Since one of the cornerstones of Vertigo is exploring poetry that includes photographs, a friend brought to my attention the current exhibition in London at Bow Arts’ Nunnery Gallery, “Explosion of Words,” a cinematic photo installation and imaginary library of modern poetry in translation. Here’s what the organizer’s webpage says about it:
“Explosion of Words” is a cinematic photo installation, extending frieze-like over 30 metres of the Nunnery Gallery’s gothic walls, celebrating the power of language. The exhibition is the culmination of Swiss artist Hannes Schüpbach’s (b. 1965) response to the lived spaces of east London-based poet and language activist Stephen Watts (b. 1952), who works between extensive research on poetry and his own contributions as a poet and co-translator from many languages.
Approximately 1600 pages of Watts’ ongoing Bibliography of Modern Poetry in English Translation will be mounted directly onto the gallery’s four-metre-high walls as a background for Schüpbach’s space-spanning photo installation, creating a cosmos of world poetry. Watts’ Bibliography, which is 40 years in the making, will be transformed into a physical experience, creating a ‘storehouse of language’, reflecting Watts’ own passion for poetry in every tongue. In the nave space of the gallery, an excerpt of Schüpbach’s new silent film Essais (2020), with Stephen Watts, will also be on display.
Watts’ Bibliography opens up perspectives onto the rich wealth of poetry that has been, and still is being, written or performed out of many different histories and environments, as well as exploring the many cultural issues involved in translation.
A two-part artists’ publication has been published to coincide with the exhibition: Hannes Schüpbach: Explosion of Words. Dedicated to Stephen Watts, with an essay by Jo Catling and Stephen Watts: Explosion of Words, 19 Poems, with German translations by Hannes Schüpbach (192 pages, 19.5 × 26 cm, designed by Raphael Drechsel, GREAT, published by Verlag für moderne Kunst, Vienna), available to buy at the gallery.
PLEASE NOTE! Panel talk April 7.
Explosion of Words | ‘An Imaginary Library’: Modern Poetry and Translation Thursday 7 April, 6.30-7.45pm, Queen Mary University of London, £5/free for concessions Join a panel of speakers including Stephen Watts, Hannes Schüpbach, Jo Catling, Chris McCabe and Nisha Ramayya as they dig into the significance of Watts’ Bibliography and its crucial place in a full consideration of modern poetry and translation. (Booking is recommended as gallery space is limited. Book all events online at: bowarts.org/whats-on)
For more information on the exhibition, publication, and programming, check out the bowarts website.
The book Hannes Schüpbach: Explosion of Words contains poems by Watts and photographs by Schüpbach.