‘If this show is art’s future, it looks good to me’ – The Guardian (★★★★★)

Poet Slash Artist is an exploration of poets who work with visual art and visual artists who work with poetry. Throughout the history of art and literature, there are more words and images passing between us today than ever before – and Poet Slash Artist , curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Lemn Sissay, brings together cultures, continents, languages and generations with work by more than 20 artists.

Poet Slash Artist opened during MIF21 – and the exhibition continues in the galleries at HOME until Monday 30 August. Admission is free.

Tour of Poet Slash Artist

My name is Hans Ulrich Obrist, I am the co-curator of Artist Slash Poet.

My name is Lemn Sissay, and I’m co-curator of Poet Slash Artist.

Here we are at the gallery at HOME at MIF and welcome.

We were here two years ago and it was basically the Studio Créole opening.

And Lemn you did this amazing talk with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o whom

Adam and I had invited to be one of the protagonists of Studio Créole.

and I always remember that night we had

a long discussion that basically after bringing the novelists actually to Manchester

with Studio Créole, we felt it’s urgent to do something with poetry.

And that was the beginning.

Absolutely. And so what you have is you have the curator as Artist and you have

the curator as Poet. And, you know,

we’ve been meeting on Zoom for a year and a half now, a year or so,

and it's been really enjoyable.

We wanted from the beginning, the exhibition to go to the people, really.

We wanted the exhibition to happen all over Manchester. We wanted the exhibition...

And that's something both you and

I felt very strongly that actually reminded me of something Édouard Glissant told me

a long time ago, the great Martinique poet and writer,

and so Glissant encouraged us to think about other forms of engagement

and new models of exhibitions that are more mobile and can go to the people.

And that’s really why we always felt the home of this exhibition

is the city of Manchester.

We wanted it to be in shop windows, but we also wanted it to be on billboards,

on buildings. And of course,

that is something which has a long tradition in terms of art exhibitions which are

disseminated, which leave the museum going to public space.

But as you explained, also has a long tradition in poetry

because you have poems of yours actually, which are in the city

All over the city, but also the performance of poems as well,

and people taking poetry out of even out of the book, you know,

from the book into the public arena.

I mean, that's that's something that's happening very much so.

I watched Arlo Parks two nights ago read a poem on stage at Manchester Central.

So poetry leaving the book and finding

the public is something that is happening in poetry at the moment. Yeah, absolutely.

So that's the exhibition. Let's have a look at some of the work.

We’re standing next to Friederike Mayröcker work here,

who very sadly passed away a few months ago,

but we are here protected because these are the protective spirits,

as she would do for her friends, you know,

which now protects like everyone who comes in contact with the exhibition.

And we actually decided to dedicate the show in in her memory.

Here we have a Poet Slash Artist in Tracey Emin.

I heard her say, in an article, that a word is is a line. Artists work in lines.

It's a line. It's a line of art.

The fact that we immediately feel that we understand it is a pity sometimes

because sometimes it’s good not to first understand.

The artist will have their own meaning.

But this piece, to me, it’s about the Self talking to the Self.

[Reading] "It's a crime to live with the person you don't love"

And as we've spent so much time in isolation,

that’s one of the things that I’ve learned about myself, is that, is to love oneself.

And so this to me is a call to action to the Self.

And I think it's incredibly beautiful as we come out of the pandemic.

Yeah, we’re here with Etel Adnan’s work.

Etel was also a great inspiration for Poet Slash Artist

really for Lemn and me from the get go. Etel has written many books.

She’s written with Sitt Marie Rose, the amazing book,

a very profound book on the civil war in Lebanon,

but has also been the leading poet and in tandem to that always worked,

with these leporellos, but also very small paintings which are like talisman

and emanate

an amazing optimism because actually

her literature very often explores much darker subjects like war.

And she said: "War is a form of extinction."

So she's in her mid 90s now she continues to work every day

and really always breaches Art and Poetry.

Poetry and Art and is one of the great inspirations for this exhibition.

Yes, we’re going to now take you to the work of Xu Bing.

Xu Bing has been, for almost 40 years, exploring dialogues

between Art and Poetry. Is part of

the avant garde of Chinese art of the 1980s and has actually here for

the exhibition done very specially a new piece,

which is a collaboration with a poem of Lemn’s.

Thank you, Hans Ulrich. There are two written languages within this text.

You see, this is not Mandarin and this is not Chinese.

You see, each unit is a word taken from my poem. Let's look a little bit closer.

This first word here is "Can’t" -

[Spelling] C... A... N

And in the middle of the N; the T. "Can’t".

If you read the text in the way of, as if you were reading Mandarin

It’s down from the left here, walking towards the right.

So, "Can’t sell a leaf to a tree."

You look closely and you find the words in there, A is obvious.

[Reading] "Can’t sell a leaf to a tree Nor the wind to the atmosphere.

I know you're meant to be and I can't be satisfied here."

It means that I'm hidden inside this exhibition very quietly and

and I'm really honored.

We are here in front of the works of Precious Okoyomon.

Precious created this especially for the exhibition.

These are drawings of flowers. They have they all have eyes.

These are drawings made also with earth.

So you can see how the earth is part of the work.

And Precious has also created a poem.

[Reading] "The animal that is most vulnerable is usually the most cruel.

It is impossible to separate it from what it remembers.

Sun beats, wind leaps, blood memory.

Apocalyptic self-image,

Crystallises the factions of Piazzolla’s emptiness

from the ceaseless war.

I want to sin against purity that is hovering above the void.

Haptic fallout, feverish blood.

Sun beats down, wind leaps, blood memory.

Cheerful, obscene boredom.

Angel of the Sun singing with a hard fist

Life’s benevolent corruption

Everything is hard against the tongue

Everything dissolving into otherworldly paradise

Make heaven my home.

I never learned my lesson."

It's funny, that's the first time I've heard the poem read within the space where all

the Poets Slash Artists are. It was a real pleasure.

It’s a very magical, very moving, a great emotion for me also.

This artist and poet is Imtiaz Dharker, somebody I’ve known probably for 30 years,

and she is on the national curriculum here in England and she's

a very close friend to Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate.

You know, the the poets who know of Imtiaz

are not aware of her work as an artist as much as they should be.

And this is the perfect place for this Poet Slash Artist to be exhibited.

We’re here with the work of Renee Gladman known as a writer as a poet,

but Renee has for a very long time also created drawings

and we’ve been, Lemn and I, particularly amazed by these drawings

where the poems somehow build cities where they become cities.

There are posters outside of the exhibition and around the city of Manchester

and Manchester, the city, is The Gallery in many senses.

This exhibition in this space is one part of a bigger picture,

which is that the City is the gallery.

And here, though, we have an example of the posters which are being created by

the artist, not the work that's in the exhibition,

uniquely by the artists for the City as the Gallery.

These are much smaller. In the City, it’s impossible to not see them.

As soon as you step out of the art gallery,

you will find that the image and

the word is utilised by wider society to sell you things.

The High Street is the greatest example of that.

The City is sectioned off into quarters

so that certain things can be sold to you in certain quarters.

You get your high end shops there, you get your independence over there.

You get your Marks and Spencers over there, your superstores over there.

The image and the word are what tell you where to be and how to be.

Quite often here is a celebration of the image of the and the word

for what they are; a manifestation of the human spirit.

That’s what Artists and Poets do.

That's why this artwork is not just in the art gallery,

but it’s out in the streets so that you can experience that too.


Credits


Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Lemn Sissay

Featuring work by Etel Adnan, Adonis, Jay Bernard, Anne Boyer, Julien Creuzet, Imtiaz Dharker, Jimmie Durham, Inua Ellams, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Tracey Emin, Renee Gladman, Vivienne Griffin, Lubaina Himid, Sky Hopinka, Isaiah Hull, Tarek Lakhrissi, Lebogang Mashifane, Friederike Mayröcker, Jota Mombaça, Precious Okoyomon, Heather Phillipson, Tiffany Sia, Cecilia Vicuña, Xu Bing, Gozo Yoshimasu

Live event (2 July 2021) curated by Cerys Matthews
Film season (6–18 July 2021) curated by Rachel Hayward & Jason Wood

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and HOME.

Images [L-R]: Tyler Mitchell, Hamish Brown, Rhys Frampton.