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The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds is closed for refurbishment until Summer 2024.

Discover & Research

Sculpture & Poetry

Winter 2021

Celebrating practitioners and scholars who have developed imaginative ways of turning our attention to the connections between poetry and sculpture.

This six-month research season brought together two academic conferences and four public discussions between renowned artists and poets.

About this season

Sculpture and poetry are two of the oldest known art forms. The connections between them are many and layered yet often seem to hide in plain sight, buried by histories and theories of division and specialism. Distinctions between the plastic and linguistic arts, and the intellectual conventions built upon those distinctions, encourage siloed traditions that tend to ignore or fetishise the qualities of the other.

This six-month research season celebrates practitioners and scholars who explore these connections and have developed critical or imaginative ways of turning our attention to them. Bringing together two academic conferences and four public events, each of which invites a renowned artist and renowned poet to discuss the personal and creative overlaps between their fields, their concerns and their work, we will start to map some of these connections along with the latest ideas that are refreshing them.

This research season was delivered in partnership with the University of Leeds and Corridor8.

Artistic Blind Dates

In a series of four events, we invited a renowned artist and renowned poet to discuss the personal and creative overlaps between their fields, their concerns and their work.


Bodily Poetries: Raymond Antrobus & Heather Phillipson

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Raymond Antrobus & Heather Phillipson

Discussions on ‘the body’ as a locus for speaking, writing, feeling, listening and making.

Raymond Antrobus is a poet and educator. His diverse work ranges from sign language to video. He explores hearing, heritage and a search for ‘missing sounds’ by drawing on vernacular speech, multi-cultural histories and the physiology of listening.

Heather Phillipson is an artist and poet. She works across sculpture, video, music, drawing and digital media. Her ‘quantum thought experiments’ explore our entanglement in ecosystems and the fragility of our ideas about them.

Performance Poetries: Vahni Capildeo & Simone Forti

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Vahni Capildeo & Simone Forti

Conversations on the cultural histories of collaboration, instruction, translation and recording the speakers adapt.

Vahni Capildeo is a writer and editor. Their work ranges from book-length poems to experiments with performance. Their work explores voices, landscapes and movement between languages, cultures and places.

Simone Forti is a dancer, artist and writer. Her work ranges from open choreographic systems to drawing. She uses improvisational techniques to explore everyday gestures, technologies and animality.

Material Poetries: Simone Fattal & Maggie O’Sullivan

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Simone Fattal & Maggie O’Sullivan

Musings on the stories and echoes we excavate when using materials or languages that have complex histories.

Simone Fattal is an artist and ceramicist. Her work explores symbols of home and displacement that span the personal and mythic via archaeology and figuration.

Maggie O’Sullivan is a poet and artist. Her work ranges from experimental verse to textile sculptures. Her work explores connections between the visual and aural qualities of languages as they animate complex issues of voice, voicelessness and presence.

Media Poetries: Luis Camnitzer & Tan Lin


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Luis Camnitzer & Tan Lin

Considering the binds between form, content and context that shape the impact of public language.

Luis Camnitzer is an artist and writer. His work ranges from gallery installations to cultural criticism. His work explores systems of power, ideologies of education, and the public value of art through an overtly political model of Conceptualism.

Tan Lin is a poet and artist. His work ranges from fiction writing to video. His work explores the hybridity of cultural experiences through personal, material and technical processes of recall.

Sculpture and Poetry Conference

This two-day online conference in February 2022 was organised by Nick Thurston (Associate Professor in Fine Art, University of Leeds) in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute.

It supported international speakers from a range of disciplines to think against epistemological borders between art history and theory and literary studies, comparative literature and linguistics.

The two keynote speeches are available to watch here.


Day 1 Keynote: Artist Talk – Olaf Nicolai


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Olaf Nicolai

Olaf Nicolai is a conceptual artist whose practice ranges from sculpture to music to publishing. By transferring ideas form the natural sciences and humanities into the realm of the aesthetic, his interdisciplinary projects reflect on the politics of form, labour, the circulation of culture, and urban history.

Here he presents a small series of projects (by him and artists he admires) that bring into question common understandings of ’the poetical’.


Day 2 Keynote: Lecture-Performance – Slavs and Tatars

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Slavs and Tatars

Slavs and Tatars is an internationally renowned art collective devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia.

The collective have consistently explored ways of materialising languages and the systems that produce them, including utterances, sounds, and even speech organs.

This lecture asks us to go behind the sounds and letters. Literally. To use the back door, in all its architectural and euphemistic guises – a space where the immigrant, coloured, and queer groups gather.

New Voices: Sculpture & Literature Conference

Sculpture and literature are often separated by a disciplinary divide but have also come together in works and ideas as wide ranging as monuments, poetry and performances.

This two day online conference in October 2021 built on a growing body of scholarship exploring what can be gained from working at the intersection of sculpture and literature.


Day 1 Keynote: ‘Mr Millar will draw it for you, exactly as it was’: Stone, Ink, and British Museum Artefacts in Print

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Eleanor Dobson

Literary historian Eleanor Dobson (University of Birmingham) discusses the British Museum and its collections from the ancient Middle East, where understandings of the sculptural and the literary were often intertwined.

She discusses several artefacts whose three-dimensionality asserts their status as inherently ‘sculpted’, and whose appearance in print texts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also confers on them two-dimensional afterlives.

Keynote Day 2: Writing and Making, Writing as Making

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Hannah Black

Hannah Black’s talk is a first-person account of the excitements and difficulties of developing and sustaining a practice that bridges art-making, art writing, and editorial work.

She discusses her experiences as an artist across a span of contexts, from commercial publishing to international biennials, and considers the inspirations, relationships, and politics that anchors her practice to them all.