Word Order: Concrete Poetry and its Influence (3 stars)

The Changing Room, Stirling, until Sat 21 Oct


Although the main space is minimal, the Scottish poet Alec Finlay’s playful wall works adds gusto to Stirling’s Changing Room. Welcoming us to the exhibition is ‘Loop’ (2006), cut out letters spelling the title four times in a repetitious circle, childishly reading ‘ploop’. Another similar wall piece by Finlay is ‘Lollipop’ (2006), the circular shape resembling a lollipop, the repetition of the word also possibly referencing the classic Chordettes song.

Artist David Bellingham plays with more pessimistic themes. In the paper diptych ‘Face/Skull’, white on black letters draw face shapes: in one F and E are eyes, C is the nose and a row of Es form the mouth, in the other S and K are eyes etc. Word and meaning unite, but they lack Finlay’s playful punch. Julie Johnstone has created a number of bland, minimal screenprints, both entitled ‘In a different light’ (2006), pale letters just visible on a white background, though her series’ of poetry-filled, handmade magazines are more thoughtful, exploring landscape and the four seasons.

More exhilarating by far are the eight audio works in the back room. In Brion Gysin’s ‘Junk Is No Good Baby’ (1962), a drawling American accent twists the title words into ridiculous arrangements like, ‘Nooo good baby junk’. Ernst Jandl’s ‘Vom vom zum zum, what you can do without vowels’ (1988) explores abstract vocal sounds to drumbeats, creating a compelling soundtrack and, like Gysin, accords the show surreal drama and depth which is disappointingly lacking elsewhere.

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