Imogen Stidworthy b. 1963
Barrabackslarrabang (2009-2010)
HD video 9”15, colour, stereo, English and backslang spoken

In Barrabackslarrabang Stidworthy interweaves tropes of class, race, trade and desire in hidden backwaters and idealized forms of the voice – Standard Pronounciation and backslang. Standard Pronunciation emerged with the birth of the railway, to help the flow of trade, as millions of businesspeople travelling around Britain were confronted for the first time by accents they could not understand, while backslang is a subverted form of English associated primarily with illegal trade, and was designed to protect against being overheard, particularly by the ears of a law that didn’t square with economic conditions on the ground. Speech is sewn with rogue sounds to confuse the ear, and slips easily in everyday banter into a linguistic game of skill and excess. Liverpool backslang involves replacing the first or all vowels in key words of a phrase with ‘ab’, ‘ag’ or ‘arrab’, while the Birmingham backslang spoken by Christine Quarless works with variations of ‘iligili’. In Barrabackslarrabang the voice criss-crosses social borders to reflect the mirroring of structures and desires in ostensibly opposing spaces of language, legality and culture. Though backslang grew out of poverty and criminality, like all languages it is also a space of identification and is spoken proudly. It can be understood as a symptom of economic and social conditions, but also as a form of resistance to dominant social paradigms.

With: Donna Berry, Cliff Higgins, George ‘Buster’ Swaby, Christine Quarless
Camera: Ian Lysaght, Jacqui Passmore, Imogen Stidworthy
Sound and Editing: Imogen Stidworthy

"Ten Women Who Use Film" curated by Jennifer Higgie