Medium is the Message – Power of Public Poetry
He has been called a vandal, a street artist, a post-Situationist, a punk artist and the text-art Banksy. Scottish poet Robert Montgomery has consciously made an “awkward space” for himself in between artistic categories – and he thoroughly enjoys it. His work puts poetry in front of people in eye-catching visual formats: from advertising billboards he has covered with poems, to words he has set on fire or lit with recycled sunlight in public spaces – including the Sussex seafront and a Berlin airport. Recently, he has been working on today’s World Poetry Day “Pay with a poem” campaign, through which customers can get coffee in exchange for poetry in cafes across the globe. Montgomery will then collect the public’s poems to create an installation in a secret location.
+Commentary: I’ll keep this brief, but I’m not sure the millennial [Marta Bausells] who wrote the article (which you should read at the link above) in their brevity can appreciate how they failed to put this work in the true context of the art world, but simply references “Bansky” ?!?!? Like Barbara Kruger & Jenny Holzer, the latter of which has a ton of tattoos of her text art, and who has done far more than Robert Montgomery can ever imagine for both poetry, feminism, art, and public or text art at that.
That is a shame to have so few words, that say basically nothing, and not recognize the global following of such trailblazers. If it weren’t for Barbara Kruger’s style we’d not have the photo memes we do today. Have said this since as long as social media has been around, but again, everyone wants to act brand new, and be ahistorically inaccurate is a curse we have to live in today, and is not the sort of low-information value that I’d expect from the Guardian. Oh who are we kidding, of course that is exactly the sort of thing one expects from them, with a tiny veneer of respectability.
Now I love this artist’s work, but primarily because he is embracing social media (‘Instagram Poets’) and capitulating upon the work of previous, but to erase that history from the context makes it seem like he has again thought of this brand new form, which is at least as old as the parents of this writer & the artist himself does a great disservice. It is to Post-Situationist this into a fad, not a continuum. Holzer’s work especially, but even in Kruger’s, they foresaw this, the elevation of and overwhelming by advertising language, and they posed zen like maxims to have us question the very thing. To cause us to stop & ponder what we just read. So this erasure of the feminist icons who created the modern form of this art, and to center it around a young male is dangerous to the highest degree.
What fascinates me is even, and I’d collected but not posted, the permutations that Holzer’s work has taken across social media, again something not referenced in this article, with mashups & fan art based on it. Which is far & above a more lasting contribution to the genre than tattoos & IG poets. So you’ll forgive me for not giving out a gold star for competency, or a ribbon that says: Thanks for trying. We need to do better, be better, nowhere moreso than the art world.
In fact this very reductive and slim ahistorical guide is exactly (and should be) in direct opposition to the forces it hopes to conquer. That by making it a new fad is to commodify it, the artwork, into something utterly consumable. Something a careful reading of Roland Barthes, Marshal McLuhan, Chomsky & Foucault would warn against or at least gird one to make more relevant readings.