Jim Shaw's The Hidden World as a Book of Poetry

    Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper uden forlag/tidsskriftForskningpeer review


    Jim Shaw’s 500-page volume The Hidden World (2014) is a strange book that in Jacques Derrida’s parlance ”participates” in numerous different genres. Its visual presentation is an obvious pun on The Holy Bible, whereas its contents at a cursory glance appear to be a compendium of low culture visual documents, ’found’ in pulp publications, in thrift stores, on billboards, and on the Internet. These documents are mostly word-image hybrids, and their original functions may have been as commercials or advertisements, religious propaganda, doomsday prophecies, or other forms of naïve “didactic art”, as Shaw himself terms them. However, when ’repurposed’ in this artist’s book they clearly become something entirely different. The question is: What have they become, exactly?

    Shaw is usually regarded as a conceptual artist, and his book can indeed be seen as a catalogue of his extensive collection of pulp art (often cited as his source of inspiration for his ‘real’ art), but by utilizing the book medium for its presentation, and further visually imitating the format of holy scripture, he has also opened up for his work to be read as one would a collection of sacred texts, say, a Bible – or even a book of poetry.

    Drawing on genre theory, as well as recent work by, among others, Martin Glaz Serup and Thomas Hvid Kromann, I propose to read The Hidden World against its own grain, as it were, as a collection of conceptual poetry, participating in the discourses of belief and testimony.


    KonferenceThe Experiments of Contemporary Poetry