From performative lectures that roam across fact and fabrication to genre-defying plays with storytelling, Dirty Literature brings together artists and writers exploring the boundaries of narrative. Here the characters in the National Portrait Gallery collection form a rich cast, portrayed yet again with the use of the spoken word. In the evocation of a person, a presence, the participating artists turn to an array of references and materials - a form of contaminated literature, unfolding at the edges of coherence. Ephemeral like a rumour, mobile like gossip this is a form of biography that escapes the weight and permanence of the published word and the painted figure alike, a real time portrait.
The series will be accompanied by a publication which brings together new contributions by the participating artists, an essay by curator Fatima Hellberg reflecting on language and latency, alongside work from the Tactile Poetry series by pioneering Austrian artist Josef Bauer.
Tim Etchells and Tony White Thursday 17th March, 7:30PM In a new text-performance for the National Portrait Gallery Tim Etchells builds and dissolves stories, worlds and pictures in language, working with rules, games and strategies unfolding at the edge of narrative coherence. Etchells draws on text material from catalogue essays and critical responses to works in the collection whilst also invoking the more familiar landscapes from his work through dystopian urban adventures, science fiction and distorted fairytales. The performance will be followed by a contribution by Tony White, the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), described by writer Toby Litt as, 'one of the best London novels you'll ever get to read.' For Dirty Literature, White will read from works of fiction that respond to the National Portrait Gallery's location, as well as his satirical 1999 novel about an alienated police force who seem locked in to a cycle of violence and prurient self-justification: Charlieunclenorfolktango.
Samuel Dowd and Sue Tompkins Thursday 14th April, 7PM Sue Tompkins' performances unfold as a stream of consciousness, moving from personal reflections to quotations from multiple, and at times conflicting areas of life. Tompkins' new performance Hallo Welcome To Keith Street will be followed by Samuel Dowd's ambitious collaborative piece, Aphrodite's Left Turn. Realised together with four other writers, this performed screenplay evokes a forgotten moment in the life of architect and artist Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965).
Writers and readers: Rebecca Bligh: The Young Man (Edwin Denby) Ben Cain: Aphrodite (Elisa Landi) NaoKo TakaHashi: The Cat ('sing-sing' the cat) Isabel Waidner: The Choir Boy (John Latouche)
Karl Holmqvist and Will Holder Thursday 12th May, 7PM If one takes the act of portraiture as heresy, then surely any visit to The National Portrait Gallery must be thought to bring one to the heart of the scene of the crime. Swedish artist Karl Holmqvist's work deals with the relation between language and image, figuration and abstraction - relationships he has explored over the last twenty years. For the specifically commissioned artist's talk, 'Change Your Face' he will elaborate on his mostly language-based visual arts practice, and how elements such as repetition and rhythm in language may bring us closer to concerns more often thought of in relation to images. The event will be followed by a new work by Will Holder. Will Holder makes publications, using conversation as a model for production and documentation. He approaches language as a ready-made, reproducing existing texts to emphasise the construction and negotiation of meaning. On May 12th, in the Ondaatje Wing Theatre, Holder continues a series of publications dedicated to single mothers. Previous readings have complicated Adam Pendleton's "Black Dada" and Alice Notley's "Dr. Williams' Heiresses", in favour of an intensified reception of the gendered subject positioned in them.
Francesco Pedraglio and Tom McCarthy Thursday June 16th, 7PM Francesco Pedraglio writes short stories that look at words as physical bodies inhabiting spaces that extend beyond the parameters of the page. Writing directly in a foreign language (English), he focuses his texts on straight narratives, facing frontally the basic problematics of delivering a story to an audience. On this line he will present a short story based on the idea of abstract objects and fictional characters. 'Few small stories in the shape of abstract objects' will be followed by a reading by Tom McCarthy, writer, co-founder of the semi-fictitious organisation International Necronautical Society and recently shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for his novel C. The readings of selected passages of Cwill reflect on the breakdown of narrative and coherence within modernity and the possibilities that might emerge, phoenix-like from such a collapse.