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DOX Centre for Contemporary Art
Poupětova 1, Prague 7
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Join us for the opening of the exhibition Beyond Words on Wednesday 13 Sep 2023. Meet the artists and enjoy a performance by the rap duo Genius & Genius (Anna Beata Háblová & Martin Kyšperský), who are pioneering the new style “poetrycore” with their unique repertoire.
Image and word. Art and literature. They each have their own territories, their own maps and cartographies. Yet as Virginia Woolf once noted, “Though they must part in the end, [they] have much to tell each other: they have much in common.”
The intriguing connections between the verbal and the visual have piqued man’s interest and imagination since antiquity. In the first century BC, the poet Horace defined the relationship between painting and poetry in his famous statement ut pictura poesis. The notion that “painting is silent poetry and poetry is a talking picture” (attributed to Simonides even earlier) appeared in various forms across the centuries and became topical again in the Renaissance paragone, a debate about the superiority of different art forms.
In the eighteenth century, the German Enlightenment scholar G. E. Lessing sought to define the possibilities and limits of both genres. Almost two centuries later his theses became the basis for the research of Jan Mukařovský and the Prague structuralists.
The connections between the verbal and the visual were further explored by European avant-garde artists and writers whose work in many ways foreshadowed further developments in the second half of the twentieth century such as the experiments in visual poetry of the 1960s. But so much more would have to be said if we wanted to delve into the historical mapmaking of the borderland of word and image.
Contemporary visual art and literature keep weaving their remarkable dialogue in new and exciting ways, and their cartographies can unveil strange and unexpected landscapes. The exhibition Beyond Words aims to explore some of these inspirations and to show how literary culture finds an echo in the works of visual artists today.
Consciously, the exhibition does not venture into the vast realms of classical book illustration and comics – the two genres that we perhaps most automatically associate with the world of words.
Nor does it aim to be an exhaustive account of the many different ways in which contemporary visual artists address the world of literature. Rather, it brings to the fore examples of less usual and more intriguing reflections of the literary in the visual.
Most of the artists represented in the exhibition are (or were) ardent readers, and some are even established writers. Their visual works raise some questions about the nature of our literary culture: about the way we read and understand the world, about the importance of stories in our lives, about the relationship between author and reader, and about the future of books in our digital age and the possibilities and limits of new technologies. Above all, they speak about the power of the visual to capture that elusive, untranslatable something that lingers beyond words.
How then do we read these works of art? To borrow the words of Marcel Proust, “The only true voyage of discovery … would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another.” This exhibition stands as an open invitation to set out on such a voyage and see the world of words through the eyes of art.
Curator: Michaela Šilpochová
Artists: Brian Dettmer, Georgia Russell, Ivan Pinkava, William Kentridge, Douglas Coupland, Radka Bodzewicz, Matej Krén, Vladimír Doležal, Millicent Young, Krištof Kintera, Anna Beata Háblová, Volker März