In her moving book, ‘In Other Words’, the American writer Jhumpa Lahiri explores her decision, based on passionate curiosity, to write in Italian. Fluent in Bengali and English she chooses to write in a third language, finding freedom in the directness it forces upon her. More than two-thirds of this year’s graduates have more than one language. This past 18 months has made us all acutely aware that language is embodied, it has gestures and different bodies are differently vulnerable. The strange intimacy and estrangement of speaking only through a screen becomes our Esperanto. Print is a language that requires translation from the haptic and spatial to the screen. To be forced into one domain is against the very impulse that made many students leave home to study.
The achievements of these graduates are profound. A collective rebellion against confinements of all kinds has resulted in an eruption of matter. Rocks, pillows, plants, steel, liquid light, there is something forensic and wayward about much of this year’s work. There is a dreamlike aspect to some work, reflecting the interiority forced on us all, a sense of the value of stories to expand the present. A reckoning with what is really important: care, improvisation, collaboration, an ability to convey emotion and difficulty is ever-present. Art therapy, a desire to set up new structures and spaces, to use work as a discursive, playful, healing tool has emerged this year. Please enjoy these provocations and support the future work of these graduates.