“From Concrete to Liquid to Spoken Worlds to the Word”

Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève
10, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers
May 31, 2017–August 31, 2017

Steve Roggenbuck, Poetry Everywhere! A Collection of Internet-Based Verse, 2017, color video with sound, 30 minutes 32 seconds.

“From Concrete to Liquid to Spoken Worlds to the Word” incorporates four solo exhibitions, by Henri Chopin, D. A. Levy, Dom Sylvester Houédard, and Karl Holmqvist, as well as screenings and performances, all of which explore the formal aspects of words.

Holmqvist’s work features large-scale sculptures and a stage that serves as a site for concrete-poetry performances, which will run until the project’s close. Levy’s typewritten concrete poetry (or “typestracts”) is on view here, occupying the same room as hand-printed journals by Houédard, a Benedictine priest.

The center’s third floor hosts more than eighty works by Chopin, including his dactylopoèmes (typewriter poems), films, and documents. The Frenchman lost two brothers in World War II and was himself led on a death march across Europe, during which he saw, and heard, many fellow captives die. These ordeals led to the artist’s quest to capture the essence of the spoken and written word, in all its corporeality and ghoulishness. Attempts to deal with trauma haunt his typewritten novel La Crevette amoureuse (The Loving Shrimp, 1975), which weaves together conversations between two protagonists with oddly capitalized names, ERnest and MARiette, “before or after making love.” ERnest’s philosophical and political rants are either sustained or tolerated by MARiette. These diatribes are accompanied by loosely figurative pictures composed of type, both mechanical and rough-hewn, appearing as industrial monstrosities.

Reflections on writing, philosophy, and technology continue in an eight-hour loop of GIFs, YouTube videos, and memes, all compiled by artist Steve Roggenbuck. His project underscores how the brevity of Twitter, the transience of Snapchat, and the ease of publishing poetry on Instagram and YouTube all facilitate new formal possibilities for language.

— Mike Watson