A book is performance: Exhibition of Artists’ Books at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art

a book is a performance is an exciting literary exhibition currently showing at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College, Dundee. The exhibition explores the performative nature of books, and considers how the interpretation of words can become a stimulating performance rather than sedentary experience.

The exhibition takes inspiration from legendary French poet Mallarmé and modernists such as Marcel Duchamp and Mexican book artist Ulises Carrión, who attempted to free words from the printed page. From the 19th century artistic, interactive salons of Mallarmé to Carrión’s anti-literary sound poems, these were artist-poets who challenged the form and purpose of books, poetry – words.

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This is precisely the intention of the artists featured in a book is performance. Such pieces focus on the transformative power of the book, where each turn of the page provides the potential for rich experience, revelation or subversion.

The photography of Viola Yeşiltaç demonstrates an editorial control over space that creates original narratives. Similarly, the found and altered postcards of Sharon Kivland trace a narrative line between seemingly disparate histories, people and stories. Journeys seem key to many of the exhibiting artists, whether it’s the journey of thought, as in Cullinan Richards’ Savage School Window Gallery or Nina Chua’s rendering of the book into a map where the ultimate destination is unknown.

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Carrión is quoted in the press release as claiming, “The most beautiful and perfect book in the world is a book with only blank pages, in the same way that the most complete language is that which lies beyond all the words that a man can say”. The artists involved take inspiration from this thought, interpreting the blank page as a white gallery space where ideas can be performed.


In the spirit of the exhibition two performance pieces have been commissioned. Alec Finlay opened the show with a reading of Out of Books and on the 18th May, Sarah Sanders is to give a durational performance, I used to. Alec Finlay’s Mesostic Interleaved, is also featured in the show, which addresses poems and reader interpretation. Finlay describes his work as ‘microtonal’, a symbiosis of everyday, commonplace objects etched with poetic forms such as the mesostic, embedded-poem and circle-poem.


work concentrates on the act of writing. Her previous performances include cutting the letters f, e, a and r from a newspaper and then blowing them over a balcony and writing for 24 hours streamed live over the internet. Her performance on the 18th of May at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, is therefore not to be missed.


The exhibition runs from 25th April – 26th May, Tuesday- Sunday, 12-4pm at Centrespace Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee.

Sarah Sanders’  I used to, will be performed on May 18th between 1 – 4.30pm.

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