This show brings together Emily Dickinson’s original poem manuscripts and Robert Walser’s microscripts for the first time in an art museum setting. Although Walser, who was born shortly before Dickinson died, was most likely unaware of her work, both writers were obsessively private as well as peculiarly attentive to the visuality of their texts. Walser wrote in tiny, inscrutable script on narrow strips of paper using an antiquated German alphabet that was long considered indecipherable. Only recently have these scripts been shown to consist of early drafts of the author’s published texts. Similarly, Dickinson fitted her multifarious poetic fragments to carefully torn pieces of envelope or stationery, which were discovered among her posthumous papers. (W. B. Sebald once referred to Walser as a “clairvoyant of the small,” and this description might apply to Dickinson as well.) In both cases, the form of these texts affects the language itself as both writers crafted their words in response to the form at hand. Rarely in literature has the manner in which words are made been so integral to the way in which they might be read. The Dickinson/ Walser exhibition, which proposes the notion that art may be used to make language, is a fitting corollary to Drawing Time, Reading Time, which appears concurrently in the Main Gallery.
Curated by Claire Gilman.
The New York Times review
"Together, the two exhibitions prompt mind-stretching reflection on the complicated relations between writing, communication and reality." - The New York Times
Dickinson/Walser: Pencil Sketches is made possible by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Consulate General of Switzerland in New York, and New York Coucil for the Humanities.
Read Drawing Papers 109: Dickinson/Walser: Pencil Sketches.
Buy the catalogue.
Image: Emily Dickinson, We Talked With Each Other About Each Other, c. 1879, Amherst Manuscript #514. Pencil on Envelope, 1 sheet, 5 1/10 x 7 9/10 inches (13 x 20 cm). Courtesy The Emily Dickinson Collection, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.