Episode 98: Karenjit Sandhu

The Small Machine Talks to Karenjit Sandhu

Episode 98, Recorded on Thursday, January 26, 2023


Poetic Fragments from the Irritating Archive (Guillemot Press, 2022)


I speak with writer, researcher, artist, Karenjit Sandhu about her work, Poetic Fragments from the Irritating Archive, published by UK’s Guillemot Press in 2022.

A response to “Beauty is beauty, even when it is irritating. ” Gertrude Stein, Composition as Explanation.

Archives as site of irritation inspired by Susan Hiller’s ‘From the Freud Museum.’

I give a play by play of opening the work and its contents. Karenjit discusses working with the artist, Antonia Glücksman and the press, and their work with illustrators and artists’ books.

We talked about Judith: Women Making Visual Poetry. We talk about the materiality and texture of Fragments in relation to language. Karenjit tells us about how irritation formed part of the performance of the work as well. Karenjit discusses how she is feigning authenticity through this work. I learn the term “parafiction,” things presented as real.

She talks about how to engage the viewer/reader. We discuss the subversion of linearity.

For this year, I am engaging with artists’ books. I tried to think of similar Canadian experiences. https://omeka.library.ualberta.ca/exhibits/show/womenartistsbooks/introduction “Pushing the limits of the traditional book form and constructed using a wide variety of formats and materials, artists’ books first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as an expression of social and political activism, a way to “talk back” to mass production and mass media. In the decades that followed, these unique or limited-edition hand-made art objects soon became valuable and highly collectible.

I mention the artist michele provost. Karenjit mentions Liliane Lijn, Alison Gibb, Briony Hughes and Caroline Harris’ work. We talk about concertina books and the scroll especially in performances. We discuss one-of-a-kind editions of artists’ books. I talk about my books of whimsy.

We discuss the recurrence of “the body” in the work. We also discuss the definition of archive and how the word has changed over time.

Karenjit talks about forthcoming pamphlet with Intergraphia Books called Baby 19.

She is working on a new piece of work in response to an exhibition.

Note of Praise

Opening the box offers one delight and surprise after another. The way in which each part is presented, the material, the packing material, the different shapes, textures and sizes and the content of the work. Even the concept itself to archive what is irritating. And the way in which Karenjit engages with language is fascinating and unique, moving from the history of archive itself, to the definition of irritation and its place on a semantic scale of anger to examples of irritation and an invention of an archive. This invention is a subversive act, questioning and exploring the concept of how history is remembered and who is charged with its remembering. The work is whimsical and significant. It goes in many directions–from performance, to installation, to poetry and replication of different types of printed matter. It’s a three-dimensional wonder.

Thanks to Karenjit for being on the show, to Jennifer Pederson for the intro and outro, to Charles Earl for processing and to you for listening to and sharing the episodes each month.

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NationalPoetryMonth.ca call for submission. https://angelhousepress.com/

Stay tuned for our February episode, another in our extra-literary thread where we discuss page-adjacent aspects of literary, small press and visual poetry subjects. Our next guest is Johanna Drucker, who will talk to us about her latest book, Inventing the Alphabet and about artists’ books.