Intersections: Architecture and Poetry

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Ayla Lepine introduces an illuminating event which will merge a variety of artistic fields

On 3rd-4th June, the Courtauld Institute of Art will be transformed. Architects, artists, poets and academics from 12 countries across four continents will come together for a two-day conference on mutual ground between architecture and poetry. Intersections is divided into six sessions: Ritual and Memory; Process and Construction; Dwelling; Scale and Re-Imaging; Urban Experience; and Bodily Experience. Inspired by recent responses to Gaston Bachelard’s milestone The Poetics of Space, this event will feature film, art installations, live poetry, and presentations from historians and architects. Co-convened by Courtauld lecturers Caroline Levitt and Ayla Lepine, Intersections offers new ways of reading, seeing and experiencing poetry and architecture.

Intersections will exhibit new collaborative artwork created specially for the event. Judith Walton and Linda Walker’s experimental performance will construct, display and unravel ‘poetic threads’ in unusual spaces at the Courtauld in Somerset House. Andrea de Meo and Myrtha Ehlert, from Italy and Germany respectively, will co-present a discussion of Peter Zumthor’s ‘houses for poems’ project in Vestfalia in the context of the sacred. Research student Terri Mulholland and poet Siân Thomas will complement this with an investigation of the abandoned house as a poetic site. The London architecture firm Tonkin Liu will explain their award-winning ‘Asking Looking Playing Making’ design process alongside Kyoto-based Lisa Nobeta’s discussion of ‘deep-seated affinities’ between Japanese architecture and haiku poetry.

Bartlett professor Jane Rendell has recently ‘written a building’, representing an innovation in both architectural theory and language. This type of approach is comparable to Intersections speakers Yasmine Shamma, whose research at Oxford investigates the overlapping of poetic and urban structure, and Fiona Anderson, who studies gay cruising and the sexual charge of everyday spaces in twentieth-century New York. Ben Jacks, a Miami-based academic and curator, will discuss motion and stillness as methods of spatial and textual apprehension for figures as diverse as Edna St Vincent Millay and Alvar Aalto.

Agata Madejska, who recently exhibited at ICA’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries, will speak about her subtle photography in which monumental, isolated skyscrapers seem to emerge or disappear out of filmic cloud. This has resonances with Intersections speakers Zehra Tonbul and Jeehee Hong, who will investigate visions of Istanbul and the blurring of inside and outside in Buddhist architecture. Katie Faulkner also explores interior and exterior spaces in her talk on Artangel’s recent collaboration with the psychoanalyst Adam Philips and costume historian Judith Clark to create The Concise Dictionary of Dress at Blythe House, the V&A’s west London storehouse. Margaret Graves investigates Islamic microarchitecture and daily life, and Graham Smith explores Melrose Abbey, where ‘memory crystalizes and secretes itself’, via Walter Scott and Victorian photography.

This approach is radically different from the politically motivated work of poets in post-Soviet Minsk, discussed by the architect Alena Sakalouski Johnson, or indeed London-based Mark Riley’s consideration of the iconic output of Paul Celan, whose question ‘whose name did it record before mine?’ was activated by a visit to a Black Forest hut-retreat in the 1960s. Intersections will also feature a live Q&A with the Emmy-nominated filmmaker Marylou Bongiorno following a screening of her New Work: Newark in 3D and the Walt Whitman-inspired 1921 film Manahatta. Alan Powers, global expert on British Modernism, will offer the keynote address on Friday 3rd June. His lecture ‘New Style of Architecture, A Change of Heart’ will reflect on W. H. Auden and ambiguity in Modernism. Intersections is open to all.

For further details about Intersections: Architecture and Poetry and information on how to register, visit http://bit.ly/mnSm5m or email researchforum@courtauld.ac.uk

Ayla Lepine
Courtauld Institute of Art, London

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