steve hawley


artists’ film and video

1994 Language Lessons 35 min (with Tony Steyger).

Experimental documentary on artificial languages commissioned by Channel 4 and the Arts Council.

“Steve Hawley and Tony Steyger’s Language Lessons mock-documents the scholars and enthusiasts for avant-languages such as Volapuk, Esperanto, and Sol Re Sol (a musically-based language). These invented languages reference concrete or sound poetry and the beauty of sonics unintended for literal and representational communication but rather intended to be heard and then joyfully responded to. The relationship between verbal language and image within experimental film and video art has usually contrasted with its rather literal preeminence within narrative or dramatic traditions. Cause and effect so often having been thrown to the wind, it follows that sentences and even words should not need to be sequential.” Performative Impulses by Andrew James Paterson (2000)

There have been over two thousand invented languages, of which only a handful are still spoken in Britain. Using interviews with speakers of Ido, Esperanto, and Volapruk, and rare archive material, Language Lessons examines the history and present state of the artificial language movement.
The lessons take in Logopandecteision, Lips Kith, and the musical language Solresol, which can be whistled and sung as well as spoken. However, the medium of instruction is that most curious of hybrid languages, English.

But behind the rhetoric of world peace through common understanding, lies a background of intense rivalry, genocide, schism, and heresy.

Language Lessons was commissioned by Channel 4 Television and the Arts Council of England, under the Experimenta scheme. It uses humour and irony to explore the nature of eccentricity, of language, and of our anglocentric linguistic culture.

Broadcast Channel 4 Midnight Underground 1995, International Video Festival Friesland 1996, 1996 5th New York Video Festival 1996. In the permanent collection of Fundacio La Caixa , Barcelona

Music Joakim Sundström

Camera Patrick Duval

Sound Cameron Hills

Language Lessons 1994

(with Tony Steyger)