erick beltran: analphabet
23 Jan - 6 Mar 2005

The Mexican artist Erick Beltrán (1974) has a notable fascination with language.

– with the graphic applications of language, and also with the economic and political motives that drive the producers and distributors of printed matter.

In his new project ANALPHABET, Beltrán focuses specifically on the visual manifestations of linguistic signs. In 2001, visiting Syria, he found himself confronted with a sea of unintelligible characters as he walked around the streets. His sudden “word blindness” led him to focus on the images of the Arabic language, laying the foundations for his project ANALPHABET. In the next phase, he turned to the visual manifestations of linguistic signs in three regions that speak languages he doesn’t know. He took several trips to places that use Arabic, Chinese or Cyrillic script: “In my condition of a tourist, of a foreigner, of an ‘analphabet’, I asked myself how things worked.” The aim was to unravel the “inner meaning” of the characters. In other words, Beltrán was looking not so much at the semantic function of the linguistic signs but their form, and exploring the cultural meanings that could be attached to them.

In his project ANALPHABET, which he worked on for four years and which is now being presented for the first time at the SMBA, Beltrán introduces us to his intuitive, visual voyage of discovery, which leads past rules, points and calligraphic gestures. Through photoseries, texts, painted advertisements and a workshop led by the Chinese master calligrapher Zou Le Sheng from Shanghai, he tries to fathom the puzzles posed by the letters – on the threshold of significance and cacophony.

SMBA Newsletter no. 84 includes the essay “Triumph of the Analphabet” by Matthijs van Boxsel, author of The encyclopaedia of stupidity (first published in Dutch in 1999). The special publication ANALPHABET will appear to accompany the exhibition, published by Artimo with the aid of the Mondriaan Foundation. Curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen.

The organisers wish to acknowledge the financial support of Kleurgamma, Amsterdam, which helped to make this exhibition possible.

Workshop on Chinese calligraphy by the master calligrapher Zou Le Sheng on four Saturdays at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Rozenstraat 59, Amsterdam: 29 January, 5 February, 19 February and 26 February 2005.
Each session will start at 14:00 hours. If you wish to participate (free of charge), phone 020 422 0471. Only a limited number of places are available