In the series Vanishing Voices, Aga reflected on the relationship between thought, language, geography and culture by conducting a series of nonfigurative experiments highlighting similarities and differences among the languages of the Arctic Circle. This multimedia series was the beginning of material exploration for Aga. While observing stages of dying languages, she developed an audio-visual language to depict the linguistic processes involved. She applied a variety of materials spanning from textile, plaster and plastic to metal and glass. At this stage she discovered the human body from a sculptural perspective, which coincided with an awareness of the sculptural qualities of sound waves.
The Silent Keepers
Archival Inkjet Prints, 2013
40 x 40 cm
When language transmission is broken we lose a unique knowledge of how a community perceived the world, and indeed how they perceived themselves. The loss of linguistic heritage represents an aspect of death, and as such it can provide a reminder of our own mortality. The death of a language is often connected with the death of people, and indeed sometimes an entire ethnic community.
Following the death of a language, the story may not be over, for at some point a community may wish to make contact with their interrupted linguistic heritage and thereby resurrect their language. The Triptych 'wa'ts, sAsinhl, q'aayaatl'hix' refers to the transition from a living language full of associations and potential to a static phase when the last speaker dies, and finally on to an attempt at reviving the language in question.
Note: The titles are in Eyak, an extinct Na-Dené language historically spoken by the Eyak people, indigenous to south-central Alaska.
The last speaker of Eyak, Marie Smith Jones, died in 2008. The Eyak community has been trying to re-learn its language.