Fundamental to the emergence of institutional critique was the use of linguistic models to emulate the function of language as a powerful tool for education and free thought. Moreover, the inclusion of language in art pointed to its role in spreading dominant ideologies or, alternatively, undermining them. Expanding on the practices of conceptual art, particularly its adoption of language alongside imagery, some artists use text or spoken word to make an argument or to complicate a subject that has been reduced to a stereotype. Others have created complex systems of visual symbols, which seem at once to evoke and to obscure the "universal" signs found in historical narratives and public spaces. Such applications of language extend to texts borrowed from sources like advertisements, art reviews, and court transcripts, to name a few examples. Projects that incorporate language often combine institutional critique and appropriation and underscore how meaning is created through a kind of "intertextuality" that operates by pairing familiar images and words but nonetheless reflects a diversity of opinion. Here appropriation is used to call into question the very act of representation, suggesting that a single image or phrase can simultaneously be interpreted as empowering and oppressing, as valorizing and stereotyping.

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citation for this page
"Language." Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology Digital Archive. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2017. https://​​take-it-or-leave-it/​art/​themes/​language/​.