My daughter and I went down to the AGB (Art Gallery of Burlington) for family day. The main exhibit, when you first enter, boldly states that you will soon be viewing VISUAL POETRY. Really!? I gasp. Who would have thought, here, now… What luck! Yes, I was excited. I should have known better. While I actually did enjoy a large portion of the work on display, I couldn’t agree that it was visual poetry.
From the AGB website: Visual Poetry: Contemporary Woodcuts looks at the work of Tom Hammick (United Kingdom), Donna Ibing (Burlington, ON) and Naoko Matsubara (Oakville, ON). Each artist works in a different style, though all execute their work on a grand scale producing multiple layers of meaning, creating unique and thought provoking work.
Perhaps, and most likely, the title of the exhibit was just that, a title of an exhibit. As opposed to a purposeful placing of the exhibited work into the lineage of that problematic category of Visual Poetry which resists the currency of definition. But such is the weight of naming, that primed with a cardinal direction, one can’t help but consider the work in the frame that’s been erected, consciously, or by chance, aided by the knowledge the viewer/reader brings to the gallery.
Why, I ask myself, do I not consider this work visual poetry? After all, I did just claim that Visual Poetry resists the currency of definition. Is it because I sensed that the work was created under the sign of the image, rather than under the sign of poetry? Because I felt tricked, duped, misled by the title? Such intuitions do not stand up to critical, institutionalized scrutiny.
Well, the work was good—and Alexie didn’t care either way whether it was or was not Visual Poetry. She did like it, though.