Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A hundred little monkeys riding tricycles round my brain

Today was supposed to be a nice quiet day. angela rawlings was arriving from Canada and since she hasn't got a mobile phone we'd arranged that Claire and I would go and meet all the trains from Brussels beween about ten and one until we found her. Then the plan was to get a nice relaxed lunch, settle angela into her new home, saunter down to the Zilverhof in time to open at five and everything would be Zen.

The angela part was good - she managed to phone ahead that she was going to arrive about twelve so I had a sunny two-hour breakfast break with Claire before we had to start chasing trains. But at two mintues to twelve Jelle rang to say the local television station had decided to film infusoria - WAAAAAAAAA - and he needed the keys to get in. Stress Bunny whirled into action, and poor angela got whisked straight off the train to the Zilverhof for Belgium camera action without so much as a chocolate waffle.

More tomorrow, I'm exhausted. Please don't worry, dear Canadians, I have since fed your national treasure and put her to bed in her new house.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Setting up in Ghent

We worked all through the day...



...and into the night...


Maja and me

Some people had rented the upstairs room for a birthday party, and they were curious about what we were doing. So when we were finished we did a special pre-opening for them. It was great, there were about 40 people and they got really into it.

I'll take some better photos in the next couple of days so you can all see how we've hung your work - I haven't had time yet. It is completely different to Brussels: because the space was so different and we had access to different resources, it doesn't look anything like it did last month. But it's going to be fun :-D

I love you Sharon Harris!

It looks like Sharon got to the door of the Zilverhof before us

Friday, 27 March 2009


Specifically these, although they're not on the photos.

And an batch of oaty datey ones just out of the oven ... and M&M cookies tomorrow if there are still any M&Ms left in the bag by then. Bar snacks are boring. If I'm the curator then I'm going to make three different kinds of homemade cookies.

Today is not the way it is supposed to be. Maja and I were supposed to be hanging the pictures in the Zilverhof this morning but a succession of disasters at Maja's house (involving blocked water pipes and a poorly dog, as far as I can gather) left me at the Zilverhof on my own, where I couldn't get much further than mopping the floor. So Maja and Jelle are going to make a start this evening while I'm in Brussels fetching Claire, and the rest will be for tomorrow. Which is why I'm still at home with one hand on the keyboard and the other in the cookie dough. Could be worse...

Helen White

Although it didn’t start off that way, this piece is a response to the experience of curating the infusoria exhibition. Most of the poets are women I have got to know online; almost all our communication has been by e-mail, and on blogs, listservs and Facebook because I’ve only met a few of them face to face. We’ve discussed the emergence of common themes and concerns in women’s visual poetry over the last few years, and as works for the exhibition began to fill my living room, some of these became apparent. In particular, recurrent fascination with smallness, fragility, ephemerality, and with the body grotesque. Fluid, ambiguous language and organic, sometimes tactile forms are crossed with the electronic, robotic, machine-driven, nerdy.
I am fascinated by texts left open for the reader to create. By poems that can be held in the hands. By the idea of writing in order to not say something: presenting the act of trying or failing or refusing to speak. I love working with illegible or partly obscured texts, poems you can only read if you pick them up and play with them, shake them, hold them up to the light. For the last few months, I have dreamed recurrently of finding a cache of blue-green stones or curious jewels, buried in the ground.


Still can't think of a damn title though. I hate titles.


Helen White is a founding member of Krikri vzw, a visual poet and the curator of this exhibition. Her work has been shown in exhibtions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Cyprus, Japan, and Argentina, and has been published in several magazines including De Poëziekrant, Foursquare, Phoebe, Karagöz and The Big Ode. Her visual poem “Holding” has just been published by Paper Kite Press in Pennsylvania as the first in a series of visual poems from around the world.

Review by Moniek Darge

Moniek has written a review of infusoria for the next issue of the Logos Blad (the Logos Foundation’s monthly magazine): the text should appear there shortly in Dutch. In the meantime, here’s an English translation. (I added the links myself, for anyone who might want to know where Molenbeek is or what the Koekelberg looks like...)


Organiser Helen White and I are on the train to Brussels, to put the finishing touches to a small exhibition of visual poetry made by women just before it opens. Without wishing to dwell on my own expectations, I imagine mainly videos and internet pieces. As for myself, I have been invited to contribute two music boxes, which Helen has already installed for me.
The activity is part of a “Foire du Livre OFF 2009” and is being held at the Maison des Cultures in Molenbeek.

The metro takes us as far as the avenue that leads to the Koekelberg Basilica. We walk down several side streets with mainly North African residents, pass a typical grocer’s shop with vegetables displayed in front of it and end up in a building that looks like a school. The corridors are decorated with colourful silhouettes of children, drawings and photos and the place exudes a vibe of multicultural community work similar to initiatives in our part of Ghent.

The exhibition has found a home in a small room that has been given a highly original atmosphere with huge cardboard boxes placed in the middle of the room on their narrow sides like a sculpture. Some of the contributions to the exhibition are fixed to the sides of the boxes and there are plinths around the room with three-dimensional works. There is no sign of the internet or video works I had expected.

An employee of the Maison des Cultures is hard at work attaching the spotlights and bending them to the correct angle, and a second man is pacing nervously back and forth with his hands full of materials and tools. He warns us to hurry up and is clearly not convinced that we will be able to open on time, because at three o’clock he is going to open the doors, whether we are ready or not. I’m at a loss as to why he is so worried, because everything seems to be just about ready. I can’t resist having a quick look round to get an impression of the whole exhibition. A couple of striking works grab my attention right away. A group of old-fashioned teacups with teabags covered in text; underneath a bell jar, all kinds of little dolls, toys and dice with letters on them that have rolled out of a bottle lying on its side and a six-sided wooden box in which blocks with letters on them are displayed on a cheerful pink cushion. The playfulness of the exhibition is right up my street.

Helen is already busy attaching name cards and I offer to help. This is how I find out that the teacups are by the Canadian Alixandra Bamford and that the bottle under the bell jar and the box with blocks inside are by the same person, Michelle Detorie from California, who grew up in South Carolina. I’m curious about what Helen’s own contribution is, and it turns out to be little plexiglas cubes, one of which contains transparent films with text on, and another contains balls of sticky tape with letters on them. In places openings have been made to look through, bordered with a star of red or gold thread. Small pebbles are lying between the boxes with text on them. As a whole, they emanate both endless patience and great playfulness.

On one of the side walls, a door is concealed behind a translucent curtain into which messages in Morse code have been worked in stitching and beadwork. It was made by Jessica Smith from Buffalo and bears the self-evident title “Veil”. Unfortunately I can’t read the texts, but they remind me of my father who used to spend whole evenings signalling when we were small children, and often let us listen in to the mysterious Morse code messages from distant lands. Might that be where I get my wanderlust from?

My two music boxes are displayed in all their glory under their plexiglas domes. I have chosen to exhibit two particularly visual boxes with lots of different colours and quirky shapes. One of them displays curled Thai finger extensions in yellow copper, with blue glass marbles and two moving eyeballs that roll back and forth between them. The other box contains brightly coloured fishing floats and two blue tropical fish.

It is almost three o’clock, and I make eager use of the last few minutes to take a quick look round at the other activities. Besides the alternative French-language book fair, there is another photo exhibition by local residents that gives us a view of colourful festivals and overflowing living rooms. An African man stops me with a steely glance and a brochure in his hand: he turns out to be from some christian sect or other which wants me to listen to the voice of jesus calling my name and warmly invites me to come and sing his praises.

I beat a hasty retreat back to our room and at three o’clock the doors swing wide open and our first visitor come in. When he stops at the music boxes, I lift off the dome and start the first story. When I hold the fish to his ears so he can hear the ultra-quiet sound they make, he protests, telling me he used to be a long-haul sailor and that the sea is not silent at all, but that constant pandemonium rages over the waves.

The time flies by and as I make my way back to the metro, the lively images of this small exhibition full of good things are dancing in front of my eyes. I am genuinely delighted that there are people like Helen White who put their heart and soul into promoting visual poetry, which would otherwise remain unknown.

Moniek Darge

Thanks Moniek! *blushing pink*

You can find more of Moniek’s strange and wonderful music boxes here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Maja Jantar


Maja Jantar is a voice artist working in the fields of performance, music theatre, poetry and visual arts. She studied Art Sciences and has been giving performances since 1995 (Gent, Antwerp, Vienna, London, Chemnitz, Geneva, Madrid, Brussels etc.).
She has also created many pieces as a voice artist and is an active member of the group Krikri.
She has directed the opera Infinito Nero by Salvatore Sciarrino, La Corona by Gluck, Aap Verslaat de Knekelgeest by Peter Schat, Al Amin Dada by Lucien Goethals on the libretto of Jelle Meander and Bastien en Bastienne by Mozart. She has worked as an assistant to Guy Joosten at the Flemish Opera House in Antwerp and assisted Vincent Boussard at the Royal Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels.
Recently she has been working with the theatre group Crew with whom she performed at the Vooruit (Ghent), Buda (Kortrijk), De Brakke Grond (Amsterdam), Rotterdamse Schouwburg (Rotterdam), Spielart Festival (Munich), and La Chartreuse (Avignon). She regularly performs with the poet Vincent Tholomé with whom she also gives workshops on the use of language and sound, and with whom she is preparing new material for a CD.
Currently she is collaborating with Ivan Vrambout and Ewout d'Hoore on the creation of "No Time Off for Bad Behaviour" a production by 'Action Malaise' and 'De Kopergieterij'.

Can't stop jumping up and down in my chair because because...

... because: soon Maja and I can start installing infusoria in the Zilverhof. Here are a few photos I took when we went to visit a while back (the snow only lasted a day or two)

... because: Claire will be here soon! She is Krikri's very first work experience student / intern / stagiaire, a Creative Writing and Media student at Leicester De Montfort, and besides helping with the exhibition and the performances later in the week, I hope I can persuade her to write some reviews or something on here. She's also my lovely cousin - nothing like mixing nepotism and slave labour - who I get to borrow as a housemate for a whole week.

... because: angela is coming back :-D She's back in Belgium for a residency (and waffles. And that big snail on the cycle path outside Jelle and Maja's house who never dreamed what stardom awaited him).

When it's packed away, almost the whole exhibition fits into my laundry bag. I can walk over to the Zilverhof with the whole damn thing on one shoulder (and Moniek's big plastic domes in the other hand).

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Silke Rath




"Words unlock a universe.
Words carry whole worlds inside them.
Words need nothing but themselves.

A word contains all the information it needs to function. It is precisely this content I try to trace by examining single words or groups of words. What interests me above all are the associated images and ambiguities that words conceal. 'Horizont' (Horizon), for example, shows the meaning of the word in pictorial form by imitating what it designates. The many layers of a word can be revealed by taking them out of context. In texts such as 'B' or 'Mallarmé,' I dissect the word structures in an attempt to find their individual 'subtexts.' In investigating single words my approach is analytical rather than poetic. I try to give each word its space, thus creating new possibilities for interpretation.
Hamburg, 26.01.2009"


Silke Rath was born in 1976 and lives in Hamburg. She studied classical archaeology with German studies, modern German literature and history of the sciences. After graduation, she began a degree in Fine Arts, for completion in 2009. She has participated in a number of exhibitions in Germany, and published several short stories. In 2006 she won the literature competition “Der Duft des Doppelpunktes” for her short story “Leise” and in 2008 she won the “Spiel” competition for her story “Baggersee.”

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Jessica Smith


Beauty is neither the veil nor the veiled object but the object in its veil” – Walter Benjamin

The beading on these translucent veils forms writing in Morse code. It is a kind of homage to that quality of language that we hardly ever experience once you know a language well, but that is common when learning a language: when you look at a sign system and you know it has meaning and that you should be able to understand it but you can't. The “aha moment” of recognizing meaning in a series of signs is magical for me, but that moment, as the language passes from opacity to translucence, fades as quickly as it arrives.

Veil texts:
abandon the real in favour of strata folds of fake above the Real a masterpiece of cloaked desire not only minds not only behaviours have strata sense has layers and their random tectonic intersections may mean or not

surface is sceptical; beware the clear surface the one without history rejoice in the palimpsest, however cloudy or alien when what comes through is horrible monstrous the result is at least in the palimpsest traceable

check the history of your expression how many things fall under a smile that turns into pursed lips at the end sometimes smiles lie or one has to cut them off before they reveal a real happiness stop smiling before someone recognizes

A linguistic substratum consists in the survival of features typical of a language
formerly spoken in an area in the language which has replaced it talking about the morphology of language is not accidental language is both topographical and animalistic

we can use language to veil our thoughts language more often veils and reveals and indeed it benefits power structures by veiling I am with language and I am with silence I have language and I have silence I have power and I have power

language is what consistently bubbles to the surface language fossils can be unearthed from sedimentary languages thus while the limits of my language are the limits of my world the implicit history of my knowledge is a history of coverings-over erasure shift veiling palimpsest


Jessica Smith studied at SUNY Buffalo, where she founded the poetry magazine name and won the Academy of American Poets Prize twice. She has written one full-length poetry book, Organic Furniture Cellar (2006) and several chapbooks: bird-book (Detumescence), Telling Time (No Press), Shifting Landscapes (above/ground press) and butterflies (Big Game Books). She is the editor of the magazine Foursquare.


As with several people's work, my photos don't do the veils justice. The beaded veils are lilac and the ones without beads opalescent white, which doesn't really come across with the back-lighting. Who am I trying to fob off with photos anyway? Come and see the exhibition live, this Sunday at four! I'm still working on the big red hot-air balloon that will be stopping by in New York, Toronto, Istanbul etc. to bring you all here. Clap your hands if you believe in subsidies....

Water calligraphy

An anecdote about street calligraphers in Beijing...

Street calligraphers give the poems of the Tang and Song dynasty a fleeting form on slabs of the pavement. They use water as ink, and the stone is their paper. [...] Their creations are ephemeral, lasting no more than three or four minutes, but that doesn't bother them. They are spending time with their friends. Passers-by admire and comment on particularly spectacular verses - for example, those by Li, a retired bookkeeper. Li Wendao imitates Chairman Mao Zedong's calligraphy. 'A great leader,' says Li, 'and an accomplished calligrapher and poet.' In one respect Li surpasses the Great Chairman himself: he writes Mao's verses backwards.

Sometimes in winter a small miracle occurs. Teacher Wang Jiuxiang adds a little salt to the water. The characters freeze and the verses are like little sculptures, fixed in a silvery frost. Wang fiddles with the clip and from his brush flow the verses of the drowned poet Li Po. He writes in powerful, clear kai shu (block characters):

'...Oh, let a man enjoy his life before it fades'

'Can you imagine that? Silver frost?' Wang asks excitedly.

- from "China A-Z" by Kai Strittmatter. I'm not suggesting you buy it, it's crap, just semi-conscious tourist stories. But I liked this passage, and the hint of things buried beneath it. Second time round, it is Mr Li who catches my imagination, and the observation that the calligraphers 'are spending time with their friends' that makes me think.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Rebecca Eddy

First Study in Counterpoint ~ Escapology ~ Hypothetic Syringe ~ Manipulation ~ Cadenza (clockwise from left)

First Study in Counterpoint


"Manipulation is control, bad influence and the conscious effort to distort and exploit. Manipulation is also the protective manoeuvre, the steer to safety and the dexterous engineer of success. Arguably the greatest literary manipulation exists in the composition of a piece itself. The choice of diction, the deployment of punctuation and the synthesis of image combine to construct the ultimate expression of creative control."


Rebecca Eddy lives in Cornwall, England. Her work can be seen in a variety of publications in Europe, Australasia and North America. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary practice and creative catachresis.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Last day in Brussels

2 German-speaking mail artists. They knew Jelle and Krikri because they’d been to Jerome Rothenburg’s lecture in Brussels in 2006.
2 French-speaking ’pataphysicists, wearing those knitted hats with flappy bits over the ears
2 little brothers, Mehdi aged 6 and Nael aged 2
2 joke eyeballs, being chased around the floor by Mehdi and Nael
4 more kids, a bit perplexed by Sharon’s Braille piece: “woah, you should hide that from blind people, they’re going to smash it.”
1 poetry editor who was all over your work like a rash, girls, and wanted links to all your websites
2 families with kids, looking for the workshops
1 friend of Bob Cobbing, who works for a publisher of scientific books and came to Brussels for the book fair. He got bored and ended up hanging out at infusoria all afternoon talking about poets we both know.
2 cookies left ...

It feels like months ago, although it has only been two weeks. And this time next week we'll be doing it all over again in Ghent.

Ayşegül Tözeren

Poetic Attack

Ayşegül Tözeren was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1979. She graduated from Istanbul Medical Faculty in 2005. In the same year, her first visual poem was published in Zinhar magazine. Since then, her visual poems have been shown in the Zinhar Galeri, which is the only visual and concrete poetry blog in Turkish. They have also been published in magazines and shown at festivals.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Alixandra Bamford


This quality verbal tea is composed of phrases plucked from only the finest sources and combined to produce unique blends; refreshing, zesty, naturally caffeine free.

Tasseomancy investigates recombination by blending concepts instead of flavours, using craft, ‘found’ phrases, word play, and tea.

“The game is to say something new with old words” – Emerson


Alixandra Bamford is a writer and artist from Toronto. She edits and publishes small-press magazine "Knives Out", which features the work of Toronto youth. Current projects include a graphic novel, and an (English language) poetry anthology which is open to submissions .

Friday, 20 March 2009

Jenny Sampirisi

Microtopes series:
Burdock ~ Was As Is
Burdock Script ~ Spam Spore

Jenny Sampirisi is a Canadian poet, prose writer and editor. She is the managing editor for BookThug and facilitates the online concrete poetry journal, Other Cl/utter. She teaches English at Ryerson University where she runs the Ryerson Reading Series. She is also an executive member of the Scream Literary Festival. Her first novel, is/was, explores the flexible boundaries of language, media, and the body.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sharon Harris


“Blues” is a Braille translation of bpnichol’s poem of the same name which turns nichol’s “love” matrix of language into a tactile, feeling experience.

Where do poems come from?

“Where do poems come from?” is part of the series, “Fun with ’Pataphysics,” which appeared as a column in Word magazine, a section in Harris’s Avatar (The Mercury Press), and in chapbooks from BookThug and above/ground press. The series was also part of a Globe review of Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry, entitled “Let’s Get ’Pataphysical,” by Christian Bök.


Sharon Harris is a Canadian artist/writer who has been accused of having “ethereal interests” (Toronto Life). She thinks that her eight-year long study of the power of love as a catalyst for personal and political change is nothing but practical. In 2006, her first book of poetry and art, Avatar, was published by The Mercury Press and her first photography exhibition, I Love You Toronto, received national attention. She curates iloveyougalleries.com and iloveyougraffiti.com and blogs at iloveyou365.blogspot.com. Not coincidentally, her current book project is a cultural study of the words, “I love you.”