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Silent Negotiations


Sand, a granular material is the means of expression in the silent negotiation sessions of Acting Things VIII. Two people move together in silence, pushing, pulling, stroking, throwing, sweeping sand in order to negotiate one public matter. Judith Seng has compared this process with the one that happens at the bazaar, where the final price is not fixed and may include bargaining performances between the seller and buyer. Normally we aim towards established standards because these allow us to discuss matters in a clear, comparable and probably predictable way. Yet communicating with sand leaves us without fixed forms and terms. Sand gives us the chance to test our common ways of communicating without spoken words. “I feel silent negotiation in sand actually allowed me to do something, which in language is restricted because of the limitation of the words we have,” contemplates participant Jana Scholz. Before the actual negotiation, participants have the possibility to rehearse their new language at the Gesture Table. To explore and train how to express gestures like pushing, contrasting or blowing with sand.

Colours and values. In this installation each colour and later their blends have one social value attached to them. Red represents collectivity, yellow individuality and blue standardisation. These are the first three colors and values that you will encounter in the beginning of the exhibition period on pristine white areas. In the end all colors will be merged into new shades and values, that are studied and tested in silent dialogues. At the Value Map Table, you can see arrows pointing which colors and values will be discussed and mixed throughout the installation.

Public questions. In 2020/21 we are directed to safely inhabit our private sphere and the public encounters have become novel. This installation is a meeting place to explore our private public boundaries in a gallery room next to the public Freedom Square. This location may embody a space for workshops negotiating our status quo in the public sphere that may be first learned and subsequently debated. How do we contribute to matters being unchanged? Do we see the shared values that maintain our social status quo in the blended coloured piles? The participants of the negotiations have the opportunity to freely select any public issue that matters to them. Each participant enters an instructed process where the pile in front of them has a certain value and colour that they are asked to interact with in order to negotiate with the other participant and another coloured sand pile. The interactions are as spontaneous as the participant feels like, however, there is always an aspect of keeping your fellow participant in mind and relating to them. After a period of bodily engagement the participants come together at the workshop table to reflect on their performance and summarise their findings about the discussed issue.

Acting Things VII first brought people together to study their interactions via movement in coloured sand at Pera Museum Istanbul, Luma Arles, Z33 Hasselt and Tripostal Lille. The iteration at Tallinn Art Hall Gallery is exploring the private and public boundaries in the city that we as inhabitants create, discuss and shift.

Text by Sandra Nuut

Silent Negotiations is the eigth project in Judith Seng’s ongoing ACTING THINGS series, that since 2011 has asked: What if we look at production processes as if they were a dance, a play, a ritual? More about the project here

Year: 2021 / Location: Tallinn Art Hall Gallery / Curator: Sandra Nuut , Tamara Luuk / Production: Valge Kuup / Video: Johan Huimerind / Funding: IFA, Cultural Endowment Estonia