HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra.
A QUIET but playful exhibition in the “East Space” gallery near the flags on Lake Burley Griffin will explode tomorrow in a performance by some of Canberra’s leading poets.The brainchild of collaborators, artist Caran Florance and poet Melinda Smith, “Reading Spaces”, provides just that, nine areas where you can wander look, or simply sit down at the kitchen table and read.
Some of what is seen in the exhibition, notably in the beautiful large format artist books by Florance, is part of her PhD research at the University of Canberra research but in part asks how words can become “real”.
One such focuses on the pivotal year of 1962, not long before Lake Burley Griffin was field. Using extracts from Hansard records and other formal speeches of the time, the words of 1962 are laid-out like poetry, giving the words considerable prescience as they look forward to the city that Canberra has now become. Produced on fine quality paper by Florance herself, these central extracts are side marked with often a mischievous verse by Smith, who, Shakespeare-like, invents words, hyphenates, and in general, plays with language.
Working with Smith to find a materiality in words, Florance has used extracts and lettering from signs at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, where the two collaborators have worked in the past, often shifting the word-order of parliamentary notices to give new meaning.
It is as well that Florance has attributed the exhibition “Angela Gardner, Melinda Smith, Owen Bullock, Sarah Rice & etc”, for it is evident that there was much in the “etc”.
Other artists represented include Monica Carroll, Tania de Rozario, Phillip Gross, Nicci Haynes, Jackie Malins, Paul Munden, Shags, Shane Strange and Jen Webb, whose work both visual and verbal, can be perused in area four, the “book lounge”.
As you enter the gallery, what is most visible is a witty mobile installation of hanging words that you can twist and turn to form your own meanings.
Appearing in large replication on the walls are Angela Gardner’s experiments with the artistic potential of old-fashioned lead typeface, artfully interpreted by Florance.
For those who like to read in silence, there are areas for solitary reading of poems by Anna Matteo over, Rosemary Dobson and David Campbell and for digital reading of a work by Florance and poet Sarah Rice.
This is an exhibition for dedicated readers and art-lovers who love the idea of turning words into objects. It requires a little time and understanding, but all will be made clear tomorrow at lunchtime, when Canberra’s poets assemble to read their works in this unique setting.
“Reading Spaces,” in the waterfront below the High Court of Australia (formerly NGA Contemporary) until April 12. Poetry readings from 12.30pm tomorrow Saturday, April 8, all welcome. Copies of “Members Only,” apoetry book based on the project, can be purchased at the gallery.