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28 February - 25 March 2018


Participating artists: Steve Canaday, Gerald Davis, Raf Kalenderian, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Justin Lieberman, Aleksandra Mir, Ebecho Muslimova, Cameron Platter, Patricia Satterwhite, Amba Sayal-Bennett, Dasha Shishkin and Grace Weaver.

To Our Fellow Artists and Poets Who Are Confused About Which Way To Go


The concept of free speech, once levied exclusively against the state, is now deployed in a “universal” form, a form of seemingly apolitical, aesthetic disinterest. This form/concept is used as justification for all manner of speech meant to prop up the state, defend private property, and concretize various fascist regimes on the basis of an already existing freedom which expresses itself in language.


The concept of Poetry is centred around the impossibility of free speech. Free speech is Poetry’s unquenchable thirst, unremitted desire, it’s unrequited love. Poetry’s musings circulate around this unattainable object. Speech freed of grammatical rules, liberated from taboo, untethered from communication, emancipated from sense. To this end, Poetry has concocted elaborate structures by which it organizes its use of language. Rhyme, meter, acoustic serendipities, a visual geometry of the page, a topography of the letter. All these provisional structures are built up as barricades against the laws of language, in hopes that a free speech might emerge. It is towards this asymptotic horizon that Poetry enacts it’s violent crusade against language. 


The structures called forth by Poetry are the weapons it employs against speech itself. And yet, even in what some might call modern poetry’s most extreme examples : Russian Zaum, Swiss Merz, French Concrete Poetry, the mother tongue remains. This is not even to say that merely language remains, but the mother tongue! The eradication of words themselves is not even enough to eliminate the mother tongue, that insufferable rock of the nation state. One can easily distinguish the Russian nonsense from the French or the American nonsense from the German. 


Poetry is no way an “example” of free speech. Let us say that “Poetry could be speech at its most free.” Still, the journey of poetry is an elliptical one, driven by the gravitational force of free speech. It cannot be defended on the basis of a freedom which it possesses, since its very movement, its raison d’être, is the infinite circulation around the concept of free speech in time. In this way, the movement of poetry reveals the concept of “free speech” as immobile and static, a transcendental abstraction, which exists only outside of time, and so not at all. One may champion poetry or free speech, but not both. Materially, it is clear which one actually exists in the world. 


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