We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Kesh alphabet



Emily Floyd


1972 –

Alternate image of Kesh alphabet by Emily Floyd
Alternate image of Kesh alphabet by Emily Floyd
Alternate image of Kesh alphabet by Emily Floyd
  • Details

    Media categories
    Sculpture , Installation , Print
    Materials used
    aluminium, two part epoxy paint, steel fixtures, screen prints on paper
    display dimensions variable
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased with funds provided by Atelier and Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2016
    Sculpture gallery
    Accession number
    © Emily Floyd

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Emily Floyd

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Emily Floyd's practice draws on the legacies of modernist abstraction, feminist design and radical politics. She frequently engages other disciplines in her work, including literature.

    'Kesh alphabet' references a fictional alphabet described by the feminist science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin in her 1985 novel Always Coming Home, an anthropological study of the future Kesh society. The book's coda includes an infographic of the Kesh alphabet and a glossary of invented words, which together underpin Le Guin's attempt to imagine an alternative, matriarchal social model.

    In Floyd's distinctive typographic style, 'Kesh alphabet' spells out the Kesh noun banhe, which translates into English as 'inclusion', 'insight' and 'female orgasm'. Writ large in the heart of a patriarchal institution, the work affirms a strictly female space of experience and pleasure, which Le Guin aligns linguistically - not by coincidence - with a shift in perception and the redistribution of agency.

    Encountered at first in the abstract, the work is offered by Floyd as 'a spell or invocation', one that conjures a different future while reminding us that language is a system through which world views are shaped and expressed.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 6 publications

    • Gabriella Coslovich, Look, 'Studio visit', pg. 60-64, Sydney, Mar 2017-Apr 2017, 64, 65.

    • Julie Ewington, The Monthly, 'The state of our art', pg. 47-49, Carlton, May 2017, 47.

    • Sasha Grishin, Canberra Times, 'A frenzied field gathers a fractured new view', pg. 18, Canberra, 07 Apr 2017, 18.

    • John McDonald, Sydney Morning Herlad, 'What an entrance', pg. 12, Sydney, 08 Apr 2017, 12 (colour illus.).

    • Genevieve O'Callaghan (Editor), The national 2017: new Australian art, Sydney, 2017.

    • Amelia Winata, Broadsheet Journal, 'Undoing the neutral: the sculpture as pointer', pg. 39-44, Adelaide, 2017, 39, 41, 43 (colour illus.).

Other works by Emily Floyd

See all 7 works