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About (Selected)
The Gravity of Language
Art Forum
Art + Text
Art In America
The Forest for the Trees
The Forest for the Trees
Sounding Out
Kay Says
Selected Reviews



Certain expletives—fuck, nigger, dyke, fag, kike—get used by people outside the group one way and by people inside the group another way. It's one hallmark of our time that some people are sensible to the subtleties of these usages, and some aren't, and some are sensitive to few of them and not others. Whole communities appear and vanish under these shifting arches.

Kay Rosen is a visual artist adept at moving the furniture around, looking at words in the deepest fashion—in that they are all expletives ultimately, corpses of a moment that's already passed. Brecht said it too: the word is at the end. It's the thing's dead body. It's not supposed to be more than that, though as the animals who invented language, we mean it to be more.

I've written about Kay's work a couple of times and I used some big language, as in she's the most interesting or the best artist working in language. I mean she's my favorite. That's really all I know. It's hard to write about an artist without waving a banner. And immediately I think you cover the artist. 'Cause what about Lawrence Weiner, Ed Ruscha. What about Barbara Kruger. And there I went, arching away.

But to use my favorite expletive: I think she's the poet of the art world in more than one way. I think there's a zipper through all our experiences holding everything together through a number of quick impressions—some are visible and some are not and when an artist in any genre narrates this zipper people say he's the poet of the west, cinema's only living poet, she's the poet of an empty frozen land. I've got to tell you the poets all go grrr as everyone marches under that arch. It's our expletive. And it isn't. There's a place of many operations occurring in language, sometimes it's about stepping out of the machine, flying overhead. Sometimes it's about lying down and playing possum. There's no single way to catch the existence of words. Except that language is some kind of living myth we made up and somebody one at a time has to show us that.

One of the things that I thought about seeing Kay's work at MOCA and Otis a couple of years ago was that our institutions are inadequate to what she's up to. In that she's investigating I think the materiality of language and so each venture of hers should come over you as if you were driving down the road. The world her work exists in is very open, even homeless in a way. She's tearfully great and so is our time so what better way to spend this New York night than listening to her.