Category Archives: 06 Poetry

A slight change of plan

I had decided some time ago about presenting a book of poetry alongside my final show installation. A few posts ago, I talked about making a handmade book of single line calligraphic poetry which would offer a glimpse of the fragment of identity being invoked for each of the map strings. I even posted a picture of my lovely multi-coloured book model!

Well….on a lovely, rainy walk with my other half, I was talking through the ideas behind the book. He asked, perfectly innocently, channelling Maiko from afar, how the words would link to the actual material map strings I had made. A thought appeared in my head – which said how the premise of my whole installation is about experiencing my handmade material. A material which speaks for itself without the need for any intervention.  I had only a week ago said during my symposium talk that:

My journey has brought me back to myself
Looking for my shadows in the memories of the places I have been
Creating a language built of material,
a material which speaks so loudly for itself, it offers its own story,
a material poem perhaps: a physical manifestation of the memory of place …

There is after all no difference
Between a poem carved with metal and ink and a stream of words pulled out of the back of your mind
or the material poem itself, a thousand square miles of remembered places cut, twisted and condensed into a single piece of paper yarn

So a new idea: a slight change of idea, was born. Instead of just putting in the isolated lines of poetry in a fancy book…..(which I must admit was slightly risky to take on having never made one like this before)……I would instead present the lines of poetry in a book alongside the material they were inspired from. This would give a sort of taxonomy of the map strings as individual identity fragments before they are combined into a single encounter in the physical installation.

My book therefore becomes a taxonomy of maps and of identity.  A taxonomy is a classification.  It is not like an atlas (a book of maps or charts); the taxonomy does not collect, it classifies.

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I asked myself while doing the photoshoot for the book, why I should not just present the string loops as they are for the show, why bother with a hanging installation? I was pleased to know the answer to this inside my head already. I want people to experience the “encounter” with myself as more than just an observation of a taxonomy, to instead become a part of the work within the room. Each separate string is just a fragment of identity which does not exist in isolation. The installation brings together each aspect of placeidentity to combine to offer a glimpse of the whole sense of self.

Instead of a handmade book, I have created a shiny professional art book which suits this idea much better.  Having spent all weekend doing the photoshoot and editing, it’s now on order, so that part of my show work is now done too. Can’t wait to see the finished copy!

8 days until show build
24 days until the show opens

I am the Wordsmith

My poem for today:

I am the Wordsmith
(c) Angelique Talbot, Tuesday 12 April 2016

 

I am the Wordsmith
My name is carved into the heart of the mountain
The source of the river which feeds the world
White stone and black water
My words bleed through the earth and infuse the sky
Seeping into the edges of the universe and the void beyond

I am the Wordsmith, the keeper of keys
My name is carved into the heart of the world
With wind and water I craft dreams and desire
Bringing green to the summer lands
My words shake the skies and warp the earth
Twisting reality into infinite reflections of itself

I am the Wordsmith, awakened in darkness
My name is whispered in shadow
With fire and stone I bring chaos and pain
The night’s melody sung out across the sky
My words shatter the black into shimmering pearls
So to begin again the dance of the stars

Writing on the wall II

Having played a little more with the projection mapping, working directly onto my threads, I am not convinced it is doing what I want it to do. Although I like the idea of my writing being dynamic, I don’t want to be constrained into making a thread ‘wall’ just to have a solid enough surface for the words to show up on. So I had a look at what other options there may be for getting my poems materially into my work using the same principles.

I came back to Morley’s book, Writing on the Wall, and revisited the idea of literally doing that – writing on the wall. With a pen. There are precedents for this, with for example, artists such as Fiona Banner:

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My question remains though how to integrate the threads with the words. Perhaps having the handwritten poems revealed at the heart of the thread installation (written or displayed on the wall?). They will then offer my personal fiction – what impressions and imaginations can be discerned from life’s experiences – into the less subjective expression of place through the map yarn. I am happy to have the poems legible, because (as anyone who has read my stream of consciousness poetry can tell you) it won’t offer much help as to what the piece means.

My current best description is this: the installation itself will be a physical experience (big enough to walk through) offering a moment to seek an encounter with yourself. The installation will be created to reflect my personal identity through my choice of form and the places which I consciously choose as a representation of my sense of self. You can walk in to it so that I can say to you, this is my world.

My poem for today for good measure:

I lost my way in self-defence,
but panicked, and decided to find it again.
I was watching the road winding onward, but took the long way round.
There is no centre to anything

so I just fell out on the other side.
Why am I always here?
I should not have come here looking for any part of myself.
Cut the apple, says the witch, and find the sacred star
You’ll have forgotten again by morning. 

Angelique Talbot, 17:15 6 April 2016

Writing on the Wall

Luckily, I managed to get to chat to Maiko on the last day of term on my concerns and options for moving forward with my final show work. We talked on a couple of different points: (i) the use of material and technique, (ii) what the work is communicating, (iii) the ongoing importance of the words/text in my practice

Point (ii) is perhaps the most critical, and based on the group crit of my show work, perhaps the one which is the most illusive. Once again returning to my project objectives, I remind myself that I wanted to communicate:

…the concept of self, by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generating belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. 

The map weaving has communicated only a single aspect of this idea – that of the real places which are part of my constructed identity. However the fundamental idea of self and the overall feeling of connection or disconnection from the world, is completely obscured from the outside viewer. How then to reveal this?

My first step, has been to consider point (iii) above. Words are clearly so important to me, could I use this as a way of expressing the personal into the more objective ‘universal’ experience of place: If so, how do I want to incorporate text and words into my work? As a label / title only? As a book or accompanying text alongside the sculpture? Or part of the materiality of the weaving itself? As you will have seen if you have been following my progress, I have tried a number of different experiments of including text quite literally as part of the weaving materials. None of these have worked for me at all – which is why I had settled on the idea of doing a book alongside the weavings. So what other options are there out there?

Book Notes: Writing on the Wall, Simon Morley (Thames & Hudson 2003)

I started first with this book, which looks at modern art which combines both word and image. As I would prefer if my words are part of the core aspect of my work (rather than just an ‘aside’ as a label might be perceived as), this seemed like a good place to start.

Morley offers that a work with both word and image engages the viewer in two distinct modes: “one involving the visual scanning of the image and the other the reading of the words. The former mode allows for openness of interpretation and the freedom of mental and sensual movement, while the latter confines the reader to a predetermined route constructed from a horizontal row of letters to be deciphered”. Indeterminacy of meaning is important as ‘misunderstanding creates distance’; texts introduce a reflexive dimension by being both discursive and semantically ambiguous.

Four different kinds of interaction between the visual and the verbal sign can be identified:

  • Trans-medial relationship – word and work are connected by superposition, the one is essentially a supplement to the other. Implies a hierarchy where the text remains subordinate to the image (or vice versa).
  • Multi-medial: word and image coexist more closely, sharing the same space though remaining clearly distinguished in terms of spatial relations and kinds of intelligibility. For example, the text being used to tie down the specific meaning of an image
  • Mixed media: word and image have less intrinsic coherence and are only minimally separated from each other, having been enfolded, decanted or scrambled into each other’s customary domain.
  • Inter-media: recognition of the visual, material side of letters (and of the performative and sensory dimension to the act of writing).

Increasingly the inter-medial relationship has also come to signify much more than the melding of the visual and the verbal, into the integration of diverse spaces, movements and sounds [a multi-sensory experience]. Thus such a “total work of art” operates within a vastly expanded field of communication and information. 

Resisting legibility 

In reading this book, I could see clearly that my asemic calligraphy work fits clearly into the inter-media category. Utilising a desire to engage with “a topographic space”, i.e. a space in which writing is severed from its role as a mere verbal description and is experienced instead as a verbal and visual phenomenon. Expressionism like this makes use of the word’s materiality (the way in which meaning is constituted by the physical arrangement of letters on the page).

Morley comments that there are two poles of the phenomenon of writing: 

  • legibility, discursive communication and the mind
  • illegibility, direct unmediated communication and the pulse of the body

Handwriting, as distinguished from pure typography, printing and so on, has a raw visceral nature, which Morley describes as “an original, personal and expressive outburst”.

For example: Cy Twombly (1971)

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and Susan Hiller (Elan, 1982) where “language breaks free”

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Concrete Poetry 

The next concept which caught my attention in the book, is that of the desire to expand the conventional notion of language and its relationship to other less easily coded experiences. Morley gave reference to the word works of walking artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who both try to encapsulate a very personal experience of place within a representation to be viewed in abstract in the gallery space. Photography and words are their medium here, the poetry in the titles or descriptions providing the power to personalise the view.

Wind through the Pines 1985, 1991 by Hamish Fulton born 1946

Wind through the Pines 1985, 1991 Hamish Fulton born 1946 Purchased 1993 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P77621

Fellow ‘land artist’ Robert Smithson also used a combination of words and place, but resisted the use of text as ‘just’ a simple vehicle for ideas, instead drawing contradictions inherent in the word as both  signifier and signified, meaning and thing. He is reported to have said “look at any word long enough and you will see it open up into a series of faults, into a terrain of particles each containing its own void”.

The text work of Long and Fulton is often bracketed as concrete poetry (Fulton in particular), that which is neither poetry nor visual art, but rather a fusion of the two. Morley however dominantly covers only two-dimensional forms, which the exception of the well known 3D poetry sculpture of Iain Hamilton Finlay. In many of these works, along with much conceptual art of the 1960’s and 70’s, the words and their meanings are the main material of the work – just think of all of the neon signs and de-materialised works with words plastered on gallery walls. Morley highlighted some works, which although made out of a physical material with its own narrative, still use words to convey some concept or message. For example, the below work from Tracey Emin (Mad Tracey from Margate, Everyone’s Been There, 1997) uses a material which speaks very strongly: in this case, of the so-called ‘feminine’ craft traditions of sewing, applique (and according to Morley of the domestic and amateurish). 

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Multi-sensory experiences 

However, I don’t want to just make words from other materials, so what more can be said about sculpture involving both text and some other physical material with its own ‘readable’ poetic narrative? The fusion of different materials – different visual languages – must sit together side by side, complementary or contradictory depending on the message being communicated.

I had been toying with the idea of doing a larger-scale installation off and on throughout the course and this also seems to be one of the most interesting ways of combining visual languages within the one work. Starting with a literal use of poetry on top of another medium: Francie Hester and Lisa Hill (2016)

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Digital words add a whole new scope of possibilities to a work. Morley poetically describes this medium as a “zero-dimensional virtual reality blurring the boundaries between the physical and the virtual, time and space, mind and matter, the natural and the mechanical”. I rather like this idea, and how it naturally gives a multi-layered experience of the work to your audience. 

Examples of poetry projected directly onto the landscape, although literal, the history and narrative of the place adds extra layers of meaning onto the work (by Double Take Projections).

And another text projection mapping example from Phillipp Geist, whose projects are characterised by their complexity and the integration of the location, the sound and moving images. “In his video mapping installations, he avoids using canvasses and turns diverse architectures in moving, painterly light sculptures, which challenge the onlookers’ perception of two- and three-dimensionality”.

Thought for the day

A thought for the day from Chris Durey, Land artist:

“A wave does not in itself exist, it is a movement made by water
Wind does not in itself exist, it is a movement of air
Mind itself does not exist, it is a movement of thought
When there is no wind, there are no waves on the lake,
which becomes a mirror reflecting land and sky
When thought dies away, the mind is a mirror of the universe”

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Catching up with spring JQs

Both my February and March Journal Quilts are now finished. Yay! Now just to complete the piece for the month I’m actually in and I’ll be up to date.

February was a continuation of the bloodlines theme, using different methods to imprint poems onto fabric before stitching. This is the finished piece first with handwriting then painting, before being patchworked with finally the quilting now finished…although I have to say I actually prefer the back!

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My next test for the March JQ was to try to use transfer techniques to get the text onto the fabric. This was the poem I was using and the resulting words transferred onto hand-dyed grey cotton.

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As you can’t quite see from the photo, the transferred text is not only slightly distorted from passing through my rubbish inkjet printer, but it comes with a thin layer of polymer which makes it look darker and plasticy, which I just don’t like, so I decided to move away from is and go back to ink. Using a piece of practice calligraphy from my sketchbook as a starting point, I found a new font style to use, this time using my dip pen with tape nib and Indian ink directly onto the fabric while it was still wet. I like the way this has come out – especially the layering of barely / not-quite readable text. There are actually three layers of writing here (graphite, ink and oil), four if you count the calligraphic stitching on the top.

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