The project invited a selection of interested and interesting speakers to support the Journeys with “The Waste Land” exhibition and project. Adrian Barlow spoke about the poem “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot in a talk entitled “Mapping the Waste Land”, which proved to be a great starting point as an introduction to the poem and the man. Assuming no prior knowledge of either, Adrian provided the perfect outline of the work, signposted things to look out for, and showed an insight in to T.S. Eliot himself. Speaking about Eliot’s first wife, and his friend Ezra Pound who both contributed in editing the original script.
Martin Rowson enlightened our understanding of the poem through his satirical graphic novel “The Wasteland”, a spoof on film noir and Chandleresque detective novels. Taking us through and pointing out the references and the sometimes tenuous, but painstaking observations from the poem and his own inimitable interpretation. Rowson’s intimate knowledge of the poem, and of the many references Eliot makes to myth, legend, literary and religious picked up on by Rowson, made this talk great fun as we engaged in detective work of our own. Exclamations of “Oh how did I miss that?!”, “Well who’d have thought that?!”, “How witty and clever” were many and frequent. We will never look at Martin Rowson’s treatment, or the original poem by T.S. Eliot quite the same again!
Susannah Heffernan took “The Waste Land” as inspiration for her new novel in progress and we were proud to be included in the Warwick Words History Festival 2018 with Susannah reading extracts from her book. Mike Tooby facilitated a question and answer session afterwards drawing on her characterisation inspired by individuals in Eliot’s poem. Susannah weaves history, imagination, myth and legend, thus breathing life into characters suggested by Eliot to create her story. We await a final publishing date on completion of her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick.
There were many speakers at the Visuality of Text workshop drawing on a diverse range displaying text. Keynote speaker was the artist John Newling, with his work Eliot’s Soil as part of the Journeys with “The Waste Land” exhibition. Newling composted printed copies of the T.S. Eliot poem and then encouraged growing new life from “The Waste Land”
Visuality of Text: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Display of the Word
Nick Brown (Warwick University) ‘A Body of Writing: inscriptions on Archaic Greek sculpture’
Harry Prance (Courtauld Institute of Art) ‘Motion Sickness: reading, viewing, and Byzantine inscriptions that just won’t sit still’
Katherine Cross (University of York) ‘Magic letters and powerful words: text as image in early medieval religion’
Alison Cooley (Warwick University) ‘Displaying ‘difficult texts’ in museums: reflections from the Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project’
Giles Macdonald (Letter Carver) ‘Carving inscriptions today: lettering in stone’
Emily Jones (Freelance Graphic Designer) ‘Manipulating text to persuade, educate or mislead: typography in advertising and digital design’
Stephen Raw (Textual Artist and Designer) ‘‘Where typography stops, I start’’: observations in the effort of making language visible.’
John Newling (Visual Artist) ‘Text, place and language: John Newling’
Professor Mike Tooby, the lead on the community curating project which started in Margate, with Journeys with “The Waste Land” at Turner Contemporary, moving up to Coventry later in the year, spoke on the whole experience of opening out the curation from one or two art specialists, to the expertise of the community at large. What they find interesting, their community will too. Margate’s themes of mental health and the sea, amongst others, were relevant to Eliot and the poem for both venues. Eliot was recovering his mental health when writing “The Waste Land” in the shelter in Margate looking out to sea, so Margate’s ideas of exploring mental health was pertinent, however, Coventry is as far from the sea as is possible to get in the UK. Coventry wanted to inform the exhibition with the city’s themes of Reconciliation and Peace in this anniversary year of 100 years since WWI and chose themes of Fragmentation and Journeys. Mike considered the planning and diverse approaches from both groups of volunteers, and concluded that the process had been fulfilling and enlightening.