Wednesday 22 January 2014

Poets at Pantechnicon

The final afternoon of Pantechnicon at ArcadeCardiff featured a group of seven poets: nearly all of us had worked together before in some way, or had shared experiences of the Black Mountains. Lyndon Davies gave a general introduction to my work. David Greenslade, mixing Welsh and English, talked about objects and their thresholds, and recounted personal memories stirred up by some of the items on display.

Allen Fisher found echoes in the archeology of the Welsh borderland and the Marches. He said: Pantechnicon involves happenstance and memory and a contemplation of their gathering, all of which are involved in engagements of attention to a deliberately limited range of particulars. Collecting materials for use in the studio from the hills involves a complex of histories, a complex of different patterns of connectedness, natural forms and family memorabilia reach across objects found, industrial and historical or objects factured by the artist. Pantechnicon is about the development of imagination.

Anthony Mellors read from his poetry sequence, Bent out of Shape (Shearsman 2013), some parts of which featured in a sound recording made in the cave referred to in the exhibited film. Chris Paul read from his new opus, Robocoperatics, the idea for which sprang from a dream conversation with Quentin TarantinoGraham Hartill read from some poems set in the Black Mountains and talked about his and my interest in the human head.

Then Hartill and Davies read together from the compensatory laws of the 10th century Welsh king, Hywel Dda. That question of value again - what are things worth, what even are the things of the body worth? They seek to assign to all the different elements and objects of society a clear place on a scale of values, and beyond that a particular price for purposes of compensation in case of loss or injury. Davies said, "In relation to this exhibition there is a nice chime here, it seems to me, with Penny's revaluation of values, which includes in its embrace the outmoded, the broken, the discarded and the veiled. It relates also to the context of the shopping centre, which is all about the manipulation of value."  

A few of Hywel Dda's laws.
The value of one of the toes, is a cow and twenty silver pennies; and the price of the great toe is two cows and sixty silver pennies. The value of a little finger is a cow and twenty silver pennies; that of its nail, thirty pence. The value of the upper knuckle of the finger, is thirty-six pence one half-penny and a third; the value of the middle knuckle, is thirty-three pence and two parts of a half-penny; the lowest knuckle, is eighty pence; and this is the price of the finger. The value of every one of the teeth, is a cow and twenty pence; that of every one of the grinders, two cows and forty silver pennies; for these are the shepherds of the teeth. 


As well as the voices of the poets, one of the things I most enjoyed was the contributions of visitors. During the course of the exhibition I worked on drawings, using the objects on display as motifs, combining them in new ways. People would ask me about or comment on the drawings and I invited them to add their words or make their own marks, and incorporated these into the images.

Many conversations with people of all ages and different interests. Some told me about found objects that had always been a mystery to me: others had rather fantastical ideas, which I liked just as much.

The exhibition featured a line of small paintings representing poets' heads, taken from the Po√®te Assassin√© series. This series refers to the fable of Guillaume Apollinaire, in which a worldwide massacre of poets is inaugurated in the name of progress, by the German agro-chemist, Horace Tograth. 

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