essays in vibrational poetics

Fayen d'Evie, with Benjamin Hancock and Bryan Phillips
The National, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, 29 March - 21 July 2019

Catalogue text by Margaret Woodward

In Essays in Vibrational Poetics (2019) Fayen d’Evie questions how to ‘publish’ fragments of messages for future audiences to detect, recognising that in the event of the collapse of civilisation and ecological calamity, these audiences might not be human. As her sense of sight continues to diminish, d’Evie turns to gestural, tactile and vibrational forms of communication.

Publishing is a visceral experience, involving the visual, tactile, aural and olfactory senses, hefted for centuries with the geologic weight of metal and wood. While technology has removed much of the physicality of printing, the language of publishing still carries the traces of this bodily connection. The anatomy of type is described using a human lexicon, with individual letterforms composed of ears, shoulders, arms, legs, feet and tails. The ‘body type’ of a published page is embraced by an armature of headers, footers and spines. Wood fibre is impregnated with carbon, punctuated by metal. D’Evie both expands and challenges traditional materials and modes of publishing. While her speculative posthuman typographies are strongly connected to the human origins of typography and printing, her work is also embedded with messages of another kind. In The National 2019 d’Evie publishes a set of experimental ‘essays’ as propositions for carrying story through stone, wherein messages may be carved, heard and felt as vibrations, or performed through gesture. Held within these lithic essays are fragments that assert the importance of women writers, publishers and painters, and of those whose experience of the world challenges dominant normative ideas of the sensing body.

In Essays in Vibrational Poetics four ‘publications’ in stone carry poetic fragments of messages left for future posthuman audiences. Each ‘essay’ can be understood as a means of testing out speculative forms of publishing and typography that go beyond the traditional thresholds of written language. D’Evie introduces the fleeting traces of dance, gesture, touch and vibration as ways of carrying these messages. In Essays in Vibrational Poetics. Acknowledging Margaret Woodward, Núria LÓpez, Mrs Eaves, and women who painted the caves in tactile poetics, d’Evie uses the experimental font Blind Words (2015) by Núria López, which combines Braille and Latin alphabets. In other essays, American Sign Language writing inspires gestural, poetic communications, while inscriptions in the font Mrs Eaves pay homage to women typographers. These experimental messages ‘published’ in stone offset the weightiness of geology with the transience of gesture. Mineral seams in rocks are reminiscent of the spines of books, or of dancers or the complex bodies of the more-than-human world.

In collaboration with dancer Benjamin Hancock and sound artist Bryan Phillips, d’Evie’s score is made public and type is again sensorily re-embodied through performances of vibrational poetics. Hancock ‘inhabits’ d’Evie’s speculative typographic forms, inflecting her messages with typo/choreographic gestures of ligatures and limbs. Phillips’ low frequency vibrational compositions are sensed via non-visible vocabularies, signals that may also be detected by non-human species of animals and plants. In Essays in Vibrational Poetics Fayen d’Evie inscribes a new embodied typography, where the latent gestural qualities of type are released via movement and dance. Through touch, listening, scoring, puncturing, engraving and movement, the body is reacquainted with the visceral origins of publishing. Here, a new form of languaging emerges, a kind of ‘glyphic choreography’, in which d’Evie’s publishing in stone activates other sensory readings, transcending the present. Fragments left for future sensing audiences to stumble upon.



Create a collaborative publication in which words and phrases are abstractly translated through performative body actions and sounds for people of all abilities, using Fayen d'Evie's Essays in Vibrational Poetics for inspiration.

Inquiry questions and strategies

  • How do you engage with this artwork? (e.g. through the senses, movement, tactile experiences)

  • What modes of communication do you use every day? List these modes. Do you use them without realising it?

  • How can an artist create work that is more accessible and inclusive for audiences with diverse needs?

  • The artist is exploring the expressive potential of the non-visual. How has Fayen d’Evie achieved this in her art practice?

  • List the types of publishing modes and communication platforms that have been used over time. How does this work expand and challenge these traditional thresholds of the written language?

  • Collaboration is a key element in this artwork. Discuss how Fayen d’Evie’s collaboration with sound artist Bryan Phillips and dancer Benjamin Hancock contributes to the meaning of this artwork.

  • "Through touch, listening, scoring, puncturing, engraving and movement…the body is reacquainted with the visceral origins of publishing." (Margaret Woodward) How is this statement reflected in the artwork?


Arrange the class into four groups.

  • Group 1.
    This group will decide what words or small phrases the publication will attempt to communicate to an audience of the future. It can be as simple as words like: HOME or WELCOME, or more complicated phrases like: WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS FROM PLANET EARTH.

  • Group 2.
    This group will use their bodies as tools to perform actions that attempt to translate the meaning of the phrases thought up by Group 1. Think sign language but using the whole body. How does the word or phrase sound? Make a shape or action that you think looks like the sound.

  • Group 3.
    Using still photography and/or video, this group will capture/document the actions/performances of Group 2. Think about composition, background, and a stable camera.

  • Group 4.
    This group will attempt to translate the actions of Group 2 back into sound. Try to create sounds that fit the movements. As well as voice, use objects around you. Group 1 will record the sound translations using a smart phone.

All groups then combine to collaboratively produce a publication/document which compiles each group’s attempt at translating words and phrases into performances and sound pieces. This could be in the form of a book or online blog. Alternatively, be experimental with materials that can carry text and present your publication/document to the class.