“What does multilingualism look like? We can perhaps understand what it sounds like. But what do we picture when we think about multilingualism? And what role might artists have in visualising what it means to be multilingual and to live in a multilingual world?”
The Visual Representations of Multilingualism Competition arose as part of what might be considered a creative turn in Applied Linguistics. The competition aimed to provide a creative opportunity to explore new ways of representing multilingualism through visual means, to stimulate debate and to raise awareness about innovative ways of thinking about multilingualism.
The British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) worked in partnership with CuratorSpace, Multilingual Matters, and the AILA Research Network for Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics, to invite artists to submit visual representations of multilingualism. Over 90 submissions were received from creative practitioners, many of whom were international.
The exhibition features work by selected artists who explored ideas of multilingualism through a variety of media and concepts, including digital installations, large-scale murals, photography, textiles, graphic design and neon works. They also expressed social and political aspects of communication through representing and prioritising marginalised languages and heritage language use between refugees, as well as how children express their multilingual experience. In addition to this, many artists have explored their own personal relationships with multilingualism.
The exhibition was curated by Louise Atkinson and Jessica Bradley.
The exhibition was shown in the VR Cave at Manchester Metropolitan University as part of the annual conferene of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL2019) from 29th – 31st August 2019. As part of the exhibition, artists Linda Persson, Elina Karadzhova and Yasmin Brown attended a Q&A where they discussed their motivations for producing work about multilingualism.
The exhibition will continue to tour to Stirling, UK and Jyväskylä, Finland.