Maddox Pratt’s art practice is an immersive, palpable and compassionate experience. I’ve felt simultaneously nervous and comforted by their work. Their practice is a sentient movement that erodes ease and shapes new forms of expression that are strong and soft. Maddox implements various mediums in their work, from performance and text, to paint, installation and set design. They explore different subject matters that are routed in their own phenomenology. Communicating their concerns and joys through art allows Maddox to process their experiences that currently projects their fluctuating health, and experiences of living with disability and chronic illness. Getting to know Maddox, it has been exciting to have an incite into so many other aspects of their personhood projected through their artwork. They are deeply interested in how we experience and converse about art and this is explicit to me in conversation with Maddox.
Maddox is Redesigning Through Erasure Poetry
Erasure poetry involves erasing words from existing text to create new meaning, framing the original text into a poem. Maddox uses this technique to explore their own meaning on the found text, projecting new emotion on the piece. They describe to me how they find little incentive in creating erasure poetry with objects that are already beautiful stories. Instead, Maddox prefers to misappropriate, to use, split, crack, tear, and mark written work that doesn’t feel like it’s saying enough or that is an oppressive text. The visual aspect of this medium is striking in its blocked-out text and its purposeful emphasis through desired wording, shaping the landscape of a page.
Currently, Maddox is working on a series of erasure poetry using the English dictionary. This undertaking is an extensive project, where they focus on one letter at a time. In the most recent PILOTENKUECHE exhibition Dreamy Cube Curve, Maddox exhibited work that included their erasure poetry of the ‘S’ section of the dictionary. Cutting into a corner of the space, this piece, S (Feels like Sunday on My Tongue), 210 x 192 cm, hovers over you as it sits on a pair of granite blocks.
Tracing My Eyes Through Words in Metamorphose
The work is an amalgamation of wax, oil stick, and paper on board. It presents a series of images of open mouths that each hold a page exhibiting erasure poetry. Maddox expresses how they think the ‘most interesting thing in art happens between the wall and the viewer, the dialogue that forms.’ I am suspended in position as my eyes trail the abstractions that sit in front of me. Consistently, I need to remind myself that the trail of words I am following once lived another life. They existed as definitions, with other, now irrelevant words, metamorphosized in this fresh landscape of vowels and consonants.
images by PILOTENKUECHE or provided by the artist
Maddox poetically redesigns and materialises the tensions of experiencing otherness in a body, and a world; finding control within limitations. With this, Maddox describes how they enjoy the limitations of erasure poetry as a medium because it is a constraint that they chose and have control over; compared to so many limitations that are inflicted on them. As a line from one of their poems conveys; ‘I suffer not by consent’ (pg105 S (Feels Like Sunday on My Tongue))
The Limitation and Liminality of Maddox’s process
When I was thinking about Maddox’s practice I was reminded of an essay by Jack Halberstam entitled ‘Body unbuilding: on cuts, stitching and anarchitecture‘. (2019) In the essay Halberstam writes; ‘All bodies pass through some version of building and unbuilding’. The liminality and queerness of Maddox’s practice is what creates space for others. It lets connections and subjects that are often left dismissed have the opportunity to exist and move. Their durational performance and installation work at the Deeply Pelusa Life exhibition found ways of using their limitations to viscerally represent the struggle of living with chronic illness. Maddox’s practice is compassionate toward representation and access in the art space and in the wider world. They are bringing these topics to the forefront in a caring and sentient way that questions our focus and perspective.
Written by Kat Lafferty
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program is a full program that includes international artists, local artists, curators and interns. Our mission is to open cultural dialogue through the arts.