Saturday 10 December 2022


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Looking, Writing, Reading, Looking edited by Georgi Gospodinov   {Reviewed by STELLA} 

The place where words and art intersect is always interesting. In this collection, writers take on contemporary works at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and the results are various and wonderfully unexpected. These are not theory-heavy nor filled with art speak. They are critiques of a literary nature — personal responses through the observant eyes of each writer: the looking (and the looking again); and the thoughts, memories or ideas which spring from these observations. Here you will find writers you have read, others you have heard of (but maybe not encountered their writings) and some that haven’t crossed your radar yet. There are memoir pieces, poems, more direct descriptions and interpretations, fictional interviews or reportage, and creative short stories. The writing sometimes takes us further into the particular artwork. Other pieces edge us towards a deeper understanding of elements springing from the work, with cascading ideas that will lead you to future interpretations. Others reveal more about the writer, taking the reader into a more internal world with an experience revealed. Experiences that sit alongside their chosen artwork tell us something about them as well as the power of art to spark this exploration. What draws us to a particular artwork? Why does one painting or sculpture capture us — ask us to stop, to look, to read — while another will hardly leave an imprint: we will see, but merely glide by? Writers are keen observers and this writer/art project at the gallery is refreshing as it does not require us to ‘know’ or have some insider information about the objects, which are interacted with rather than described. Each artwork is photographed and sits alongside the written text, and each author has a portrait taken, in the same place, by the water’s edge, revealing something quite special about each. All 26 writers had been attendees at the museum’s writers’ festival. In this collection, Anne Carson cleverly pulls together an unofficial transcript (with notes) of contemporary philosophers on Ragnar Kjartansson’s 'Me and My Mother'. Colm Toibin explores 'La Double Face' of Asger Jorn with his assured and thoughtful considerations of all that can be held in a face — vulnerability, ambiguity and energy. Domenico Starnone introduces us to 'Museo del Prado 5' by photographer Thomas Struth, expounding on the meta meta nature of this painting/photography/writing exposure. Yoko Tawada quietly, in her storytelling style, asks us to contemplate the role of our lives while viewing Nobuo Sekine’s 'Phases of Nothingness'. Guadalupe Nettel reveals how the 'On Stone Sculptures' by Henry Heerup call to her with a delightful short essay that perfectly embraces the artist’s relationship with stone. And Delphine de Vigan, as she reencounters Louise Bourgeois’s 'Spider Couple', reminds us that our relationship with artworks change, our interpretations are sometimes unintentionally faulty (driven by a desire for an artwork to speak to us of our own experience), and the artist’s intention is not necessarily at the forefront of our understanding — and that is all fine! All the contributions have something to recommend them and there are sharp as well as emotional responses. An interesting collection (handsomely produced), worth having on your shelf for the writing and the selected artworks.

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