Headlands Center for the Arts

Jocelyn Saidenberg

california | writing
Artist in Residence Program 2020

Artist Statement

Because I believe poetry has the capacity to open up imaginative, psychic, and structural enclosures, in my work I engage with communal and ethical questions by contesting individualist discourses through experimental enactments in language of diverse subjectivities, places, and temporalities. 

For instance, in Dead Letter, a writing-through of Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, I attempt to inhabit Bartleby’s position—to dwell within a subjectivity characterized by a persistent resistance to recognition and a refusal of any form of recuperation. My version refigures Melville’s narrative by staging its own failures and ecstasies, while acting as witness to another’s immobility, negation of desire, and transformation.

While at Headlands

Shadow Index: Working in a hybrid of poetry, theoretical propositions, and graphic elements, I follow my interest in the materiality of language and forms of unarticulated knowledge by writing alongside, within, and through works that foreground the illegible. My approach situates composition on the threshold of thought and the material where traces function as shadow indexes of what eludes established orders of discourse. My hypothesis is that, like metaphors, un-semantic writing is a creative process that inhabits this threshold and that works by outlining correspondences in diminishing echoes and spectral reflections. For this immersive project I apprentice myself to texts that work with alternative alphabets and illegible writing in order to create poetic compositions, at times by borrowing resources from visual forms. While navigating the horizon of the legible, I investigate a set of questions. What historical and aesthetic conditions create the compulsion to ruin, remake, and subvert alphabets? What correspondences might depict experiences and knowledge that lie outside existing nomenclature, beyond the figure-able and shared languages?

Selected Works

Stay Close to the Owl, 2019; © Jocelyn Saidenberg
Kith & Kin, 2018; Published by The Elephants Ltd.; © Jocelyn Saidenberg
Dead Letter, 2014; Published by Roof Books; © Jocelyn Saidenberg
Notebooks on Notebooks, 2016; published by Open Space; © Jocelyn Saidenberg

Banner image: Mirtha Dermisache, Sin títilo (texto); 1970, ink on paper.