Only You Could Understand / Solo Tu Podrías Entender

Instituto Cervantes, Dakar Biennale OFF, Senegal. Mother Tongue project.


The curator, Aurora Martinez, commissioned various people in Dakar to write a text about their interpretation of the theme "Mother Tongue". Each artist received a text. My text, by US citizen Adam Bernstein, was about an intimate language shared with one's oldest friends; the common experiences, the secrets, the pop culture references, that only the members of that group could understand.  

In response to the text I decided to create a cylindrical space made of Senegalese cloth, hanging from a tall tree, that viewers had to enter in order to fully experience the piece. The bottom was about 3.5 feet off the ground, so that people had to bend down to come inside. Once inside they could listen to the text recorded by four women in English, Spanish, French and Wolof, the main Senegalese language. The audio starts with each language's rendition separately, then moves into a mix with the voices overlapping each other, in the way that memories of childhood layer and flow in and out of each other.  


Collaboration: (text) Adam Bernstein (voices) Aurora Martinez, Angele Priolot, Mame Khady Badji, (tailor) Otis, (metal) Serigne Modou Gueye, (sound engineer) Abib Diallo, (installation) Julien Gomis.

Photos: Dan Eliu Almonte and Jessica Fairfax Hirst.

Only you could understand -
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