Julija Zaharijević at Alienze

Artist: Julija Zaharijević

Exhibition title: Silver Lane

Venue: Alienze, Vienna, Austria

Date: May 23 – June 24, 2021

Photography: images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Alienze, Vienna

Children learn to write the alphabet by tracing letters, by following the lines and directions of As and Bs and Cs. To learn to write is to trace the outlines of language with hands and to remember the way. Draw a crescent moon and a mirrored one below it. That is an S. This is my letter, my character. It looks like a snake, sounds like one too, sssssss. It’s the same with numbers and cities, you somehow know which one you are or want to be, so you boil your character down to its ‘core’ – an empty signifier. It doesn’t really matter which one you are. Every star sign starter pack is relatable for all.

The English alphabet is a phonographic sign system built on 26 symbols. The hand is a struc-ture of 27 bones. The structure of a flower’s perianth is best expressed in the floral formula P26, whereby P refers to the numbers of petals. A European city is a structure of repeating set pieces. Outside, there are parks and public art and hotels with names like Scandinavia or Britannia. Inside, there are styles and stigmas. Almost everywhere is equally exciting or unexciting.

In the linguistic research on ELF (short for ‘English as lingua franca’), a distinction is made between ‘English in the Inner Circle’ (countries where English is spoken as a first language), ‘English in the Outer Circle’ (countries where English is spoken as a second language, often as a consequence of colonialism) and ‘English in the Expanding Circle’ (countries where En-glish is an important foreign language). As a concentric circle, the infrastructure of the English language is one built on unequal distances to its inner core.

Up until the mid 80s, the jingle of the NYC neighborhood with the lettered avenues, known as Alphabet City, was Adventurous, Brave, Crazy and Dead. When young artists started to move there, the area changed and became Affluent, Bourgeois, Comfortable and Decent. Here, do you see these criss-cross lines? They could give rise to a criminal life. Can it be that you’re an artist?

There’s a book by the psycho-chirologist Julius Spier which posits that infants have lines only on one hand, ‘the ancestral hand’, and that the other, the ‘hand of the individual personality’, accrues lines through experience. It is as if one hand is fated by birth and the other formed by life. But, which one is which? Carl Gustav Jung, who most likely had his palms read by Spier, wrote that hands, “whose shape and functioning are so intimately connected with the psyche, might provide revealing and therefore interpretable expressions of psychical peculiarity, that is, of human character.” The structure of the personality is hiding in the fingers, in the lines, shapes and textures of the hand’s inner palms. See how you have two fate lines…no, three! What fantastic adaptability of life you have! Oh. It’s a scar.

-Sophia Roxane Rohwetter