Language is exhausted. It needs to sleep—and to dream. The President's tweets, the media's retorts, the mad din of your Facebook feed—language is no longer carrying meaning back and forth between us. We need to rejuvenate the language so people can begin communicating again.
I'm going to ArtPrize—a 19-day art festival in Grand Rapids, MI this fall (more about ArtPrize below)—to do just that. In a performance installation called "The Language Is Asleep," I'll embody the sleeping language, writing one-line poems in dictionaries all day, each day of the festival, in a large gallery at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).
Yes, this is espresso-fueled madness, but look at the current state of public discourse. This project is necessary, and I NEED YOUR SUPPORT to do this!
This is a profoundly interactive work. During ArtPrize, GRAM gets between 7,000 and 11,000 visitors per day. As I write on dictionary pages, I'll tear them out and hand them to visitors in the gallery. Visitors will give me a word and I'll respond to that word in the poem I write. I'm also pre-writing at least 100,000 poems to take with me. These poems will cover the walls and the floor of the gallery. People can pick up poems off the floor, too. I want every visitor to walk away with a poem in hand.
My one-line dictionary poems provoke, inform, puzzle, tickle, and inspire readers. Some examples: "a gendered gait," "pollen is sperm," "you can get off the earth," "autocorrect is racist," "Jill pushed Jack," "can you imagine kissing yourself passionately?" "Utah, 10:07am, a Denny's waitress bends over." The sheer volume of them in the space will be both frightening and wonderful.
And then, at a designated moment each day, I will ritualistically wake language up and transform into the Poetry Fox. Dressed as a giant fox, I bang out custom poems on demand on vintage typewriters. Visitors will give me a word, I'll instantly write them a poem with that word in it, sign it with a vulpine flourish, and give it to them to keep.
"The Language Is Asleep" is a two-fold experience. People get the dreamlike mystery of language from the trance poet with the dictionaries. And they get the joyous, generous, personal connection with the Poetry Fox. And they take those poems home and share them. And language works a little bit better for us all, one poem at a time.
I NEED YOUR HELP to underwrite the costs of travel, shipping, materials, typewriter maintenance, and several weeks of leave from my dayjob. And most of all I need to pay other people in my community around Durham, NC to help me copy poems into hundreds of dictionaries before ArtPrize even begins. So a lot of the donations to this campaign will go right back out into the thriving arts community here.
I have an MFA, I've published books... but making a poem on the spot and giving it to people has been, frankly, life-changing. I can't wait to give tens of thousands of ArtPrize visitors a custom-made poem. I know they're going to be pleasantly stunned and awakened—by poetry on-demand—to the power of language. PLEASE HELP ME MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
About ArtPrize (Sept. 20-Oct. 8)—Now in its 9th year, ArtPrize is the biggest art event on the planet, attracting 500,000 people. Free and open to the public, ArtPrize is an independently organized international art competition. More than $500,000 in prizes are awarded each year, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts. Local friends will recall our own Stacey Kirby won the top jury prize in 2016! Last year, 1,453 works created by artists from 40 states and 44 countries were exhibited in 170 venues.
Risks and challenges
I've done projects like this before, including writing in dictionaries in a trance state for hours and writing close to 100 poems in one sitting as the Poetry Fox (many times!). But this has such a large scale--writing all day, every day, for almost 3 weeks--that it's daunting.
I know I have the physical stamina, and I know I can write without running out of ideas. But generating well over 100,000 torn-out, written-on dictionary pages is a challenge. It's slow work. I've been logging diligent hours every day for months, and I'm hiring a small army of copyist helpers to pitch in. We will get there! Who needs sleep?Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)