An Artist Who Cannot Speak English is No Artist

Mladen Stilinović



Collection: Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna.

This work by Mladen Stilinović (10 April 1947 – 18 July 2016) is also a statement. An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist describes succinctly the conditions for artists working under the hegemony of the English language. It talks directly to us using this language that the globalised art world uses, making us starkly aware of its linguistic dominance. The words of the statement are sewn onto a banner. However, despite its directness, it remains of ambiguous intention – are the words a request, or a protest, or an expression of resignation? An artist who was active in Croatia from the 1960s onwards, Stilinović had been part of an active scene, yet one still marginalised by that of Western Europe. And since contemporary art went through a process of going global post-1989, English has allowed worldwide exchange for practitioners. Stilinović’s statement, made during this early phase of internationalisation, asks us: are those who are unable or unwilling to use this language, not contemporary artists?

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