Christian Thompson, Dead Tongue, 2015

Single channel video, 3:32 mins, colour, sound

Christian Thomson's work Dead Tongue featues the artist with two paper Union Jack pennants fluttering between his teeth. The sound is of the artist singing in his father's Indigenous Australian language of Bidjara, of the Kunja nation in central Queensland, a language categorised as extinct by the global languages catalogue Ethnologue.

Dead Tongue work builds on previous works by the artist that incorporate language and music, including Gamu Mambu (Blood Song), 2010, Dhagunyilangu (Brother), 2011 and Refuge, 2014, in which Thompson paired his father's Bidjara language with pop and operatic music.

 

Sourcing the words from historic archives as well as from the "pigeon Bidjara" taught to him by his father, when Thompson asked his father if there were any traditional songs left in Bidjara, his father replied there were none, so Thompson decided to compose his own.

Following his participation in a residency with acclaimed performance artist Marina Abramović, as part of Kaldor Art Projects, Thompson made the decision to concentrate on the language alone in his video works, stating that "the language isn't really dead if it's being spoken, even if one word of it is being spoken."