Since its beginnings in 2020, Unbidden Tongues has published previously produced yet relatively uncirculated work by cultural practitioners busy with questions surrounding civility and civic life—particularly in relation to language and its administration. Not only interested in overt forms of creative and experimental writing, Unbidden Tongues also considers documents that might otherwise slip through the cracks of interest, or of what is perceived to be writing and, correspondingly, publishing in the first place. As such, supplementary paperwork like nursing records and regulatory reports have been points of reference throughout.
The first seven titles—each dedicated to a single person, namely Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, Karen Brodine, Adrian Piper, Janet McCalman, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lorraine O'Grady and Naomi Pearce—have focused on people who alongside their practices also happen to have been, at one time or another, administrators of sorts. While this is not a calculated coincidence, the ways each of the women have engaged with language and its handling is what brings them together, particularly when it comes to the act of speaking up, out, or not in turn—often within the constraints of behavioural requirement, such as while at work or when flouting expectation to conform. Therefore, the series is an ode to unmediated expression, or, as the title goes, to unbidden tongues everywhere.
Each title is printed in black-and-white and made with the intention to keep production efforts low, easily reproducible and financially sustainable, so as to contribute as effectively as possible to a wider circulation of the work.
Unbidden Tongues is available at:
After 8 Books, Paris
Fenrick Books, New York
Good Press, Glasgow
Hopscotch Reading Room, Berlin
Kunstverein München, Munich
Librairie La Dispersion, Geneva
Presse Books, London
Printed Matter, New York
Pro qm, Berlin
San Serriffe, Amsterdam
Six Chairs Books, Vilnius
South London Gallery, London
And freely available for perusal at:
Kunstenbibliotheek, KASK, Ghent
Progetto Library, Lecce
Unbidden Tongues #1: Introverse Arrangements is centred on the work of German artist Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt who, despite only recently garnering attention for her work, is most known for a period of geometric and poetic typewriter drawings produced between the 1970s and 1990 while employed as an administrator for the German Democratic Republic.
Published: January 2020
Dimensions: 18.5 x 11 x 0.5cm
Unbidden Tongues #2: Woman Sitting at the Machine, Thinking and Censorship is a two-part collection of poems by typesetter, activist and poet Karen Brodine. First published posthumously in 1990 as a reflection on her life as a typesetter, union organiser and lesbian, this series of ‘work poems’ chronicles labour struggles, both personal and collective, and draws on her experience growing up surrounded by socialist feminists immediately following the wrath of McCarthyism.
Published: July 2020
Dimensions: 22.5 x 14 x 0.6cm
Unbidden Tongues #3: Necessary Questions consists of an internal report written by conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper in 1998 that takes Wellesley College, Massachusetts—where she was then on staff—as a case study in institutional racism and neglect. As such, the report could be read simply as an administrative document, though one drenched in meticulously clear advice that could still be, despite being written twenty-three years ago, taken up on a glaringly universal level. Yet the role the report went on to play in Piper’s life proves it’s not just a context-specific document, but an all-too-real example of exactly what it stood against: the ways in which the langue of protocol and the false façade of civility are utilised as tactics to ensure that one stays in their place.
Published: January 2021
Dimensions: 23.5 x 20 x 0.8cm
Unbidden Tongues #3.1 is a poster to accompany Unbidden Tongues #3: Adrian Piper: Necessary Questions. This poster, housed in the archive of Kunstverein München and announcing Piper’s exhibition there in 1992, was reprinted in February 2022 on the occasion of Unbidden Tongues’ participation in On and Off the Grid, a yearly program of presentations and events dedicated to various form(at)s of publishing at the Schaufenster am Hofgarten, Kunstverein München.
Published: February 2022
Dimensions: 14.8 x 21cm (folded), 42 x 59.4cm (unfolded)
Unbidden Tongues #4: Oral Informants draws on the work of Australian social historian Janet McCalman who, in 1998, published a comprehensive history of the Melbourne Women’s Hospital. Written through the medical records of the women who were at one time or another the hospital’s temporary residents, McCalman’s account draws on a vast archive of 14,000 gynaecology records and over 70,000 midwifery records to build the hospital’s history through the administrative documents that litter its archive. Composed of an article written by McCalman in 1999 as well as a case file of original nursing notes, Oral Informants presents the ethics and process of penning a (medical) history lesson uniquely based in the oral testimony of women.
Published: July 2021
Dimensions: 22.5 x 14 x 0.6cm
Unbidden Tongues #4.1 is an addendum to accompany Unbidden Tongues #4: Janet McCalman: Oral Informants. A piece of unsolicited correspondence from my mother about her time at the Melbourne Women's Hospital—the institution at the centre of McCalman's title, which takes the oral testimonies of the women who worked there as primary evidence—this addendum is the first of a series of supplements to be published in addition to and as extensions of already existing title.
Published: February 2022
Dimensions: 18.5 x 10cm
Drawing on artist, poet and filmmaker Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s extensive and largely unexhibited archive of 'work on paper', Unbidden Tongues #5: Between the Teeth is a publication-turned-exhibition and the fifth title in the series. From never-realised film scripts to concrete poetry and artists statements written intimately in the first person, the collection of material selected for this occasion presents the varying ways with which Cha drew on her personal and familial experience as an immigrant to conceptually grapple with language and its mediation and suppression, particularly, in this case, in its written form.
Published: November 2021
Unbidden Tongues #5.1 is a stamp produced on the occasion of Unbidden Tongues #5: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Between the Teeth at Manifold Books, Amsterdam. In 1978, Cha created a stamp titled Mot Cache [Hidden Word] for the international rubber stamp design exhibition Stempelplaats, held in Amsterdam and speculated to have been organised by Ulises Carrion. Drawing on a connection between Cha and Royal Posthumus—a long-running family business of stamp makers who happen to have their shop at the very location were Stempelplaats was held—as well as on Cha stamp's use as a base for a postcard, this stamp was produced in an edition of twenty-five. Funds raised from the sale of the stamp will support Manifold's program for the coming year, while also providing the purchaser with a small dedication—to whoever they wish to gift a book, and to unbidden tongues everywhere, Cha's included.
Published: December 2021
Dimensions: 24 x 11 x 5cm
Unbidden Tongues #6: Reading the New York Times took the form of an event, held on Saturday, April 9 from 4–6pm at Kunstverein München. The event unfolded over a newly conceived spoken-word version of Lorraine O’Grady’s collage series Cutting Out the New York Times. The initial work consists of twenty-six 'cut-out' or 'found' newspaper poems that O’Grady made on consecutive Sundays from June to November in 1977. This booklet—which contains the poem The Renaissance Man Is Back In Business—acted as a guide for listeners at the event, during which five of the poems from the series were recited and broadcast through a public announcement system installed at Kunstverein München, reinterpreting the poems through their performance while still maintaining a commitment to the original format from which they sprung: print media and its oral translations in broadcasting.
Published: March 2022
Dimensions: 21.5 x 28cm
Unbidden Tongues #7: Continuity Girl unpacks the ‘forensic feminist methodology’ developed by writer, curator and administrator Naomi Pearce. Informed by research conducted in various personal archives of women administrators of artist studio spaces in London from the 1970s until now, the components of Pearce’s writing span mortuary field notes, interview transcripts, intimate first-person accounts and an auto-fictive mystery novella. These various evidentiary approaches blend to form an unconventional casebook that puts forward the complicating factors underpinning the process of writing history in the first place. In this particular title, the biographical lens focuses on Shirley Read—a photographer, writer, teacher, administrator and oral historian, whose work has been largely overlooked, until now.
Published: June 2022
Dimensions: 12 x 16cm
Unbidden Tongues #8: Feelers brings together three photographic series by artist and activist Alexis Hunter. In a storyboard-like fashion, her ‘photo narrative sequences’ forensically detail her manhandling of artefacts of patriarchal oppression through the caressing touch of an array of characters: the Marxist's wife, an interventionist secretary and a manicured mechanic. Born in New Zealand, Hunter moved to the United Kingdom in 1972 where, at the age of twenty-four, she joined the Women’s Workshop of the Artists Union and invested devotedly in feminist organising alongside her artistic practice.
Published: July 2023
Pages: 24, with postcard insert
Dimensions: 22 x 12 x 0.6cm