Overall concept and design: Ray Langenbach

Performance concept, script, videography and editing: Ray Langenbach

Performances by Rachmat, Zainab Wahiddin, Ray Langenbach

Sound concept: Ray Langenbach

Sound Design and ‘inaudible’ ultrasound / infrasound composition: Andy Alias

Moving image concept and design: Brandon Liew 

A reconstruction of the original assemblage presented at Galeri Luar Pusat, Penang in 1989, The Language Lesson will be presented in See Me, See You: Early Video Installation of Southeast Asia, National Gallery of Singapore, opening 13 October 2023.

Language lessons are ubiquitous global rites of passage that authorize and smooth acceptance into the local community of native speakers. Since verbal language is the primary medium for the purveyance of cultural values, language lessons are sites for the transmission of intrinsic knowledge and cultural doctrine. Learning to read, write, speak and decode facilitates entry into the social habitus – the prevailing beliefs, myths, and history of a people, their prevailing ideologies and episteme. While most language lessons stick to acceptable and ubiquitous speech-acts, carefully avoiding contentious topics, this “language lesson,” spoken by a Malaysian woman and man and an American man, begins with stereotypical and anodyne topics and veers into the dialectics of identity, class, sexuality, race, religion, war, crime, atrocities, and responsibility.

The language lesson presented in this journal is a conventional linguistic ritual, spoken in the human auditory frequency range, but is accompanied by another infrasound/ultrasound composition that is audible to certain other species and specialised audio technology, while inaudible to humans.

Ray Langenbach 2023