Statement

Words are the beginning of my process of making, thinking about their individual and collective meanings; their shape and size, and the sounds they make as they roll off the tongue. As textual elements poetic statements are inherent in words. However, if what one says is to have meaning the sounds, the words and the grammar must be uttered in such a way as to perform upon the feelings, thoughts, and actions of the recipients.[1] In short, it must be a “speech-act” and not utter nonsense.[2]

Words are elusive, existing in the present as printed residue on a page and as speech, and at the same time elsewhere.[3] The power of words is in their ability to speak in metaphors, ideas, memory, experience, sensation, and objects all at once.[4] Thus, they allow us as human beings to communicate using all of our sense; touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.[5] Language is of course, first and for most an oral phenomenon.[6] However the written ‘word’ like the pictogram before it gives language a material dimension. As a material, words are versatile: they can be spoken, written, drawn, read, held, erased and yet they remain. Words are a third order of representation in art, beyond the mimetic use of images and the communicative forms of abstraction.

My own use of text in art centres around the typewriter typeface. I am attracted to it for aesthetic reasons, that it refers to the past, it gives the text a personal touch connected to the fact that a human hand guides the machine, and it employs chance encounters with ambiguity. These chance encounters mimic the mistakes involved in the use of a physical typewriter that include over inking, under inking, missing and jumbled letters when more than one letter is accidentally pressed, misregistration and complete illegibility. These are key the elements of the typeface I have utilized in my foray into poetic playing with gender and language.

Poetry is more than simply words and language, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech, and meanings.[7] It is the familiar material of language transformed, to take on meaning “more than it says.”[8] This takes visual and material form in the concrete poem, where emotions and ideas take a back seat to the physical material the poem or text is made from.[9] My poetic use of text with the aim of making language material sits on the line between concrete and traditional poetry, the text takes on a material form as it shifts from one medium to the next: books, paper, fabrics and ready-mades.

My use and critique of language is limited, in that I can only speak, read, and understand one language fluently (English). However, I am interested in learning more languages and have incorporated the use of some Latin gender neutral pronouns in the text I’ve printed. Growing up as a white woman in a Western country has shaped the focus of my project towards my own experiences which comes with their associated privileges. Thus, it has been my aim to ground the project in third wave intersectional feminist politics, being aware of the impact that race, ethnicity, nationality, class, ability, age, religion, and gender have on our lives. This can be seen in the role language plays both in expressions of identity and privilege and in activism, protest and culture change. It is through activism and protest such as the SlutWalk Movement that derogatory language such as slut have been reclaimed as an open challenge to the pervading victim blaming rape culture.[10]


[1] Tore Nordenstam, “On Austin’s Theory of Speech Acts,” Mind, New Series, 75, 297, (1996), 141.

[2] J. L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words, (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 2-146.

[3] Jane Mills, WomanWords, (London: Virago Press, 1991), xii; Ong Walter, Orality and Literacy, (New York: Routledge, 2002), 3-15.

[4] Mills, ibid.

[5] Ong Walter, Orality and Literacy, (New York: Routledge, 2002), 3-15.

[6] Walter, ibid.

[7] “Someone is Writing a Poem,” Poetry Foundation, accessed August 29, 2021, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69530/someone-is-writing-a-poem

[8] “Someone is Writing a Poem,” Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69530/someone-is-writing-a-poem

[9] Alex Balgiu and Monica de la Torre, Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979, (New York: Primary Information, 2020), 12.

[10] Joetta L. Carr, “The SlutWalk Movement: A Study in Transnational Feminist Activism,” Journal of Feminism Scholarship, 4, (Spring 2013), 24-26.