Medium: German language, painting
The (spoken) German language assigns gender to all nouns* (apart from very few exceptions).
According to Duden, 46% are feminine („die“), 20% neutral („das“) and 34% masculine („der“).
The classification of gender for nouns is also called the grammatical gender, or Genus.
1,4% of German nouns have a so-called „schwankenden Genus“, meaning that more than one grammatical gender is in use and correct.
For 0,04% even all three genders are accurate.
These three-gendered nouns are the basis of my work, in which I focus on the following:
der, die oder das Joghurt (yoghurt)
der, die oder das Triangel (triangle)
der, die oder das Zigarillo (cigarillo / Small cigar)
I asked myself whether (or how) the grammatical gender influences the use of the German language and the human understanding of gender and also, if the strict categorization is even necessary. Are there „genderfluid“ nouns that do not submit to the rules of division? How can I free them from the spoken and the written word, establish a new form, a new language? How can I give the „schwankende Genus“ a performative shape?
*A noun or substantive is a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things ( common noun ), or to name a particular one of these ( proper noun ).
During my linguistic research my focus shifted towards the Austrian sign language (österreichische Gebärdensprache/ ÖGS).
ÖGS has its own grammar and abstains from using grammatical gender completely.
Therefore, an additional recognized German language exists, that works without grammatical gender.
There is a variety of attempts to provide sign language a script-system, but until today none of them are used on daily basis.
The difficulty is that signs cannot just follow a certain lettering-system, but describe the four manual handmechanisms that build a single sign (hand-form, position of execution, movement, hand-position). Additionally, the non-manual aspects like mimic, look, posture and lip movement are essential in completing the correct signing.
In short, very complex and poorly realizable.
As a result, sign language is always taught visually, by people or via video.
To me this lack of a proper transcript offers a huge field for visual experiments and in this case is a tool to release the substantive from typography, iconography and the grammatical gender. A new form arises, my individual visual (queer) language.
Based on the signs for the three single words, I highly reduced the movement of the hands (or fingers) and brought them onto paper. In this way, new shapes and a performative layer develop, detached from word and gender(s).
The official recognition of the multiple grammatical genders in Duden is the basis for my work.
The physical object becomes an auditory object (sound) becomes a word.
The physical object becomes a visual object (sign) becomes a stylized picture.
To support the analogy of sound and sign, the picture is applied to paper with a brush and color.
In this case, black acrylic on DIN A2 paper. As a second layer a transparent DIN A4 paper is positioned over every painting with masking tape. It repeats the shape and creates depth and two-dimensionality.
The paper is bound in a book, accentuating the context of language on this level. The single papers can easily be ripped out. I can also imagine the paintings positioned classically on a wall, where they can encourage a discourse about language and gender.
The titel of the single painting is the stylized substantive (without grammatical genders).
Repro-photographies were made, in order to make an online presentation possible. In the process of post production, some additional abstractions developed which mainly serve as a detailed look at the painting.