by Ariana Hoshino and Maggie Zoz
Linguistic diversity can be a pretty abstract concept. In this blog post, we explore how linguistic diversity presents itself through the creation of artistic media and the situational use of different languages. We found that language use in both contexts is dependent on both the intent of the speaker and the target community. Speakers observe the context of their surroundings and language community when determining how to achieve understanding. We conducted two field surveys sampling members of the Swarthmore College community: Project A, where multilingual individuals were asked about their experiences codeswitching, and Project B, where artists were asked about how they utilize language in their literary art. Projects A and B explore ways that linguistic diversity manifests based on speaker’s perception of the language use in their environment.
by Amanda Izes, Melanie Kleid, Elyse O'Bannon, and Ryan Sheehan
Watch their exciting video essay below.
A Culture of Creation and Exchange.
In center city Philadelphia, down 11th and Arch Street and to the right of a small doorway, a string hangs connected to a rusted bell and a sign that reads “Please close le door.” At the top of a steep flight of stairs, the scent of just-painted walls lingers in the air. The sound of footsteps crossing creaky wooden floors echoes through the narrow hall. Within these vibrantly abstract walls, the inhabitants of Space 1026 quietly wind down for the night.
Space 1026 is an artistic community defined by its creative and linguistic richness, opportunity for collaboration, and connectedness. During our November 29th visit we had the opportunity to speak to both old and new members of Space 1026, or “Space,” for short. Through interviews, these community members described what Philadelphia and its art culture means to them as creators. Our short documentary provides a look into the real and imagined communities of Philadelphia’s art scene as detailed by local creators.
Watch the Video.
More than a Gallery or Studio.
Artists Justin Cipa and Troy Taylor helped us understand that Space 1026 is much more than just a second-floor gallery/studio complex, an art supply storage space, or a 9-to-5-internship opportunity. Rather, Space is a fluid collective of artists and audiences, a community of sharing, inspiring, and listening. As illustrated by the drawings, stickers, and hand-written phrases that decorate its walls, Space is a constantly evolving art project representing each and every voice of its participants.
It is a physical place, but it is also an imagined community and social network of connectedness among people of all identities from all parts of the city. It is not only an enclosed studio but also a starting point for ideas and projects to expand into new places. What happens at Space doesn’t stay at Space.
Space 1026 members suggest that social media, particularly Instagram (@Space1026), is among the most impactful and useful tools in their growth as artists and their exposure to the creative world around them. The ease of tagging a creator in a post, sending a message, searching a username, and scrolling through hundreds of images and clips of others’ artwork makes social media outlets--even the Google images page--incredibly beneficial to developing artists looking for inspiration, constructive criticism, or simply a place to visibly document their progress.
Physically and virtually, Space 1026 provides a platform for community-building and a safe place for self-expression. Space is also constantly opening new doors for its members and audiences to explore Philadelphia’s creative culture.
Thank you for watching!
About the Authors.
by Michael Broughton II, Natalie LaScala, and Daniel Wallick
Watch their exciting video essay below.
Designed to Evoke Emotion.
A ghastly warthog looms above the cluttered front desk. Countless paintings, road signs, and nostalgia cover the walls. A lighted stage, decorated with knick-knacks, gives an indie-rock feel to the back of the room. These features mark the particularly striking interior of waR3house3.
Hidden in an alleyway, the store's entrance is marked by only a small sign. We visited this unique shop and music venue to learn about the space’s contribution to the local Swarthmore community. Though we initially knew very little, aside from what we gathered from an earlier visit, an interview with the owner, Rob Borgstrom, and his friend Paul, helped us to understand the space as a linguistic landscape, or intentional dialectic of language use and imagery.
Watch the Video.
What Makes an “Antique?”
When we began our interview, Rob called the design of the store “reactionary.” We asked him to elaborate, and he explained how he wanted people to “feel something” in response to the items in the shop, although this reaction could vary widely. The store owner also explained that he tries to distance his store from a traditional “antique shop.” To him, the word antique indexes negative stereotypes about shops selling vintage goods. (Rob had no problem using this idea to poke fun at his buddy’s age, and used the word antique to describe Paul!)
Instead, what counts as an antique, according to Rob and Paul, depends on one’s perspective. Paul noted that the difference between an “antique” and an “old piece of junk” is what someone is willing to pay for it, again emphasizing the role of perspective and notions of value and prestige.
The linguistic landscape that Rob has constructed inspires many stories, some of which we learned through our interview. Even the chairs we were sitting in had a backstory. Paul bought the chairs at an auction, and they sat in his house for two years or so. When Rob opened waR3house3, he realized the chairs would be useful for live music performances, and now they have a second life.
A Multifunctional Space.
While we focused on the shop element of waR3house3, the space also doubles as a music venue for up-and-coming bands. These Saturday-night performances implicate different rules and expectations of language use and communication, or interactional regimes, than when the space is in use as a store.
When Rob described about these performances, he began using different wording. “Magical” and “mystical” featured in his talk, helping to highlight the transformational quality of the space as a music venue rather than a simply a store. Still, these two functions of the space are closely intertwined: Rob views music as an important part of waR3house3, even when performances are not occurring. He insisted on streaming music from Pandora during the interview, “because it’s waR3house3!”
We were particularly struck by how the multifunctionality of the space serves eclectic participants in the local Swarthmore community, across both the college and Borough. Although, waR3house3 finds the majority of its support among Borough residents, the store owner intends the space to bridge the gap between the the college and Borough communities.
About the Authors.
By Jamie A. Thomas
"Are Words More Powerful Than Pictures?"
"Why won't you let me finishing my painting? I'm satisfied with it. I'm proud of what I've done." Emily can't understand why her art teacher isn't enthused. Her voice wavering, Dina implores her student to push her creation by seeking a transcendent level of evocativeness and emotion. She must go beyond the real. "Your work is good," Dina tells Emily. "But it's about getting the work right, it's about the work!" I paraphrase here, but it was in these tense moments between art teacher and student that I began to personally connect with the on-screen story of Words and Pictures (2014).
Yes, it's loosely a romantic story between an artist and a poet. Yes, I had been shamelessly looking on Prime for a new romcom earlier this afternoon. But no, this movie is not a romcom. It has a brilliant screenplay by Gerald DiPego, and a wonderful, poignant message on the importance of creativity, passion, and teaching.
In the movie, painter Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) develops a friendly rivalry with poet Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) who also teaches at the high school. He finds himself "teaching in the era of the undead," where high school students seem devoid of passion and intuition. Searching for a way to motivate his students, Jack asks them to question: "Are words more powerful than pictures?"
One such word at the center of Jack and Dina's friendly feud is hyperemotionality. As the storyline advanced, I took this word to relate to the exceptional emotional response inspired by evocative artwork, prose, and poetry. While watching the movie, I had to press pause so I could reflect. Already, my mind was recalling the wonder, surprise, laughter, and gloom I've experienced in reading ethnographic encounters.
From Geertz' thick description of the Balinese cock fight, to Ochs and Schieffelin's account of communication among mothers and their children in Samoa. In ethnography, there's not so much a rivalry between words and pictures, as a combining of these into imagery that recreates lived experience for those of us who were never there. Just like the painted canvas or stanza are crafted to draw audiences into the artist's own worldview.
These days, I'm more and more fascinated by ethnographic writing and creation, because I'm pulling together my very own first book, Zombies Speak Swahili. So now I want to share developing reflections on experimental ethnography as an artistic and cinematic exploration in creation.
By Jamie A. Thomas
M is for Makumbusho (Museum).
Where do you go when you want to explore at your own pace? When you want to learn with visual interest and engaged focus? You might end up at a museum. A place where objects, stories, and experiences are narrated through artful display and carefully crafted prose.
In Swahili, the word for museum is makumbusho, meaning a physical place of memories, related to kumbuka (remember) and kumbukumbu (memories). I like these Swahili terms because they capture the role of museums in archiving public discourse and stimulating our cultural understanding of our relationship to human events, created things, and natural phenomena. The Guardian recently had a wonderful piece on how a temporary outdoor art museum in a marginalized Mumbai community is challenging mainstream ideas of what counts as art. The Mumbai museum features the avant-garde pottery and intricate tools of local craftspeople, many of whom have never set foot in a museum space. The key revelation? "When you have a museum, you count."
Particularly because I'm chasing my own growing interest in museums, I recently set out to explore a bit of Old Sacramento on a visit with family. What I discovered enchanted me further with museum exhibits as forms of public discourse, and has me thinking about ways more of us can enjoy these spaces. And even though the power went out in one museum, this didn't spell the end of my memorable encounter.
As digital spaces become more ubiquitous, I'm finding it increasingly important to temporarily unplug and make time for physical visits to material collections. So now, I want to share with you some of the insights I gathered on visits to a variety of public history and art museums across Sacramento and Los Angeles. During my spring break from teaching, I experienced firsthand how tactile engagement, play, and ambient inspiration amplified my intercultural learning. Essentially, I found myself noticing and discovering new information during moments of wonder [and wander ] with museum collections. These are curative and educational approaches I now aim to incorporate into my own practice...
Jamie A. Thomas is a sociocultural linguist and digital media producer. Her forthcoming ethnography Zombies Speak Swahili is all about the undead, videogames, and why language matters. She teaches at Swarthmore College.