Louder Than Bombs: Napalm Perceptible – A Dictionary for the BNP

Sean Burns

Week 3

“Words are weapons. And I’m in a war!” Andrew Vachss

Racism is on the rise and made worse by the recession. We are all defined by language, yet too often our own voices are educated, socialised, classed, gendered, ethnicised, medicated or otherwise removed. Sean Burn – writer, performer and outsider artist actively involved in disability arts created a Dictionary for the BNP, by interrogating the roots of each entry of a standard English dictionary. Physically deleting all “non-indigenous” words, the artist used language as a “lightning-conductor to deconstruct the absurdities of extremist hate”.

For his residency, Sean Burn installed material throughout the gallery that dealt with issues of verbal abuse and the language of hate. Gallery visitors were invited to contribute to the exhibition by joining in conversations, and writing their reflections on identity, race and social stereotyping on the Gallery walls. The artist also conducted a live workshop and performance in collaboration with fellow artist-activists Ruby Sahota and Mike Layward.

Claiming language as a primary battlefield, the artists challenged terms of hate and abuse by employing various written, visual and performance techniques to overcome and reclaim such words, culminating in the creation of new work spanning theatre, film, spoken word, music and video.