A couple of weeks ago, I read Caroline Bergvall’s Drift, and had one of the most jaw-dropping reading experiences I’ve had in the last few months. If Bergvall’s book were a collection of prose poems, or a meditation on language and its limits, or a nonfiction work documenting national tragedies on the water, it would be hugely effective; instead, it’s all three, a poetic and freeform work that’s both associative and documentarian.
Bergvall has a show up at Callicoon Fine Arts right now, and I checked it out over the weekend. The show runs throughout the gallery; as I walked in, I saw two sets of headphones hanging from the ceiling. Listening to one, I heard some of the more documentary-focused sections of the book read; on the other, I heard Drift‘s text at its most experimental. Along another wall hand drawings featuring letters and lines, which feature prominently in the book. And at the heart of the show are larger texts, blown up and printed with low-contrast backgrounds, such that staring to read them is required. All of which seemed to match up nicely with Drift (the book)’s tendency to reckon with the evolution and breakdown of language. Much like the book, it got under my skin and inside my head; unlike the book, it forced me to read in a different way.