Genso Art/Japan

By Nick West

Lenka Clayton, ‘Accidental Haiku’ (2009

Lenka Clayton, ‘Accidental Haiku’ (2009

Lenka Clayton’s portfolio is an inventory of material encounters that she has reassigned. By re-categorising found objects brushed aside by others, the artist nudges our attention towards how we ascribe meanings to the stuff that surrounds us. Taking note of an article’s character and its details, sometimes guiding the viewer by non-visual cues, her slight artworks intervene to show the ease with which the act of classification takes place. By bestowing an object with a new designation, she presents us with a new object.

In 2014, Clayton sent a packaged boomerang from Pittsburgh to Australia and back again via airmail. In a work called “Sculpture for Keyboards” (2015), the artist replaced the keys on a typewriter with objects that corresponded to tactile qwerty counterparts; from quinoa to M & M’s, rendering the typewriter unusable. Somewhat biographically, “63 Objects Taken from My Son’s Mouth” (2014) was a visual catalogue that she made into a limited edition artist book. And it was the contents of another book that led to the work “Accidental Haiku” (2009).

Bought from a thrift store in upstate New York, the artist happened upon a diary from 1975. Separated by narrow monthly inner sleeves, the book includes regular entries jotted down by an unknown hand. Recorded until an abrupt halt in June, the format of each entry had a quality that reminded the artist of the Japanese poetic form, Haiku. Sparse and succinct, every item in the diary consists of recurring elements; the weather or the temperature and one or two short sentences that surmise the events of the day. Jeannine went to hairdressers. Did income tax. My Birthday (66).  As the artist notes, “The language is so spare, each entry reads simply as an affirmation of an existence”.

According to the conventions of haiku; the use of a seasonal word, of 3 lines consisting of 5, 7 and 5 syllables (or fewer), and sometimes a component that emphasises contrast, the artist went through the diary marking pages that accidentally complied with these rules. The result is a collection of unintended poetry by an anonymous writer.



“Accidental Haiku” was exhibited with accompanying audio tracks read by Martin Prekop as part of Realization is Better than Anticipation at MOCA Cleveland. It was curated by Megan Lykins Reich and Rose Bouthillier.

Lenka Clayton was born in Britain (1977). The artist lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

©Nick West 2015


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