Here To Listen is an interactive poetry installation that invites people to share a story, a question, something that […]
Here To Listen is an interactive poetry installation that invites people to share a story, a question, something that has moved or puzzled them and have these captured and responded to, with a poem written in the moment.
Poems are places of deep listening – both for the writer and the reader. In this interactive poetry installation, I aim to give people the chance to experience that uninterrupted, deep listening in a tangible way. The installation is inspired by environmentalist Dr John Francis’ 17 years of silence, and draws on my auto-ethnographic study, “Stepping into Silence”, in which I stopped speaking for 12 days, to explore how this might impact my writing practice. Building on this, and inspired by Marina Abramovic’s work The Artist is Present, for Here to Listen, I will once again stop speaking, this time with the aim of creating spaces in which people are able to share without interruption or judgment.
In December, I took the installation to three libraries in the borough of Westminster as part of the Westminster Culture Network’s Made in Libraries programme.
St John’s Wood Library
Friday December 4: 9.30am – 8pm
Saturday December 5: 9.30am – 5pm
Monday December 7: 9.30am – 8pm
Tuesday December 8: 9.30am – 7pm
Westminster Reference Library
Tuesday December 15: 9.30am – 7pm
Wednesday December 16: 10am – 7pm
How The Installation Works
I am seated at a table with a second, open, chair. People are invited to sit down and simply have someone listen to them. There are no restrictions on what you may share – it could be a true story or fiction, it could an idea or question, something you saw or read that day, something you overheard – anything that you want to talk about. I listen without speaking. I do not ask clarifying questions, or offer advice, or even speak in agreement.
After each person leaves, I write short poems – either one-liners, a few stanzas or full-length poems – in response to what they have said, and what I have heard. These are instinctual responses, rather than crafted poems; a way of capturing the stories. Then, I peg the poems to lines strung up around the table and room, as a visual representation of the stories.
‘Toni Stuart’s installation ‘Here to Listen’ was intimate, challenging and thoughtful. It provided a calm space for reflection that allowed conference delegates to participate. Audience members described the experience as ‘powerful’. The display – composed of poems handwritten in response to each interaction and pegged to a line that went around a corner of the room – was a wonderful addition to the space in which our delegates were meeting. It really explored the place of poetry as a creative, relational practice, and emphasised the importance of leaving a place for poetry to happen in the room.’
– Seraphima Kennedy: Conference Organiser, The Place for Poetry, Goldsmiths, University of London
© 2014 Toni Stuart. Designed by Jepchumba