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Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Alice Bucknell

Alice Bucknell

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Alfredo Jaar offers a powerful reflection on the limits of language and the role of creative expression in times of tragedy. A lament for today’s darkness and a call to find the words to confront these tragic hours, the bold new public intervention displays the arresting title of a poem by Adrienne Rich (1929–2012), a figure of inspiration for Jaar since the 1980s, who observed the limits of words in times of unthinkable violence: “no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself,” she wrote in 2011. Throughout November 2023, Alfredo Jaar and CIRCA commissioned a series of poetic dialogues, curated by Vittoria de Franchis, from international writers, thinkers and speakers. Giving voice to those who find themselves silenced or without words, the poems hope to achieve Rich’s ambition that creative expression can reconcile conflicting realities.


We are going through a very repressive moment, when nuance is lost and free speech is threatened. But I strongly believe that the spaces of art and culture must remain spaces of freedom. Artists will not be intimidated. In this environment, I have turned to the words of anti-war campaigner and poet Adrienne Rich to reflect both the limits of language and the frustration felt by many that voices for peace and justice cannot sound out as clearly as we wish. And, as part of the CIRCA commission, I am turning to today’s poets, writers, and artists, to support a forum for creative expression where the clear-sighted demands of humanity and empathy can be heard. In these times when politics have failed us miserably, art and culture are our only hope. Art is like the air we breathe, without art, life would be unlivable. Art creates spaces of resistance, spaces of hope.


Alice Bucknell reads The World Is Breaking in Flowers the Breath of Things by Precious Okoyomon

Our love is a blue instant and forward-looking sky
Every dream is a moment of freedom
Bliss hovering above the void
Resonate darkness can’t be bound
It’s always being born
Ash in hand
Myths arise where it sets
Knowing there is fire
Knowing there is war
Cities rising and falling
A small black river flowing
The speed of darkness
Everything burns repeatedly
Return back to the umbilical tongue
To vesicles of present breath
Swallow bits of tenderness
Bring yourself back to the earth



Hand-signed limited edition print by Alfredo Jaar, £120+VAT. Proceeds will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. Available here.




Alice Bucknell is a North American artist and writer based in Los Angeles and London. Working with game engines and speculative fiction strategies, their work explores interconnections of architecture, ecology, magic, and nonhuman and machine intelligence. Their practice is rooted in the possibilities of emergent interactive media including video games to envision richer, more polyvocal worlds, to enable more generative modalities of storytelling and expression, and to dismantle many of the unhelpful binaries that have carried us into the Anthropocene era, including humans vs environment, utopia vs dystopia, natural vs synthetic intelligences, and self vs world.

In 2021, they founded New Mystics, a digital platform merging magic and technology. In 2022, they organized New Worlds, an experimental event series expanding on emergent worlding practices, held at Somerset House Studios in London. They have presented their work internationally, with recent exhibitions at Ars Electronica with transmediale, Arcade Seoul, the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles, Gray Area in San Francisco, Basement Roma in Rome, Singapore Art Museum, The Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas, Fiber Festival in the Netherlands, and Serpentine in London.

Their writing appears often in publications including ArtReview, Flash Art, Frieze, e-flux Architecture, and the Harvard Design Magazine. Prior to teaching history and theory at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, Bucknell was an Associate Lecturer in MA Narrative Environments at UAL. In 2023, they are a Supercollider SciArt Ambassador in Los Angeles, a resident of Somerset House Studios in London, and a resident at transmediale in Berlin. Bucknell studied Anthropology at the University of Chicago and Critical Practice at the Royal College of Art in London.