Artist's installation to create poetry by a hair

Dunedin artist Max Bellamy with his work Post Script at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'BrienLocks of a Dunedin artist's hair are going to help write poetry.

Artist Max Bellamy's installation Post Script will be on show in a group exhibition, Sleight of Hand, at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery from August 16 to November 16.

Bellamy said the work incorporated three 18th century hygrothermographs - instruments used in museums to record temperature and humidity on a chart - enclosed in three glass cases.

He will control the temperature inside the cases, which will control the marking on the charts to create words.

''In three days, it would have written a short poem.''

The poem would be created with words randomly extracted from the day's news events by a computer, he said.

''It finds all these words and then rearranges them into a sensible poem,'' Bellamy said.

The instruments use strands of hair - in this case Bellamy's - to determine humidity levels, the hair lengthening or shortening depending on the humidity of the surrounding air.

''[It is] the same principle where your hair goes frizzy in a rain storm - it stretches and expands.''

He planned to calibrate the instruments today and begin the writing tomorrow, so poems were half-finished when the exhibition opened on Saturday.

The finished poems would be displayed at the gallery, he said.

Exhibition curator Lauren Gutsell said the exhibition explored ''illusion and theatricality''.

Other Dunedin artists exhibiting in the show are Madeleine Child, Graham Fletcher, Mary McFarlane, Kathryn Madill, James Oram, Justin Spiers and Katrina Thomson.

Sorry, not poetry

The artist's installation will no doubt as promised turn out artistically arranged prose phrases. They may even be meaningful. They will hardly come close to being poetry.

There has been a generational misconception perpetuated from the 20th century movement of Modernism that any sentences or phrases on a page chopped into short lines may be deemed "poetry". Call it prosody, call it prose, call it art, but don't call it poetry, which is a language art form that has been debased for a century to the point of meaninglessness.

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