Sunday, June 1, 2014



Fourth International Text Festival, Curated by Tony Trehy, Philip Davenport, Susan Lord, Diana Hamilton and KFS Press
(Bury, U.K., 2014)


Fourth International Text Festival, Bury, UK, 2014. Curated by Tony Trehy (also founder of the Festival, director of the Bury Art Museum), Philip Davenport (also editor of The Dark Would anthology), Susan Lord, Diana Hamilton and the KFS Press.

The fourth incarnation of the Text Festival, which I was lucky to attend, is an exciting constellation of exhibits and performances commenting on each other. These are just brief footnotes to a few miraculous things I saw less than a week ago. (But see also my other review in this issue of Galatea Resurrects about the photo-documentation of an earlierperformance which was repeated at the Festival.) Deeper analyses will need more time and a better chronicler. Some of the events I’ll mention concentrated on the first three days, but the exhibitions will be open through early July, and new events are in the making, so it is well worth a visit.

Some examples:

I enter the beautiful building of neo-classical reminescences. (They will continue in the  sculptures and paintings of the permanent collection.) Ian Hamilton Finlay would probably be pleased to be exhibited here. And indeed, on the second level, behind the columns of the circular gallery (and behind Barney’s), there’s an I.A. Finlay on the wall, part of a small exhibit of “political texts”.

I enter the main room of the permanent exhibition (or something that looks like that) and run into Steve Giasson’s titles of artwork, which look like ordinary titles, and are fastened on the wall or the pedestals exactly like those. They are written in Latin (and perhaps translated from ancient Greek). If we need the English versions, we can pick up their printed lists in the middle of the room. Thanks to Latin, we read the twofold (or threefold) punned titles with a delay in the English translation, which makes a difference. Generally speaking: this clown won’t give the first laugh, we’ll have to figure out for ourselves when to laugh and when to cry.

DESISTE TE LUDERE TANTUM DE DELICIIS ET MORTE COGITAS (Stop Kidding Yourself, You Only Think About Sex and Death) – photo by Philip Davenport

CREDEBAM LEONARDUM DICAPRIO FUISSE HOMINEM QUI MONAM LISAM PINXIT (I Used To Think That Leonardo Dicaprio Was The Guy Who Painted The Mona Lisa) – photo by MK

“Please do not touch.” The warnings on the wall look like Steve’s titles, which look like ordinary titles. They are now part of the installation. It is sad that we are not allowed to touch the artworks. And the sculptures are sad, too, no doubt. They don’t like to be alone. They don’t like to be copies of another “–ism”, called classicism. Deep inside they are original. That is their secret. “But how could we touch anything which is ‘just’ an idea,” the installation asks. On the other hand, good ideas are touching, and the sculptures are saved for the moment.

(And there are points of time in vynil on the floor saying how far I am from a Victorian painting of Orpheus, taming the animals… And the huge painting, one of the many in the room,  spoke to me through its title: MIHI NON AMICIS OPUS EST SED SECTATORIBUS. /I Don’t Need Friends, I Need Followers/.  “As everything could now be done openly he ran because of curiosity and the wish to get it over with long flying leaps towards the pulpit.”, I thought.)

On Sunday morning, a group of moaning and crying and praying and yawning zombies invaded the rooms of the museum, both the permanent and the temporary exhibitions because for them, there’s no difference between the two.They were identified by those who hadn’t been pulled at once into their group (and forced to behave like them) as the (brilliant) Juxtavoices “anti-choir”. They seemed to be equally bored of (or angry at) (or sorrowful for) the neo-classical clich├ęs and the daring novelties of, say, The Language of Lists. When they withdrew at last, nothing remained behind them but a gentle breeze: surviving museum goers and surviving artworks united in a momentary relief of just being.

Singer from Juxtavoices “anti-choir” at Bury Art Museum – photo by Philip Davenport

The physical reality of Matt Dalby’s video, titled Long Lankin, is a labyrinth-like barcode in the vicinity of Dante Meditating the Episode of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta by Sir Joseph Noel Paton, in a corridor hosting The Dark Would exhibition. (It is the continuation of a project, therefore it is “Dark Would No. 3”.)

“Long Lankin” is based on a British folk ballad about a motiveless murder; more closely on a song, especially as it was performed by a singer in the sixties; and on Matt’s previous short videos. Matt recites the song (in several voices), and the monotonous rhythm of the simple song gives threathening coherence to the story”, which otherwise consists of flashing images of streets, cars, a blooming tree, and beyond them fallen leaves, discarded toys, dying fish, fences, a microwave, a feather, twigs in the water, segments of the of sky, unpaired shoes, petals. Each image is a different goodbye. Matt keeps moving (we don’t see him, only what his camera sees), and at the end of the video when he fights his way through the bushes, we don’t know: is he escaping an unnamable danger or is he the danger himself? In this state of hypnotized concentration everything has a dream-like logic, but nothing can be predicted, judged or even named. Only the permanence of the danger is real although not more real at all than the image of a feather caught on a branch.

Liz Collini – photo by MK

The Text Festival is about different kinds of writing and our ability to read. In the Lawrence Weiner show we experience how objects become words and words become objects. Poems can be based on the simple gesture of moving from one page to the next, and they can be found, like in the case of several pieces in the rich and diverse Language of Lists group exhibition. They can absorb time and radiate it like in Liz Collini’s beautiful, memorable work made on the spot during the three opening days of the festival. They can be inclined toward minimalism – or be as comprehensive as Caroline Bergvall’s breathtaking multimedia performance, one of the most outstanding events of the Festival, where Gesamtkunstwerk was perfectly functional, and typography served the highest purposes of a myth without intervening gods. It is a song on isolation and compassion, ending in between, but leading to catharsis.

Caroline Bergvall – photo by Philip Davenport

Visual poetry per se (for me simply one of the names for the “same” open field, but a name I know more closely), was represented, too, although to a lesser extent than in 2011. I met a lot of wonderful artists this year as well – and I missed a lot some of my visual poet friends who I’d met the previous time.

Tony Trehy and Philip Davenport put together valuable works and events belonging to very different genres and coming from very different traditions (also from “outsiders”). They looked behind labels and saw them as simply constructions. As we walk around the exhibitions and move from one event to the next one, we must learn to read again and again – and that’s a great pleasure.

Rachel Defay-Liautard - photo by MK

…Finally I arrive at Rachel Defay-Liautard’s performance (it actually happened one day before the Juxtavoices), held with good reason in one of the rooms for The Language of Lists. During the whole time of the performance Rachel (blindfolded with a black cloth covering her eyes, leashed on the cord of the microphone she held in her hand and followed by her shadow on the screen), repeated the same formula, the title of Walter Benjamin’s famous essay:  The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility. She kept moving, but her motion was clumsy because she entangled again and again in the cord. She felt her way reaching the microphone toward us as if searching for contact. And indeed, she came closer to us, repeating the formula in different languages, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and apparently waiting for a response, for some kind of participation. And it is not by chance that I use the word “formula”, because step by step, the text lost its meaning and became almost a chant. Before the performance Rachel had asked me to intervene in case the spectators were too polite to eliminate the distance. At a certain point I went to the microphone and repeated the title in Hungarian. Then others joined me, and the participation became almost continuous and multilingual. It wasn’t until the performance ended and I came out of the room that I realized (and I might have been wrong), that Rachel might have wanted us to say something else.

-May 11, 2014


Marton Koppany lives in Budapest, Hungary. He has been dealing with visual poetry, language art, intermedia etc. since the beginning of the 80's. His latest book in print is Addenda (Otoliths, 2012). His new ebook, Hungarian LangArt, can be downloaded here:

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