The Garden of Distances, 1999



The Garden of Distances, 1999
Robert Kelly, Brigitte Mahlknecht

Gedichte von Robert Kelly zu Zeichnungen von Brigitte Mahlknecht und umgekehrt

edition per procura, Wien, Lana
und McPherson & Compony, Kingston NY

205 Seiten, 38 Abbildungen, 21 x 14,5 cm, gebunden mit Schutzumschlag
Englisch, mit einem Beiheft mit ausgewählten Übertragungen ins Deutsche, Französische und Italienische von Gundi Feyrer, Christine Huber, Wolfgang Schlüter, Schuldt, Pierre Joris und Anna Pensante

Das Buch ist aus einem spontanen Faxwechsel entstanden, wobei der Autor die Zeichnungen gelesen und beantwortet und die Künstlerin die Texte gelesen und zeichnend beantwortet hat. Nicht eine Person antwortete einer Person sondern die Arbeit antwortete auf die Arbeit und zwar zwischen New York City, Annandale on Hudson, Bozen und Wien von Juli bis Oktober 1998.

"Immer war es die Zeichnung, die vorher kam,
und der Text versuchte darauf zu antworten
und irgendwie kam auf diese Antwort
eine neue Zeichnung zum sprechen--
Antwort auf Antwort,
bis der Gartenbau getan war." (Robert Kelly)

Felix Philipp Ingold: NZZ 

McPherson & Company, Kingston NY:

Poems by Robert Kelly are accompanied by drawings of impossible geographies by Brigitte Mahlknecht
An edition limited to 240 numbered deluxe copies, signed by Robert Kelly.

Exclusive U.S. edition.

An Italian painter and an American poet briefly meet once and, liking one another's work, decide to experiment with the interaction of visual text and verbal text. The Garden of Distances is the result: a marriage of 38 drawings with a book-length multipart interlocking poem. It was not a matter of
person responding to person but of work responding to work. The pictures and texts were exchanged by fax, and the whole process carried out from afar between New York City, Annandale-on-Hudson, Bolzano (Italy) and Vienna, from July to October, 1998. The distances between the artists became
emblematic of the distances negotiated in the drawings and in the texts, which are like all the joyful and sorrowful distances between people.

Each time it was the drawing that came first,
then the text tried to answer it.
And to that answer the next drawing
somehow came to speak--
answer on top of answer
till the gardening was done.


...the work as a whole grows, thematically as well as structurally, out of many...diversions, which nonetheless intertwine to form a coherent...fabric. Brigitte Mahlknecht has contributed a good three dozen drawings to the text-image correspondence with Robert Kelly. Some are hastily scribbled, some carefully worked-out pages, which--while all have a reticulated or grid-
like basic structure--are at times executed purely ornamentally, sometimes marked by figuration or elements of script. This image conception corresponds to Kelly's meandering poem, which in the book edition spans over 200 pages in the most various forms and textures, including lyrical cycles and diary-like notes, scenic and narrative sequences. The poem elegantly synthesizes
urban and romantic themes, reflections on nature and art, as well as philosophical and punning aphorisms; it also does not shy away from the quotidian if not sentimental kitsch that embraces both the trivial and the sublime. Kelly wishes to have his poem understood as a "message against
messages," thus as a point of resistance in the constantly rising torrent of information--as an attempt critically to stem the flood of signs and significations, to counteract them by means of
direct sense perception.
-- Neue Zuericher, Felix Philipp Ingold

It's been some time since poetry and visual art have worked in close intimacy--say, since the era of Dante Rossetti. In The Garden of DistancesRobert Kelly and Brigitte Mahlknecht have revived the tradition in a tour de force display. Kelly works from drawings by Mahlknecht, creating a circular system. The poet writes from his feelings about the drawing, sends his verses to the
artist, who, guided by her feelings about the poetry, makes the next drawing, and so on. The accomplishment is formidable on both sides, but to many readers it may seem that this is especially Kelly's book. It demonstrates his trememdous force as a poet on every page.
He seems able to pull big profound lines out of the mental atmosphere at will. Many of thepoems are uniquely memorable in the sense that the reader immediately feels that he or she will want to read them again--and again and again. Mahlknect's powerfully conceived and rugged drawings ring resonances from shorthand copy to scribbling to cartography to city-pscape, and Kelly draws from their density his heavily atmospheric poems that seem
sometimes to overtower the drawings and claim a life of their own. Yet he does use the drawings, does not simply ignore them and write his way onward. it's as if he has used the drawings along the lines of a passage from one of the poems ("A Geography of Mind")
-- Thomas McEvilley

Collaborations are often reflective and suggestive rather than direct responses--allusive rather than confrontational. The Garden of Distances is remarkable for its call-and-response marriage of images to text. Since Mahlknecht's etchings are cityscapes as seen from above, Kelly's poems use the city metaphor as a keynote:
Because a city is whatever rises up
between a self and a self,
a city is what rises
between any person and its self.
The best you can ever be is street.
This approach leads Kelly to historical figures like Antonin Artaud, playwright maudit: "So Artaud was mad to dream/ the sex in Paris ateliers/ was aimed at him./ a city can't help but be everyone./ we sex at everyone." Like good jazz improvisation, the collaboration between poet and artist in The Garden of Distances takes the reader on a magical trip limited only by his imagination.
-- Woodstock Times, Michael Perkins