JL Williams and Catherine Street | In Conservation

about, artists, JL Williams

For our final week of In Detail, we have been talking to JL Williams and Catherine Street, discussing their inspirations, creative process and the different ways in which their projects  take place.


A lot of your work is performative. When did you first start to become interested in Spoken Word? Are there any Spoken Word artists who you particularly admire?

JL Williams: I once saw the poet Michael Longley read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and he was asked at the end of the event whether he thought poetry belonged on the page or on the tongue. He answered that he thought poetry was (pointing to his mouth) first oral, then (pointing to his ear) aural, and then for the page. This rang true to me.

In my experience, poetry comes as emotion, sound, observation, reflection, story, image. I hear the words and write the words that form in my head so I can remember them and share them with people who aren’t in the room with me. If people are in the room, then I am eager to share the work by reading out these written down words, or sometimes even singing them. I don’t separate the two (written/spoken) in the act of creation. I don’t think of some of my work as specifically for the page and some as specifically for performance, and I would not call myself a Performance Poet or a Spoken Word Artist. Performance Poetry and Spoken Word are diverse categories, and there are artists I admire and cultures associated with these forms that I enjoy very much. I respect these categories but in my own performance and curatorial work I strive to break down divisions between the written and spoken poetic word. I find it more rewarding and creative to think of how we share poetic work in a fluid and responsive way… what does the poem desire? What does the moment desire?

Opening Bracket / Closing Bracket

JL Williams

In February 2016, Dundee’s Cooper Gallery hosted an evening of dance and poetry in response to the exhibition ‘ALL SYSTEMS…go’, which explored the body in relation to modern mobile systems. At this event, J. L. Williams performed “Opening Bracket /  Closing Bracket: An Object Lesson in Levitation”, a piece written as a reaction to the choreography found in the gallery.

For more info: https://groupcriticalwriting.dundee.ac.uk/jl-williams-opening-bracket-closing-bracket-an-object-lesson-in-levitation/

Introduction | JL Williams

about, Introduction, JL Williams

Originally from New Jersey, US, artist, poet and performer, JL Williams studied for an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. Throughout her career Williams has worked across a vast array of cultural projects, from the writing of an Opera to creating workshops and performing at live poetry events.

Collaboration and performance play an important role in the development of both poetry and language within her practice. Williams has collaborated with numerous artists, poets and musicians, Iain Morris, James Iremonger, Anna Chapman and Alastair Cook to name a few. One of Williams’ most prominent collaborations throughout her career has been with artist and friend, Catherine Street, performing and writing together throughout several exhibitions and sound-performances.

This collaboration is ever-present within Between poles and tides. Whilst walking through the exhibition, visitors can listen to an emotive audio recording of Williams in an abstract and imagined dialogue with Street. This dialogue became a reality at the end of last month when the two women performed the piece in the gallery space, creating a live, poetic environment.

Lauren Hawkins, Talbot Rice Gallery Intern