Dec 15, 2017, 7PM

Black Marks That Make up Letters: Speech/Acts Reading at Triple Canopy (NYC)


Join ICA at Triple Canopy (264 Canal Street, 3W, New York, NY) Friday, December 15 for Black Marks That Make up Letters, featuring readings from the forthcoming Speech/Acts exhibition catalogue and a discussion by Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Morgan Parker, Simone White, and Speech/Acts curator Meg Onli.

Language is typically thought to enable the speaker to be understood by others, and not just on the level of a phrase, a question, or an argument, but as a person. Of course, we are disabused of this notion by our daily interactions as well as by critics, philosophers, and poets, and yet we make use of the tools that we hold in common. The artists and writers who are participating in Black Marks That Make up Letters are interested in the inadequacies of language as well as the possibility of communicating—and representing oneself—differently through abstraction, through what the poet Dawn Lundy calls “unrecognizable speech” in “A Bleeding, an Autobiographical Tale” (2007). This brand of speech counters “the tyranny of the prosaic, the beautiful, the poetic utopia,” and characterizes the work of black experimental poets from Amiri Baraka to Claudia Rankine. “Where does language go limp,” Lundy asks, and where is it encountered merely as “black marks that make up letters?”

The limits and repercussions of conventional expression, especially for black people in the United States, are of particular concern in Speech/Acts, on view at ICA until December 23. “Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker,” writes James Baldwin in “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” (1979). “Language, also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other—and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize him.” The exhibition asks how to refuse such a language, how to alter the reality that is constituted through language, how else to communicate (or refuse to disclose) the experience of blackness, and what kinds of responses might follow. This question will be addressed through brief readings and a discussion by Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Morgan Parker, Simone White, and Meg Onli.

Black Marks That Make up Letters is organized in collaboration with ICA and Futurepoem, which are copublishing the forthcoming Speech/Acts catalogue. The event is part of Triple Canopy’s Corrected Slogans series, which asks how conceptual strategies have transformed (and might still transform) conventional notions of expression and of reading—both as an exchange between an individual and text and as a public activation of the written word.