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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Kesh alphabet



Emily Floyd


1972 -


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.




Materials used

aluminium, two part epoxy paint, steel fixtures, screen prints on paper


dimensions variable

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Atelier and Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Emily Floyd

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

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.).