Mother Tongue


exhibition Details

In an arrangement that resembles an open book, acclaimed Australian artist Angelica Mesiti structures Mother Tongue, 2017 like a musical score, drawing on synchronicity, harmony, dissonance and discordant associations to generate an image of juxtaposed social realities.

Originally commissioned by the European Capital of Culture Aarhus in 2017, this video installation takes the songs in the Højskolesangbogen (The National Folk High School Songbook) as its conceptual starting point. The Højskolesangbogen is the foundational anchor of the Danish tradition of fællessang (communal singing), which originated in the socialist movements of the late 1800s as a form of protest and is today a symbol of national identity and togetherness. To adhere to fællessang is to perform the vernacular of a collective ‘mother tongue’.

In Mesiti’s Mother Tongue, urban, civic, learning and residential spaces are the settings for multiple performances – from popular radio hits to traditional folk songs, Somali blues, marching drills and wedding dances. The work celebrates and examines the ways communities learn to live together, and shows how music is used as a social cohesion and carried from place to place by people integrating into communities.

Mesiti’s meditations on migrations offer a range of attitudes – from the joyous to the melancholic. The blue hues, moonlit skies and slow pace of Mother Tongue suggest a world not entirely settled, a place finely balancing the act of community.

Artwork credit:

Angelica MesitiMother Tongue, 2017
dual-channel, high definition (HD) video installation, 17:54, colour, surround sound, two screen
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki gift of the Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery, 2020

Curated by
Juliana Engberg
Auckland Art Gallery

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About the artist:

Angelica Mesiti (born1976, Sydney) currently lives between Sydney and Paris. She is fascinated by performance as a mode of storytelling and a means to express social ideas in physical form. In recent years she has been making videos that reveal how culture is manifested through non-linguistic forms of communication, and especially through vocabularies of sound and gesture.

Mesiti represented Australia at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019). She has held solo shows at Palais De Tokyo (Paris, 2019), Art Sonje Centre (Seoul, 2018), Tbilisi Kunsthale (Tbilisi, 2018)and the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra, 2017) among others. She has taken part in biennales of Adelaide (2018), Sydney (2014), Auckland (2013), Istanbul (2013) and Sharjah (2013). The artist is represented by Galerie Allen (Paris) and by Anna Schwartz Gallery (Melbourne).