Jill Magi

Painting a Bibliography (an excerpt from SPEECH)

Jill Magi Painting a Bibliography from SPEECH
Jill Magi Painting a Bibliography from SPEECH
Jill Magi Painting a Bibliography from SPEECH
Jill Magi Painting a Bibliography from SPEECH

             Always not having to decide
what is next to say

or authentic
or to know

               only recopy existing texts

to transmit the distance between

and power.

There are pieces of paper floating up. I don’t understand that.

But they keep floating up and up
in this wind

that unsettles
the unbuilt area.

If this city is not
a daily diary

then papers float up

words float down and
flutter the small cameras

as “my perception matters”
finds itself lonely oceans away.

              While some minarets
were made to shake softly

in earthquakes. Some
razed because of rights. Some

conversations listened
into softly. Some virtual pages

all lifting up.
Seismic and blocked.

Entire pages purchased
and rescinded is also to block

as an information corporation eats and eats
as we feed it our idea of freedom

a satisfied uplift
failing and if

recopying is to author, then
“Let’s revamp protocols of inquiry.”

At the antiques souk he would not sell the book to me. Because of the wrong religion I was allowed to see the writing inside and not to touch. I asked why without access without touching. Closing its covers he answered: “We are a tolerant people.”

If you are a vector without access.

If painting and desire for color crushes.
If the vector once the poem. Now

painting as

Painting a bibliography.

Burying narrative under color
under love story.

Just now finding its shades.

Lens for watching skies change.

You go quietly in a garden.

A fence of beauty guards against speech, lets
speech in. Both ways.

About a place I do not know
I will never hear the argument so surely again. This speech.

              Meanwhile, the correct
waterproof banner speaks

infinitely sturdy against the direction
of script of some wronged.

             The survey
made into art, correct

compass, began to stick to every brown
finger touch who displayed their

not west

the directed and progressive
survey on white clean


“Give me wrong

give me
a delicate pinnacle
not to achieve

Give me low-
scoring morals

whose speech makes a compare
makes a look


“Painting a Bibliography”—a project named after a line in my forthcoming book SPEECH—is also the name of a growing archive of recent paintings. This archive extends my investigation into painting as a recursive, meditative process where each gesture that “builds” the image can be likened to an embroidery stitch. Since the summer of 2018, I have been painting single objects from the “natural worlds” I inhabit, stamping each with a sequential number. The archive is meant to release any one image from singular importance or mastery, proposing that image-making is citational where the meaning of any single work is not known except through apprehending a whole body of work that shows its labor. All of the works are devoid of foreground and background, and float inside square substrates. This is a nod to “textility” and the grid made by weaving’s warp and weft. Textility is not just an art-making disposition, but, for me, it is also a way of being in the world. Just as meaning is made and unmade through repetition, so, too, is place-making and selfhood: central obsessions in the manuscript, where a woman shuttles through a fictional city neither fully “here” or “there,” “east” or “west,” “citizen” or “guest.”

The text of this excerpt contains a reference to “World Poll,” an interactive installation by Hans Haacke, and a banner from “Gulf Labor,” both of which were exhibited at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

The line "Let's revamp protocols of inquiry" is taken from Arjun Appadurai's "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy."

Jill Magi is an artist, critic, and educator who works in text, image, and textile. SPEECH, forthcoming in September 2019, is Jill's sixth full-length book combining prose, poetry, image, and a kind of essay. Jill is based in Abu Dhabi where she teaches in the literature/creative writing and visual arts programs at New York University.