Pictographs

Bill Keith

Pictographs mixes different types of picture-writing with fragments of prose-writings in a formal arrangement linked to West African visual traditions. Keith's constructions employ designs intended to be scanned metrically, a visual counterpart to the off-beat phrasing of melodic accents in African and Afro-American music. Keith's 'writing' seems to be suspended between two othernesses: painting and music. The staggered siting of glyphs and signs marks the subtle crossover from picture language to picture theory. Text runs in strips against a black background, not so much as arguments to follow as seams joining master and slave narratives. In Keith's discourse on his situation as a poet in a late capitalist society, a picture emerges of an artist who in mastering his art becomes a slave to it. His condition mirrors one analyzed by Sartre in Notebook for an Ethics: "Naturally, there most often follows some form of alienation, that is, that the goal, as soon as it is collective, becomes what is essential and the person becomes what is inessential. Their true relationship is not disentangled until one has put an end to the spirit of seriousness and seen that the person is his goal in the form of an ec-stasis and a gift."

 

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