It is more or less impossible to do justice to such a wide-ranging show through a written summary. So in lieu of such futile foppery, office figured we’d send three plucky poets to the Biennial to craft some ekphrastic responses to a few of the works on view there.
Above: Film still from 'The Maid' by Carissa Rodriguez.
after Carissa Rodriguez’s The Maid
The architectures hang faces off dangerous rock
I’ve heard they live in no countries at all
Where occasion is this moment
But I am permitted
An obsessed ballerina
I am. Maddened by the shape of egg
I put in the mouth
Pliant ! The egg is machine which has invaded mouth
Asset via gloved twirl
Fabulous without hollow
I am. Timeless egg woman glass
Gleaming my surfaces mouth I am. Needled
Above: Eric N. Macks' '(Easter) The Spring / The Holy Ground' .
On hot and dry slants
after Eric N. Mack’s '(Easter) The Spring / The Holy Ground'
Do I love the discussion of ethics and tariffs
inside the museum where people say big
A mark / object / or other indication
of the existence or passing of something
The more I like it
the more the thing I like changes
Appears unghostly in my eye Turns
like nesting doves a way of thinking
June needs touching not utopia
materials keep me from seeming definitive
It must be endless
the way I am reminded of something else
Trace of joy / slant of trace / Alvin Baltrop
nested in a makeshift harness
When I look at this picture I recall
how beautiful you seemed when taking it
Achingly / to witness the yielding of soft
bodies like downy birds Measured
The relationship of one to its dwelling
in years or miles
They peck and summon all which is not real
the doves who mangle this Cinnabon
Above: Janiva Ellis's 'Uh Oh, Look Who Got Wet'.
Kyle Carrero Lopez
Uh Oh, Look Who Got Wet
after Janiva Ellis
You wade through winding water,
napalm human stained
by journey burns, exhausted
yet industrious, un(glottal)stopping,
ever-ready to raze or extract,
fleeing from Earth,
which needs not run
to catch you.
In one arm you swaddle
ducklings, puppy dogs,
babies, especially white ones.
It’s easy to love what you can cuddle,
what you’ve seen coddled.
Your other arm balances you,
and another arm pulls your face back
when it droops,
and another points at unhelds
those extra limbs
extensions of the diminutives’
influence on you.
Who and what aren’t you
willing to save?
Water isn’t wet.
Wetness as you know it
is different for sea-dwellers.
Seems a nearby mermaid—
naturally green as fescue
she lies on, dying, green
as spruces and firs to the west,
southern palm and baobab,
and greenhouse basil
now beached, front and center,
aquatic agony fin-bleached
by reds and blues down
her scales like 3D glasses,
acid trip tones to match
swollen skies that acid rained
on her home,
wasn’t quite cuddly enough.
Thanks to you
and your puppy ducklings,
your baby white sweets,
she got wet.
Above: Agustina Woodgate's 'National Times'.
after Agustina Woodgate
Tardiness haunts its vassals,
into dates and meetings
and austere offices.
Either time disagrees with me,
or something within me
Punctuality is a minor virtue,
to paraphrase Woolf.
One should hold the virtue part
higher than the minor
to keep from draining
another’s precious irreplaceable.
Some say black Americans run
late because our stolen ancestors
moved in different time
than the U.S.
This informs the idea of C.P. time.
People rightfully call it racist
for Clinton & de Blasio to joke about it.
But what if:
their ghosts really surround me.
What if my ghosts could sandpaper
every number on every slave
clock and cuckoo, hack all digitals,
master clock to subway screen
to cell phone, to permanently say 11:11,
an end of time.
Something new would rule us.
First we make it, then we submit.
Above: film stills from Tiona Nekkia McClodden's 'I prayed to the wrong god for you'.
after Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s 'I prayed to the wrong god for you'
i’m on dead-on quest to reach that un-
reachable star of my past imagined im-
possible dream· seeing six degrees of un-
bearable separation· i’m drawn down to
unbeatable foundation· to see its new im-
permanent art· fire emits smoke from im-
mortal television· my false god· screens
above· space · queer Native American
material hangs defending Dike’s violent
national anthem· archangel lingering be-
hind lowercase d-deafening rage angles
against social stratifications measured in
order to channel Mnt Olympus· my body
reads The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her
Search for God· the spine· in shot of line-
age of stacked books· black girl in visitors’
space takes shot of what i’m trying to under-
stand· then she’s gone in no time· seconds—
but i won’t leave this museum until i have
sense· i don’t wear a helmet when i bike
over NYC burrows anymore· i’m testing
god· tasting art· my brain static travels a-
round the grid in circles· 33 ½· objectified
object permanent tools· colors· blood dew
dropping down· what happened to Camilla?
i ask· i hear Tiona laugh· she appears here
w/ me· dedication manifests magic· horse
is brown w/ good reason· i see infinity +
one· Shango· but i must bolt to training·
watch is exactly two days late· forever—
leaving before following or discovering
more idols’ visions of truth in gods’ art
institution· six knows· i’m clever as clev-
er not fully accepting· difficult to move a-
way from power· journaling journeys un-
heard· bound by axe handle· jury eats past
saw dust severed· Lady of the Lake of fire:
take down that man—boy that thinks he’s
god· MADE IN THE USA (site never cited
in The Holy Bible’s poems) found any way
The Whitney Biennial is on view through September 22nd, 2019.