If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know that MoMA has been experimenting with “pop-ups”—drop-in learning and art-making spaces—in closer proximity to the galleries for the past couple of years. These impromptu spaces are something that the Department of Education has long advocated for because offering hands-on activities helps visitors make connections to the art on view.
Posts tagged ‘poetry’
Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective bursts at the seams with text in all forms. Given Marcel Broodthaers’s interest in language, it’s fitting that MoMA’s second-floor bookstore is where, every Tuesday for the next four weeks, visitors have the opportunity to explore the artist’s work in a workshop led by Elizabeth Zuba, a poet and translator of the artist’s work, and Diane Bertolo, an artist and Broodthaers enthusiast.
As artists continue to expand the definition of drawing, and art historians redefine the medium accordingly, the kinds of works on paper we acquire have become increasingly unorthodox, ranging from room-size installations to the traces of performances. Yet sometimes a humble sheet of paper from the beginning of the 20th century is just as radical.
If you visit MoMA’s exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, you will encounter a suite of enigmatic drawings by Fluxus-affiliated poet Jackson Mac Low, comprising swirling letters and seemingly nonsensical combinations of words. Although they seem like meaningless scribbles, the words are actually legible and meant to be read aloud.
In regard to poetry, modernist poet Ezra Pound repeatedly urged his fellow practitioners to “Make It New.” Working in counterpoint to the tradition of the guided city tour, my participatory walks take their cue from poetry, where writer and reader collaborate in creating and gleaning new meanings for the world. Tuning in to the nuances of the everyday, we might make visual poems on the sidewalk with found objects, a duet with light, or monuments with our bodies in response to civic statues in public space.
“Pipe Dream” is a new walk debuting at MoMA on Saturday, November 16. It’ll take us down seldom-seen Museum hallways, through the Magritte exhibition, and outside into the sensory tangle of midtown Manhattan. Drawing from Surrealist techniques, we will create within, and rediscover, a neighborhood often cast off as one that only serves big business and rigorous consumers. But since the walk is essentially a set of prompts and reveals, I don’t want to give away too much! Come experience it for yourself.
You can also experience “Pipe Dream” as part of Into the Participatory Walk, a three-session workshop at MoMA that begins on Thursday, November 7. There, we’ll explore poetic decision making and figure out how to create a participatory walk together. I’ll be hosting a “dress rehearsal” of “Pipe Dream” when the Museum is closed as part of the workshop.
I’ve been leading participatory walks for 10 years, arriving to this form after studying poetry and sound. Over time, my poems increasingly strained against the confines of the page and became more like musical scores, so I had to create a new medium. I discovered the work of the Acoustic Ecology movement and their soundwalks, which facilitate active listening in the environment. Adopting some of their techniques and applying a lot of my own creation, I led my first sound-based walk in San Francisco in 2003.
In 2010 I founded Elastic City, a New York–based non-profit organization that commissions artists to lead participatory walks throughout the world. I quietly collaborate with the artists, many of whom work in visual media, and help them to adapt their talents to the walk form. I might assist the artist in solidifying a walk concept, planning a route, shaping the arc of the walk, or tweaking a particular moment.
Every artist, every medium, and every object or situation we encounter offers a multiplicity of contextualizing frames and potential lenses with which to look at them. My walks try to get us inside of as many frames and to use as many lenses as possible to get at a whole new reality, if only momentarily. We all have the ability to rearrange our relationships to the world and to one another. After leading “Fabstractions” (see the video above), I’ll just say that I now look at telephone booths very differently.
When visiting a museum, especially in New York City, it’s easy to wander around without pausing to look at specific works of art. After all, there’s so much to see and crowds to contend with.
It’s been a remarkable year for poetry at MoMA. I threatened to slather the Museum with poetry, and I did. By the time it was finished, I brought over 125 poets, novelists, essayists, artists, and musicians into MoMA to do public interventions.
There’s an insane amount of poetry and poetry-related stuff going on at MoMA from now until June. Some of the best poets, authors, and musicians will be descending into the galleries for guerilla readings. Below is a list that consolidates everything in one easy-to-reference place.
“I’ve come to free the words.” — Brion Gysin, 1960
Poetry is like a perfume—or body odor—slithering between cracks in the wall, wafting under shut doorways, stealthily sneaking in the back door unnoticed.
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