On Madeline Gins


On The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had To Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader

Published in the Brooklyn Rail, January 2021, as part of the “20 Best Art Books of 2020”

My favorite artist books work to relieve me of my readerly preconceptions and instruct new modes of attention, vital work in 2020, a year when reading felt variously impossible. No book did this quite as excitingly, as emphatically, as The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had To Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader. Gins, an artist and conceptualist writer of great experiment and, later, a practitioner of anti-death architecture with her husband, the artist Arakawa, wrote across genre and form—poems, essays, novelistic interventions. The new volume collects six of these texts, including the extraordinary artist-novel, WORD RAIN. In it, Gins writes, “Read this aloud with your voice trailing your eyes: I am reading this aloud.” The second person becomes the first; the writer’s injunctive, the reader’s declaration. The words are a score of themselves. Writer and reader collapse. I am writing this. I am reading. I am here, in my chair, holding WORD RAIN, reading. WORD RAIN facilitates a state of elliptical presence, with Gins guiding the reader out of and then back into themselves. Amid lockdown, anytime—what a gift.

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