‘Marion Borgelt’s Cryptologist’s Memoir series, 2004-07, was inspired by a newspaper article about the death of Yang Huanyi in September 2004 at the age of 98. She was the last living person fluent in Nushu, a secret women’s written language in China that was over a thousand years old. It was believed to have been invented by one of the Emperor’s concubines in the Hunan Province of Southern China and passed down from mother to daughter in the form of poetry and feminine advice often disguised as patterning in embroidery. During a time when women were not permitted to be educated, and unable to read or write their own thoughts and feelings, they communicated with each other through messages written on embroidered gifts.
Over the past few decades, Marion Borgelt has been developing her own visual language influenced by Karl Jung’s universal archetypes and inspired by scripts and decorative motifs from many sources including ancient Celtic, Indian and Polynesian cultures. Choosing a broad selection of books, Borgelt has carved into the pages and into the recessed areas, sculpted in beeswax two letters/symbols, one turned 180 degrees from the other, and painted in oil using her characteristic limited pallet of black, white and red. She comments that this series “is about hidden language, a language literally hidden inside books and also hidden in terms of its signs and symbols being indecipherable. Do these symbols belong to an arcane language or are they in code form needing to be deciphered? Whatever the case Cryptologist’s Memoir hints at the challenge faced by archaeologists and cryptologists in understanding our current society in hundreds of years time from now.”‘