning of words is never identical between any two people.
Curated by Bryony Dawson, The Naming of Things at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester explores the unfixed and mutable potential of language. Unhooked from the task to convey truth or objectivity, this slippery unreliability can instead be viewed as a generous invitation for fluid, speculative and plural perspectives. It includes works by Sriwhana Spong, Charlie Godet Thomas, Jeanne Constantin, Sarah Tripp, Jessica Higgins, Lydia Davies, and Bryony Dawson
The media of painting, sculpture, moving image and sound have a materiality, a tactile or spatial presence that language can only simulate. However, in this exhibition, it is precisely this immateriality that gives language the freedom to expand and mutate in virtual space – to construct imaginary architectures, give voices to intangible phenomena, and to inhabit multiple viewpoints at once. The selected artists use writing as a central tool within film, sculpture and sound works to explore topics including quantum physics, psychological space, and everyday encounters.
The exhibition welcomes the tensions between fixed identity and subjectivity as a way to interrogate the structures that name our experience. It invites inquiry into methods of knowledge production that are not reliant on fixed categories or objective structures. Instead, ‘knowledge’ might be conceived as a complex, woven and mutable network incorporating both acceptance of and resistance to these categories and structures that name us: a continuously shifting process of rethinking, rearranging, re-naming.
The Naming of Things was selected from proposals submitted by Castlefield Gallery Associates by guest selector, artist Ryan Gander OBE and Curator & Deputy Director, Matthew Pendergast.