Broadsides were used in England and the early United States to announce an event, proclamation, news, or other public matter. Later, broadsides became a prime means of communication and featured cartoons, poems, and song lyrics. During the twentieth-century Harlem Renaissance, Concrete and Beat writers claimed the broadside as a subversive means to get their poems and prose to the public. As printed matter became less necessary, turning over the dissemination of information to its digital counterparts, the broadside became a nostalgic medium like the letterpress, and piqued artists’ interest in exploring its aesthetic qualities.
Intersection for the Arts’ “Broadside Attractions: Vanquished Terrains” curators Maw Shein Win and Megan Wilson with Intersection’s Program Director Kevin Chen invited twelve visual artists and twelve poets/writers to work together in pairs to create new visual and literary works using the theme “Vanquished Terrains” as a point of departure. In a two-year process, visual artists provided their writer partner with a movie, a song, and a location (real or imagined). From these fonts of inspiration, the artist created an image to be placed on the top of the broadside and the writer created a short, 1,000 word prose for the broadside below. Later, a completely separate artwork was created, derived from the visual piece and prose on the broadside.
The resulting artworks, created in a far more convoluted process than similar visual and prose exhibitions usually produce, create a strong, intriguing relationship with the two. Liz Worthy and Jenny Bitner see the broadside as a means for dialogue. Their installation and performance of a tea service every Wednesday and Saturday were inspired by the intimacy and yet public interaction created by the broadside. Patricia Kelly and Vince Monatgue’s works, however, explore the broadside medium and its place in social history: “A broadside is a protean form… The vessel changes but the messages are timeless: the making of images with the human hand, the sorrow of the human heart, and the ephemeral mystery of the beautiful.” Within the individual 12 projects, the works may all directly refer to each other, while some have taken the opportunity for each creation of work to complement the others. Dwayne Marsh and Nan Twumasi’s broadside and layered photograph retain the clasped hands image, and how words work aesthetically with it. In a different approach, Karrie Hovey & Elise Ficarra with Evelyn Ficarra’s impressive art around and above the gallery staircase that uses sound, felt, and figurative elements only abstractly refers to the broadside’s image and poetry. It is this enhanced entanglement of the visual and written that makes the artworks in this exhibition so strong in both meaning and significance to the genre.
Broadside Attractions: Vanquished Terrains will be at Intersection for the Arts until May 26.