Posts Tagged ‘gerry smith’


In Uncategorized on August 18, 2011 at 10:53 am



In the Totalkunst Gallery on August 12th, Gerry Smith led a haikuisation workshop. The notion of haikuisation had been the process behind one set of works in Gerry’s exhibition for I AM NOT A POET, about which he wrote:

12 Haikuisations. These reductive works demonstrate the simple writing strategy of haikuisation. These texts are based upon works by the following authors:Nicolas Evans, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Samantha Harvey. William Heiensen, M.R.James, A. L. Kennedy, Heinrich Von Kliest,Robert Maugham, William McIlvanney, Georges Simenon (twice) and Emma Smith.

For the workshop, Gerry brought along a number of books of short stories, and we added others from the The Forest’s book cabinet. He explained how the basic process was to take the first line of a story, then turn to the end of the story and add the last line.

Sometimes, of course, the process produces something felt to work, other times not. Gerry noticed that, as he explored this method, certain genres seemed to work whilst others did not, and it was interesting to map the structure of particular genres on to the micro-interventions and sampling of the process of marginalisation.

I noted that Smith’s use of structure also allowed a space for a more subjective “I think this works” or “this doesn’t work.” This didn’t lead the original restriction to be abandoned, but might encourage a repetition until something more satisfying is produced.

Gerry had earlier commented “I’m not a poet, I am an intermedia artist.” I wondered how much this judgment of produced texts was a literary one, concerned with grammatical and narrative coherence,  evocative and suggestive description, satisfying structural arc, even over its short duration.


The speed and simplicity of haikuisation means it is pleasurable and playful to enact. It  leaves space and time for considering what is produced, both the materiality and content of language. As “author” or “editor” texts feel like one’s own personal discovery, whilst also removed from self-expression.

Smith’s own examples in the exhibition seemed informed by a sense of coherence balanced against (and this was also a source cited by Gerry) a Shlovskian sense of “making strange.” For example –


Confronted by a whole book of short stories, I applied haikuisation to reading the whole book. The first line of the first story, then the last line of that story. If that didn’t work going to the next first or last, until finding a pairing that “resonates.” Then starting with whatever is the next beginning or ending…

Of course, the question arises where is the “haiku” in haikuisation (A: at the beginning). One other topic of our conversation before the workshop had been a Scottish history of concrete poetry and minimal poetry (from Edwin Morgan, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Tom Leonard, through to Alec Finlay, Julie Johnstone’s Island magazine, Nick-e Melville and Smith’s own work, amongst others).

The haiku was a part of this (for example Alec Finlay’s renga platforms) but  perhaps better understood as informing a range of minimal forms, most notably (in different ways in IHF’s work and Smith’s own) one word poems, and the diverse procedures/ intentions of/ from Oulippo and Fluxus.


Smith’s own haikuisations (see above) suggest further proximities to prose poems. Haikuisation is perhaps best thought of as an alchemical process, in which the haiku’s structure, relation to nature, history, the seasons, the moment, and social custom, exist as a formative element of a “gestural poetry” that opens/mutates into the contemporary.

Although to very different ends, the re-writing of Journey to the Far North that is Andy Fitch and Jon Cotner’s Ten Walks/ Two Talks – a mapping of physical and verbal perambulations around Manhattan 2011 – also finds such contemporary (trans-) form for the haiku (and Basho).

Cotner and Fitch’s use of the dialogue form, their verbosity and humor, ask how such strategies relate to Smith’s haikuisation, whose appropriation does function in part as a kind of metaphysical jest, its resultant meanings a jokers twist on more long winded methods of composition, that is also a nod of reverence to what such forms make possible.



Some notes around Gerry’s I AM NOT A POET show are here.  His VSK project UNIVERSAL HISTORY III is here.



In Uncategorized on August 12, 2011 at 11:26 am


Alongside his joint show with Shandra Lamaute, Gerry Smith  is at the Totalkunst Gallery today for a conversation on reductive forms and mundane literalism, both terms he has coined for a practice whose website declares “” Following the talk Gerry will lead a Haikuisation workshop. Bring a book of short stories if you come to that one, or grab one from the bookcase in The Forest Cafe just outside.

I first came across Gerry’s work in 2010 through books  such as ESSENTIAL READING and I am a text based artist; Selected Words 1998-2008, and through The Universal History III, which Gerry contributed a selection of as a VSK Project. I enjoyed both the humor and detail of such work, its sense and mix of structure and story. It helped, too, with thinking through the legacy of, say,  Ian Hamilton Finlay and Yoko Ono’s minimal text forms, how contemporary forms of that work could be found through subtle changes of mood, tone and context.

It was Gerry’s insistence that he was NOT  a poet – and his text work was not poems – that partly  led to this exhibition’s title (along with the historical repetitions of such notions by, for example, Lawrence Weiner). Given Gerry’s texts could be fitted into a history of the minimalist poem I was interested in the space that was brought into being by that NOT A.

Also – I’m trying to articulate this more fully as I AM NOT A POET unfolds – what relationships are there between Smith and, for example, another I AM NOT A POET exhibitor nick-e melville’s  recently published STUFF (reviewed by Tom Jenks at 3AM here). Nick-e’s work is more usually framed within contexts of visual and experimental poetry, but both evidence a shared history and contemporary form of/for conceptual, concrete and fluxus writings.

Perhaps it’s a way of talking, with talking seen as intrinsic to writing and art practice (and also central to Colin Herd’s NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL, next up in the space). Gerry describes the works appearing in the gallery this week as follows:


Whilst Walking Past A Tall Building is a process piece in five articles and eight letters. I began the process by submitting a question to The Guardian’s Notes & Queries, and the piece consists of the answers that were published. Only structural edits were made, with no alteration to the contents. Hayley Jones, Graham Simpson, and Emily Streete provided the readings.

Breathe consists of three punctuation poems constructed from breves. The texts used are taken from Allan Kaprow’s Performing Life.

12 Haikuisations. These reductive works demonstrate the simple writing strategy of haikuisation. These texts are based upon works by the following authors:Nicolas Evans, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Samantha Harvey. William Heiensen, M.R.James, A. L. Kennedy, Heinrich Von Kliest,Robert Maugham, William McIlvanney, Georges Simenon (twice) and Emma Smith.




The images in this post document a number of recent projects. As Gerry writes:

… There are also photos of An Evening In Front Of The Box (2011) from the recent DOCument show (this piece brings together an instruction piece with a
punctuation poem (i.e. the white dot on the screen). The black and white photos give it a suitably retro feel. The final piece, also from DOCument, is Lost in
Translation: when re-translated – at least through Babelfish! – you end up with: What comes between fear and sex? Funf !

… I really like the last piece as it fails to work on so many levels…



Finally,  I include below the gallery information notice Gerry has provided for the piece currently on show (until 10PM August 13th) in I AM NOT POET. As Gerry observes, it is part of the work. I include it here, without the work, as an encouragement to come along, but also to give it a life of its own (not in the correct font), evidence of the particular attentions and tones informing his practice:



A gallery information label is hung alongside Two Poems in Response to François Le Lionnais. This label is part of the work, and contains the following text:


Two Poems in Response to François Le Lionnais


François Le Lionnais was a Dadaist poet and founder member of OULIPO (abbr. Fr. The Workshop for Potential Literature). In his article “Exercices de littérature potentielle” (1961), he proposed the creation of a reductive poetry, where each poem would consist of a single letter (he admitted that such a poetry “may lie on the far side of the acceptable limit”). Le Lionnais created the first of these poems, T, and left it for the rest of his colleagues in the OULIPO to complete the set of 26 Roman letters.

The Yogh (З) is a Middle Scots / Middle English letter; it is the “forgotten” 27th letter of the Scots alphabet. The yogh resembles a tailed “z” or the Arabic numeral “3”, and it’s one of those letters that tends to have a weird effect on those around it (which is why “Menzies” is pronounced ming-is or ming-iz, depending on your accent). Its most illustrious time was really in the glory days of handwriting, and its use went into sharp decline with the onset of print (there were typesets available which included the yogh, but printers tended to substitute for it the Manx cat of the letter “z”). Whilst the use of it had seriously declined by the 17th century, its cause wasn’t really helped by the Scottish intelligentsia’s headlong rush to adopt what they saw as the more “cultured” form of the new Standard English. Economic factors had nothing to do with this whatsoever.

The Scharfes s ( ß ) is a ligature of the “long s” and “s” or “z”. In the German alphabet the “sharp s” became a letter in its own right. It is also known as the “Eszett”. The letter has no upper case and, as a result, has never got above its station – and all the better for it! In the last few decades, reforms of the German language have sought to restrict the use of the Scharfes s. Furthermore, there have recently been calls from bureaucrats within the E.U. for the letter to be abandoned, as this would make easier the standardisation of computer keyboards in governmental departments across Europe. Economic factors have nothing to do with this whatsoever.


The Perspex label holder is the sort used by the National Galleries of Scotland. Likewise, the font used for the text.




More about Gerry Smith’s work is here.


In Uncategorized on June 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

The above project is an extract from Gerry Smith’s The Universal History III. An installation shot of the complete work as part of this year’s Edinburgh College of Art MFA Degree show is below.  Gerry describes the whole project as follows: 

 The Universal History III is a “non-self portrait” made up of 396 postcards, each of which has a quotation from one of the non-fiction books in my library. The quotations were selected from pages which were chosen at random, and the intention was to discard the obviously quotable( no spectres haunting Europe here!) The relation between postcard and book is maintained via colour coding, and the work is arranged in alphabetical order by book title. The postcards are displayed on frames which are in effect collapsed bookshelves.

Gerry notes that before sending the email containing this text, the spell check picked up that he had written “bookselves” instead of “bookshelves” and that this same pun of shelf/ self appears in his Essential Reading project. 


VerySmallKitchen will hold a conversation with Gerry in Edinburgh at the Totakunst Gallery on June 25th at 3pm. More information about that event, and some notes by Gerry on his book works, can be found here.


In Uncategorized on June 17, 2010 at 9:43 am


Gerry Smith, I am a text-based artist: Selected Words (1998-2008), front cover.


On Friday 25th June 2010, 3pm at the TotalKunst Gallery in Edinburgh, VerySmallKitchen will hold a conversation with the Edinburgh based artist Gerry Smith. The conversation is part of The Shadow of a Train, a three day exhibition at the TK gallery (25-27th June) curated by Mirja Koponen from a script by David Berridge, part of the Betamaps festival.

Gerald Smith is a self-declared “text-based” artist. His own formulation of what this means can be seen in his 2010 statement “I am a text-based artist” (2010) which is re-printed below.

Gerry Smith, I am a text-based artist (2010)


As an example of the “Redcurrant themes” which characterise such a practice, I also cite the following reformulation by Smith of such a statement and practice as haiku as follows:

 I am therefore I

absences… you an artist

who uses text

For the conversation on the 25th, the starting point will be a series of books, pamphlets and cards that have been one location for Gerry’s recent work. These include Essential Reading, Away Wae Thi Burdies, Permanent Culture, I am A Text Based Artist/ Selected Words (1998-2008), Collected Fiction and Punctuation Poems.

This Line Is Six Feet Long and An Alexandrine from Storylines, WASPS Patriothall Gallery, Edinburgh, 2010

More information on Gerry’s book works can be found on his website here.  In the context of the Betamaps events and their concern “with various notions of maps, movements, charts, instructions and recordings”- I want to note a constellation of concerns, histories, practices, and techniques evidenced in these publications, collaged from notes on the books Gerry sent me in an email on 16 June 2010: 

A working with “the/my own personal library… to enable the audience to complete their own library in a similar fashion… The Apocryphal Library, concerned with non-existent books/ Meta Books… a collection of short-form pieces which depict “encounters” that I’ve had with birds. It also has my first attempt at a punctuation poem (the haiku section of Guillemots)…

… a literary mulch – the cuttings/ shreddings of past writing helping to “bring on” or nourish new writing. The base materials all have a “mulch” connection, i.e. grass (predominantly Gunter and Whitman varieties, but also some other notable quotations) and other cuttings (my library again, and “shredded” newspapers)….

…. The book employs various writing structures and the end result was a book which was about the beginning of the writing process. It also has an annotated index…. 

…a collage short story constructed under a very tight constraint. Each line and its position in the short story was determined by the alphabetical order of the “donor” books from which it was taken (There was a substitution rule whereby I could use the preceding or following line from the donor book – so there was in effect a choice from 3 for each line). Some minor edits and alterations, specified beforehand, were also allowed… 

… The punctuation poems were a development of forms suggested by Francois Le Lionnais (OULIPO).I also drew upon the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Yoko Ono…

The conversation on the 25th will also consider Gerry’s recently completed The Universal History III, which has been constructed from 396 postcards. An extract of this is forthcoming on this site as a VSK Project.

A CONVERSATION WITH GERRY SMITH is the second in an itinerant series of conversations around the themes of WRITING/ EXHIBITION/ PUBLICATION. The first, with the curator Sonia Dermience, took place at shorttermsolutions in London in May.