Flat As The Tongue Lies

Ella de Búrca, Lines, 2018. Single-channel animation. Courtesy of the artist.

Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse, including the one that laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word “silence,” the one that, aiming for the impossible, stops short before the word “impossible” and writes it as “the end.”

– Hélène Cixous


UC Irvine’s Room Gallery is pleased to present new works by Ella de Búrca in her first U.S. solo exhibition Flat As The Tongue Lies, as a part of the University Art Galleries (UAG) Emerging Artist Series.


Building on the Beckettian tradition, Flat As The Tongue Lies uses a three-act structure to explore the formation of meaning through reading, writing and speech. The exhibition’s title contrasts the corporeality and ambiguity that bookend the spectrum of language production, with the exhibition itself expanding on the artist’s voice to challenge patriarchal discourse.


In Flat As The Tongue Lies, Ella de Búrca presents an installation of sound, text, kinetic sculpture and video. Using the structure of a three-act play, the installation explores the formation of meaning through reading, writing, and speech. The exhibition begins with Prelude, a sound piece that echoes the artist’s voice, leading you through a corridor into the rest of the gallery. At the end of passage, you encounter Act I, a text piece projected on a monitor screen and ends with Act II, a play printed as a takeaway for you to read. In the backdrop of the gallery, a stop-motion animation titled Lines is projected, functioning as an abstract visualization of the three-act play. Meanwhile, a sculpture titled Stage moves as if breathing in the corner of the gallery.


In reference to eighteenth century closet dramas, de Búrca’s three-act play exists as an imagined stage for a disembodied voice. Closet dramas were meant to be read indoors without the spectacle of a public stage, allowing for more experimental freedom. It was a way for playwrights to subvert the politics set forth by commercial theater, which heavily censored any criticism towards the British government. In this vein, Flat As The Tongue Lies constructs a space that hovers between interiority and exteriority, and, accordingly, the public and private. In so doing, de Búrca’s performative installation enables reflection on forms of current censorship, in a moment when male dominant discourse continues to frame women’s narratives in relation to their own bodies. Hélène Cixous’s proclamation that in censoring the body, our breath and speech is also censored is equally relevant today. Now, more than ever, a platform is needed for unheard voices reminding us that the utterance is only the first step.


The exhibition is accompanied by a limited print publication with an essay by the curator.


Ella de Búrca is an Irish born artist who currently lives and works in Brussels. Recent exhibitions include: Post-Peace at Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany and Nest, Den Haag, Holland (2017); Coup de Ville Triennale - WARP, Belgium (2016); Slow Future at The Centre of Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland (2014); Playing Nature at The Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2013); ReBuilding Utopia at The Emergency Pavilion, The 53rd Venice Biennale (2013).


Exhibition Checklist:

Prelude (On Beginning), 2018. Four-channel audio installation. 3:12 minutes, loop.
Act I (When The Flat Fell Down), 2018. Single-channel video. 4 minutes, loop. Link
Act II (Mouthing), 2018. Risograph print on paper. 11 x 17 in.
Stage, 2009. Inflatable sculpture, fans, plastic sheeting. Dimensions variable. Link
Lines, 2018. Single-channel animation, black-and-white. 1:04 minutes, loop. Link

Ella de Búrca
Allyson Unzicker
Room Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 
Sep 29, 2018 to Dec 15, 2018
Saturday, September 29, 2018 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Visiting Artist Lecture by Ella de Búrca

October 1st, 12pm
Contemporary Arts Center Conference Room 1021

Flat As The Tongue Lies, ed. Allyson Unzicker, University Art Galleries, UC Irvine © 2018