Caroline Bergvall

Caroline Bergvall

Seeing through languages

Did you know that in French one has to spit out a cat, in order to clear one's throat? Poet Caroline Bergwall questions what languages do to the way we understand ourselves: “English speakers don't so much struggle with cats as with frogs.”

“There are so many languages that I do not know, and therefore there are so many ways of communicating that I don’t know anything about.” London based French-Norweigan writer Caroline Bergvall (b. 1962) is a cross-disciplinary artist known for her multilingual and performance-oriented practices. In this video she reads from her poem ‘Cropper’ (2008) at Godsbanen in Aarhus, Denmark. Using the many meanings and associations of the word ‘crop’, Bergvall combines English, French and Norwegian. In English ‘crop’ is about breaking, interrupting or growing, while in Scandinavia ‘crop’ means ‘body’. Thus ‘Cropper’ is questioning the meanings and borders of languages. “Violence exists in language and can by applied very easily to actual bodies,” Bergvall explains.

Bergvall’s books often combine visual, performative and textual elements, and in spite of having English as her third language, she uses it as her main language as a writer. “I place myself within the politics and histories of that language as someone who’s had to learn it.” Bergvall uses accent, dialects, puns and even misspellings as literary practices, which means that one must not only read her texts, but listen closely to her readings.

Listening to ‘Cropper’ is an experience of moving in and out of languages – some of which the listener might not know. “That interest for different languages, for knowing and not knowing languages and the kind of communication that cuts across languages and cultures has helped me develop a number of ways of writing,” Bergvall explains. “It also made me a writer.”

The video starts and ends with Bergvall reading from ‘Cat in the Throat’ (2009).

Caroline Bergvall was interviewed by Alexander Vesterlund at Godsbanen in Aarhus during an ‘Art Writing’ seminar held by Aarhus Litteraturcenter, March 2013.

Camera: Jonas Hjort.

Edited by: Kamilla Bruus

Produced by: Alexander Vesterlund, 2013.

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

Supported by Nordea-Fonden.

  • Wim Wenders

    Advice to the young

    “Do what nobody else can do except for you.” Such is the unflagging advice from German filmmaker Wim Wenders, who in this video gives us his take on how to become a successful artist.

  • Richard Serra

    On 'Porten i slugten'

    Richard Serra is one of the world's most significant sculptors. In this video Serra presents one piece and reveals how he approaches an assignment in order to create the extraordinary experience for the viewer which is his trademark.

  • William Kentridge

    How we make sense of the world

    "There is a desperation in al certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is", says South African artist William Kentridge in this video presenting his work.

  • Ian McKeever

    Mystery to the Viewer

    “I am trying to take the sense of speed out of the visual world of looking.” Interview with renowned British artist, Ian McKeever.

  • Alaa al-Aswany

    Dictatorship is a Disease

    Why is dictatorship so hard to get rid of? Best-selling Egyptian novelist, Alaa al-Aswany, here presents us with surprising takes on a continuously hot topic.

  • Keith Tyson

    A pattern of mystery

    When British artist Keith Tyson was 13 years old he took apart his computer and “it was a complete mystery how it worked”. Even though he understood programming, the interconnectedness of everything was like a labyrinth, he says.

  • Chimamanda Adichie

    Beauty does not solve any problem

    I am drawn to the beauty of sentences, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie confesses in this interview. Nevertheless it is important to keep a distance to your characters.

  • David Hockney

    Photoshop is boring

    In this video David Hockney meditates on the concept of seeing. On depicting spring, on Picasso's owl that thrills us, on Photoshop and on why magazine images today are so dull - and on the similarities between seat belts and bondage.

  • Sarah Sze

    The meaning between things

    ”A sculpture is constantly growing and dying at the same time. It is a parallel process of construction and deconstruction.” Meet contemporary artist Sarah Sze in her New York studio.

  • Patti Smith

    Banga - acoustic version

    The title song from Patti Smith’s recent album 'Banga' performed live by Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye at the Louisiana Literature festival August 2012. Banga is named after a dog in Bulgakov’s novel ’The Master and Margarita’.

  • Herta Müller

    How could I forgive

    ”Reconciliation? How can I reconcile with a regime? It's a huge machine. Each person was the dictatorship itself.” Interview with German-Romanian writer Herta Müller, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. If you only see one interview with her, it must be this one!

  • Robert A.M. Stern

    The Limestone Jesus

    "Buildings should not look like Lady Gaga. I think it is much more exciting to enter into a dialogue with the past" says the acclaimed American architect Robert A.M. Stern in this video presenting 'The Limestone Jesus'-building, 15 Central Park West in New York.