Ekphrasis as ‘Event’: Poets Paint Words and the ‘Performance’ of Ekphrasis in Australia

1 March 2017

The difficult balance of maintaining discernible links to the painter’s artefact against the drive toward originality in her own is one of the ‘parallels that don’t hold forever’. Origins and conception are frequently alluded to through Jones’ lexicon, including ‘sperm’, ‘womb’, ‘blue birth passage’, and ‘DNA’; the effect of this suggests a tension against the desire to create originally. Comparing Bolt’s definition of ‘trekking paths others had trekked before’, with Jones’ line ‘Trails mix trails evolving a dark script’ allows us to arrive at the apotheosis of the performance of ekphrasis in Australia: a Methetik trace, a walking-along-with the painting.

This is possible by conceiving of the ekphrastic poem as an (arte)fact; as the lived experience of the artwork, relayed through the process of the poet in what I term the private event. Considering Jones’s poem as part of Poets Paint Words, it is indebted to the public event curated by Slade and Minter, in that it provided a platform for her work to perform due to the spatiotemporal conditions afforded by the exhibition’s ideal mode of dissemination. This allows us to glimpse the performance of an ekphrasis beyond description and by using the site-specific nature of the exhibition as a test case, project what is possible for ekphrasis in Australia when conceptualised in this way.

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