Universal Incoherence

Universal Incoherence

“On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.”

In 1921, influential poet T.S Eliot (b. 1888) spent time in the British seaside town. The writer – suffering both physically and mentally after WWI – penned a seminal text whilst sitting in the sands’ Nayland Rock Shelter. The Waste Land, one of the most important literary works of the 20th century, is central to the development of modernism, dealing with notions of contemporary existence through a complex amalgamation of historical allusions and vignettes.

An interdisciplinary exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate, draws connections between the 1922 poem and visual arts. Journeys with “The Waste Land” combines pieces by vital figures – including Edward Hopper, Barbara Kruger, Henry Moore and Tacita Dean – with contemporary installations and new commissions. The breadth of the show, which comprises work by more than 60 practitioners, highlights Eliot’s enduring, universal impact, inviting viewers to consider the link between a fragmented methodology and the 21st century digital landscape. As Judy Dermott, researcher, notes: “The splintering of language of sound and vision, initially so bizarre, has become so mainstream; we no longer perceive it as being anything but normal.”

For example, Carey Young’s (b. 1970) film Lines Made by Walking (2003), shown in the image above, depicts the artist walking backwards and forwards amongst a crowd of commuters. The piece explores the idea of everyday institutionalisation, as Young endlessly repeats the employees’ monotonous daily journey, blending in seamlessly with their appearance and quotidian routine. In a similar way, John Newling’s (b. 1952) Eliot’s Notebooks (2007) references the cyclical nature of human experience through an investigation into physical matter. The project – spanning nine months –  transforms copies of the book into soil, and then back into paper. Other featured contributions include Vibeke Tandberg’s (b. 1967) installation, The Waste Land (2007), which plays with language and form by breaking down and re-ordering the poem’s integral parts into a new narrative.

From 3 February. Find out more: www.turnercontemporary.org.

1. Lines Made by Walking, Carey Young, 2003 – Image © Carey Young.