The Serpentine Gallery Poetry Marathon was an ambitious two-day poetry event, taking place in London during Frieze Art Fair week and featuring unique performances from leading poets, writers, artists, philosophers, scholars and musicians.
An international group of major figures were brought together to perform in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009, designed by architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the acclaimed Japanese practice SANAA. The Poetry Marathon included performances of new work, collaborations, discussions and experiments.
There is a long and vivid history of exchange between artists and poets. Guillaume Apollinaire made a literary connection to Cubism with his great work of ‘visual poetry’, Calligrammes: Poems of War and Peace 1913-1916. In the same period, Hugo Ball wrote the Dada Manifesto (1916), a movement in which the poet, essayist and performance artist Tristan Tzara was also closely involved. A decade later, in 1924, André Breton, the proponent of ‘automatic writing’, published La Révolution surréaliste (The Surrealist Revolution).
In the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism was an art movement with strong creative connections with writing and poetry of the time, from the work of poets Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, to artist Robert Motherwell’s influential essays on the New York School. Later, in the 1960s, the international artistic network Fluxus formed innumerable close links between visual art and the written word.
The Poetry Marathon included contributions from: Vito Acconci, Mathias Augustyniak, Caroline Bergvall, Kenneth G. Bostock, Enrique Juncosa, Stuart Brisley, Eleanor Bron, Nathan Cash Davidson, Keren Cytter, Charlie Dark, Tacita Dean, Jimmie Durham, Dominic Eichler, Tracey Emin, Brian Eno with Karl Hyde, Mark van Eyck, James Fenton, Olivier Garbay, Gilbert & George, John Giorno, Édouard Glissant, Kenneth Goldsmith, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Alasdair Gray, Tim Griffin, Richard Hell, Geoffrey Hill, Sue Hubbard (presented by Susan Hiller), Karl Holmqvist, Michael Horovitz, Joan Jonas, August Kleinzahler, Nick Laird, Sean Landers, Monika Lichtenfeld, Liliane Lijn, Tom McCarthy with Henry Blofeld, Jonas Mekas with Edward Eke, Maria Mirabal, Eileen Myles, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Philippe Parreno, Don Paterson, Holly Pester, Olivia Plender with Craig Burnett, Jeremy Reed with Itchy Ear, David Robilliard read by the Robilliards (Leo D. Burley and Rose Turner), Jacques Roubaud, Gerhard Rühm, Barry Schwabsky, Nancy Spero, Mladen Stilinović, Michael Glover, Agnès Varda, Saul Williams.
The Serpentine Gallery Poetry Marathon was curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects. It was held in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009, designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA. The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Commission was conceived by Julia Peyton-Jones, Serpentine Gallery Director and Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes in 2000.