At the Tip of the Tongue

At the Tip of the Tongue

The exhibition "At the Tip of the Tongue" aims to encourage a conversation about the impact of language on power relations, issues of inclusion and exclusion. Are we aware of how language and language issues are manipulated? Do we use language, or does language use us?

The exhibition At the Tip of the Tongue is the result of the NOVAci project created in collaboration between WHW and Pogon. This year in its second edition, the programme is based on a public call and is designed to provide young curators at the beginning of their career with the necessary infrastructural, organizational and mentoring support in implementing their first independent curatorial projects. NOVAci thus acts as a support knowledge-building platform in the field of contemporary art, with a focus on practical experience in the field of curatorial practices, which often cannot be acquired while studying. For five months, as part of the project, curators Ana Kovačić and Lea Vene mentored young curator Antonela Solenički on how to prepare an exhibition: from developing the concept, meeting with artists, theorists and practitioners to selecting works, designing the exhibition layout and project reporting.

The exhibition At the Tip of the Tongue aims to encourage a conversation about the impact of language on power relations, issues of inclusion and exclusion. Are we aware of how language and language issues are manipulated? Do we use language, or does language use us?

Language, as the philosopher Slavoj Žižek states, is "the first and greatest divider", the cause of conflict based on a misunderstanding. The exhibition At the Tip of the Tongue questions how to approach this obstacle subversively and see the misunderstanding as the basis of understanding.

Focusing on the connection between social and linguistic structures, the exhibition At the Tip of the Tongue features artists from the former Yugoslavia whose works use language in different ways as a tool for self-reflection and social positioning. The research of linguist Snježana Kordić, who deals with the relationship between language and nationalism, is important for contextualizing the artworks in this exhibition. Starting from their own experience and interests, the artists create works that directly or indirectly touch on the topic of language and reveal to us the complexity of this issue: from the very articulation of voices, the connection between language and migration, the impact of language on our perception, all the way to the phenomenon of language death.

In her work Faces of Voice, the artist Neža Knez builds on her older eponymous work in which she explored the relationship between body language, primarily facial expressions and voice. By recording people slowly and clearly pronouncing the Slovene alphabet, something familiar to them, something close and common, she wanted to see what happens when one tries to pronounce the alphabet — something people usually pronounce automatically — more consciously, focusing on the regularity of pronunciation. In this new work, an eight-channel sound installation, the artist omits the image and thus shifts the focus from facial expressions to the articulation of voices, allowing us to create our own mental images of people pronouncing the alphabet. Each person pronounces the letters in their own rhythm, and the initially harmonized sounds melt into a harmonic cacophony, inviting us to come closer to each speaker to discern individual voices.

The video work Tante aus Deutschland by the artist Mila Panić is a recording of a conversation between the artist and her two aunts who migrated to Germany during the war in Bosnia. Tante, or the colloquially known term aunt from Germany, is a symbolic and almost mythical figure of a Gastarbeiter (German for guest worker) familiar to many in the former Yugoslavia whose family members migrated to Germany. The work also records the artist's personal experience of displacement by moving to Berlin. The topics that Panić touches on are the issues of social integration and the role of language in this process, as well as the fears and uncertainties that the experience of migration brings. The video Tante aus Deutschland plays without subtitles, thus suggesting exclusion as a result of a misunderstanding.

The work Limits of Language by the artist Žarko Aleksić is based on a quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”/“границе мога света су границе мога језика” written in Cyrillic on a transparent fabric. The performative part of the work consists of a drone carrying the fabric with the inscription and placing it on a wall between two curtains made of the same transparent material that suggest a scene. The artist takes over the use of a drone to deliver a message from the Albanian fans who used a drone to carry the flag of Greater Albania during the Serbia-Albania match in Belgrade in 2014. The fabric in his work functions as a means of division, even though it is transparent. Thus, the work questions the issue of mental and physical boundaries: where are the boundaries and who decides on them?

The work titled My Language Is My Awakening by Petar Vranjković, which resembles a tombstone, is a reference to the Māori proverb “My language is my awakening, my window to the soul“ and a reflection on the phenomenon of language death. The artist adapts the proverb “My language is my awareness, but what happens when it dies?“ and by connecting language with the concept of consciousness, reflects on the arbitrariness of language as a tool for self-knowledge and knowledge of the world. Languages disappear for political, economic and cultural reasons, gradually or suddenly. Still, questions remain - not only about the consequences but about what else dies with the death of a language?

At the Tip of the Tongue brings together artists from the region who deal with the topic of language from different perspectives. The heterogeneity of the works indicates the complexity of this theme, but what they have in common, apart from regional affiliation, are their personal stories about migration, the adoption of new artistic languages and the impact of the same on their acceptance and access to social spheres. Linguistic games we engage in are not harmless, and by enjoying the conformity of language use, we often unconsciously support the established power relations, so whoever uses language is not innocent. Therefore, the exhibition affirms the power of art to shake up the existing relationships and stretch the imposed boundaries by expanding, collapsing and erasing them.


Žarko Aleksić (1985, Knjaževac, Serbia) studied philosophy at the University of Belgrade, and then he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (the class of Professor Martin Gutman), where he worked as an assistant. During the winter semester of 2018/19, he organized and led the Art and Cognitive Sciences course there and then also at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Department of Artistic Research. At the same University, he did a PhD titled Consciousness as an Artistic Medium, mentored by Margareta Jahramnn. He currently works as an assistant professor at the Department of New Media at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade. His post-disciplinary art practice is based on researching consciousness, mental processes and artificial intelligence in relation to the socio-political issues of cognitive capitalism. Taking into account neurobiological endeavours, as well as those within cognitive neuroscience, his practice addresses personal phenomenology through the examination of his own states of consciousness. He has exhibited in numerous individual and group exhibitions in Serbia and abroad.

Neža Knez (1990, Ljubljana, Slovenia) explores potentials and possibilities within fictional structures that appear in real time and space. She is interested in the relationships that take place in the process of structuring the form; be it a moving image, sound, language, or multimedia installation. She is fascinated by the materiality of light, the intensity of pixels, the tactility of sound and the volume of sight. She first discusses all this with her long-time teacher, the dog Niki. She has won several prominent awards: Recognition (2012) and Award (2014) for outstanding academic achievements at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, awards for an innovative approach to artistic graphics (2015), Prešern Award of the University of Ljubljana (2015). In 2017, she participated in the Youth Biennale in Tirana. For her graduation thesis, she received the highest distinction Summa Cum Laude (2017). She won a two-year residency for young artists at the Creative Centre of Switzerland, and in 2018 she was on a two-month residency in New York associated with the OHO Award. She also won the i-Portunus award of the European Commission for the mobility of artists (2019) and is the recipient of the Ministry of Culture's Work Scholarship (2022). Her video works are also included in the DIVA Archive (SCCA). Since 2020, she has been living and working between Zagreb and Ljubljana, where she partially moved as one of the participants of the WHW Academy. In 2021, she participated in the RESTART educational programme, where she improved her knowledge of the medium of film.

Mila Panić (1991, Brčko, Bosnia and Hercegovina) is an artist and stand-up comedian currently based in Berlin. Her art practice ranges from personal documentation to highly poetic visual and discursive elements through which she interprets the various legacies of migration, providing insight into the consequences of the process and revealing what usually goes undocumented. Using different media, she forms the overall picture and exposes diverse cultural narratives present in the very idea of migration. Mila Panić is also the host of the Broken English podcast, which explores language politics and the question of how to live between two or more languages. She is the co-founder of the collective and association Fully Funded Residencies.eV, which provides an overview of paid opportunities for all cultural workers, as well as an exchange of experiences and a critical review of AIR programmes.

Petar Vranjković (1997) is a young transmedia artist who uses objects from (family) archives, photography, graphics and design in his artistic work. He is a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Department of New Media and Animation: new media module. He has participated in several group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. His solo exhibitions include Whānau, Karas Gallery, Zagreb, 2019; Ich vermisse dich/ Das sind alles meine Freuden, Spot Gallery, Zagreb, 2020; 2002, Kocka Gallery, Split and Even the dirty things appear beautiful, Miroslav Kraljević Gallery, Zagreb, 2022.

The programme is supported by:
Office for Culture, Intercity and International Cooperation and Civil Society
Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia
The Kultura Nova Foundation