Ewa Partum, Active Poetry, 1971 — installation at Tate Modern
(Source: Flickr / ilovetodig0044)
In the sky above the campground there was an unexpected movie, and in the location from which it was projected, there was rumored to be a former territory and in this former territory, communism could be found.
The men decided they would go to the former territory in which communism was to be…
— Etel Adnan, Five Senses for One Death, The Smith, 1971
basically, you have three choices:
jail, mall, museum
whose hapless invariance
repeats as edges leaping
away from each problematic
crossing to defeat
all possible reply.
jail + museum =
university; mall + jail
= airport; mall + jail
+ museum = home sweet home
— Jasper Bernes, from “We Are Nothing and So Can You”
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica.
There’s a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Chaeronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
the approaching atmospheric front.
There is so much Everything
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on the sunlit decks.
So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.
Where not a stone still stands,
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.
This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.
The grass is green
on Maciejowice’s fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal grass.
Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don’t cower
under a bush but squat behind it.
What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only that blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.
On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can’t help
laughing at that.
Wisława Szymborska, 1993
Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
last night at Etel Adnan’s opening exhibition Words and Places curated by several CCA students : recorded audio of a collective reading of a poem from The Arab Apocalypse by Etel with Norma Cole leading on the mic : Norma suggested a group reading to her students, which opened up an event that - in several ways - “decentered” the reading : i.e. decentered Norma’s position as a reader, the audience as audience and the individuals who attempted to involve themselves as individual readers : in the audio you can hear so much fragmentation of this process of decentralization : some voices reaching above or below, or in front of or behind others : at other times a centrality of harmony is plateaued and then decomposes back into a type of imminent failure
Incredible moment — and how great that there is a record of it.
Etel Adnan, Al-Halllaj, Qasaid, 2008. Watercolour and ink on Japanese book, 27 x 630 cm. © Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.
Dedicated to grupa o.k.
"During this time Adnan discovered the format of the leporello, an accordion-folded book, where her painting and poetry found a compelling hybrid form. In one of the earliest of these leporellos, Adnan copied poems written in Arabic, a language that she spoke, but had never learned to read or write (having grown up in Lebanon under French colonial influence). As she transcribed the Arabic characters, without quite knowing what she was writing, she felt as if she were drawing the poems, and that they could then be understood as images in their own right. Otherwise tied to the word, and therefore to a world of signified meaning, for Adnan this handwritten language began to verge instead on drawn abstraction.”
— Antonia Marsh, in the gallery guide and publication for Words and Places: Etel Adnan, opening tonight, April 17, 2013.
Etel Adnan, Funeral March for the First Cosmonaut, 1968 — detail of leporello with ink and watercolor. Words and Places: Etel Adnan opens Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. More information here.