Christian Bök is a Canadian experimental poet. He is the author of Eunoia (2001) and Crystallography (1994), and is known for his performances of sound poetry. His conceptual artworks have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York). He is currently undertaking The Xenotext Experiment that proposes to create an example of “living poetry” by composing a verse about language and genetics, translating this poem into a sequence of DNA for implantation into the genome of a bacterium. Bök teaches in the Department of English at the University of Calgary.
February 1–March 23, 2010
Engaging the language and descriptive purpose of Artspeak’s exterior hanging sign, poet Christian Bök has created an anagram for the sign. Artspeak’s original sign announced the organization’s exhibitions, publications, and talks. The new sign announces philistines, bailout, toxic banks. Ratspeak was developed out of Bök’s past work with anagrams, specifically his collaborative project with Micah Lexier entitled Two Equal Texts that was installed in the windows of Printed Matter (New York), MKG 127 (Toronto), and turned into an edition with Fillip. Bök has written, “For me, every anagram underlines the degree to which language, in advance, has already anticipated, if not inventoried, the alphabetical permutations of our own thoughts–and even this sublime concept already exists somewhere else, written on another page and spoken by another voice. As Borges writes: “to speak is to fall into tautologies”and “the certainty that everything has been already written nullifies or makes phantoms of us all…”” Despite the numerous permutations possible for Artspeak’s sign, the specific political inflection of Bök’s work is timely given the provincial arts cuts in BC, the 2010 Olympics, the federal and global economic situation, and the recent changes in Artspeak’s immediate neighbourhood. If “artspeak” is a specialized language, “ratspeak” is also specialized, a calculated double speak of veiled meaning.