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Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Sophie Jung

Sophie Jung

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.


Revastation by Sophie Jung


A section has been pulled today along my eyed up webb in vains. 

My veins I saw them though closed eyes and opened lids against the brief. 

My veins a web of flesh supporting lines refusing to circle to watch out run out lines re fusing my view and my view


I can’t is a state meant any state willing to ride up 

the border to borrow its boundry. 

Borrow my neck lay waste neck lace waste not your chance to adorn a nation!

Borrow a chain in borrows hidden a neck. Lace left be hind sight will rewrite but more on that in years to come. 

They go well into the well into the night up eyed up well posed on well with my decolté or decoloni thematics that can’t be adressed today. 

Decolo night has fallen the brief is to close my eyes it can’t be addressed today. 

It can’t be a dress today is a flag tomorrow. 


I can’t is a state meant a state demanding a ride up your large fingered hand to slap my bum and then look at the print and say ha, it resembles my country. 

The out lined up to cross the mark on my sk interrogated why one should not stay inside the throbbing trace. 


This state meant to pro voc alize di sent to the cen sor sent to si lence on your camera’s on the wrong way. Up close and yet so remote, a fun way to distance yourself from bodies otherwise encounterable.


Concepts have not right to exist. 

Each life has a right to continue. 


On death:


Life has a way of sectioning out bits between ends. 

Pockets of time and lav end her here she said too much. 

Open the ward open the ward robe, stick your stuffed pockets of lavender here and let the moths that seek the light, and those who don’t, let them all perish.


On death. Pockets of time spent in sturdy relation to matter, to presence, to stuff. To cinema stubs and casual chats at the checkout counter, twists of the asthma inhaler as you wait, breath held as you must, to answer your lover’s call from the kitchen. Small guileless sections of time before devastation dissevers unsolicited gorges into your day. 

Being faced with unliving has a way of abstracting everything. It has a way of removing borders of concepts, tables, thoughts, seats in public transport. 

You look down the crag at nothing in particular. Nothing that can be named, at least. Nothing that carries value. Every value to every thing has be surgically removed with that same cut. 


And then awhile later, unbeknonst, you can again, on your behalf that is, you can, you answer the phone on a sunny day, you get a take-away that’s not so bad, you tell your students you love their new haircut.  

Your devastation is revasted, you see furter things, quite solid and for now you slight the inevitable non. You slight it by saying onbehalf of others it’s both sides. Little necks blown apart at impact is a complex issue. Incubators running out of fuel is what it is. You don’t know the details. 


You may can’t in despair or you might be crazy busy can’t. You can’t for lack of knowledge on the issue or you can’t since you have friends that and you can’t for sensitive content. 


I can’t belongs with tissues stained by droplets of nosebleed from the other night. The wind was chilly I suppose. I can’t can go the way of the dried flowers left in the kitchen by a successful overnighting friend usccessfully holding the fort in a vase so commonplace it has become invisible. I can’t is chipped I swear it can bravely disappear through the unused cat door whose electronics scare off my dependables. I can’t  holds careers unworthy of a voice, I can’t is a bug ridden pillow you soon wish you hadn’t relied upon for comfort or passion. 


De vasting and devasting and devasting until it’s only you left in the smallest of spaces with no view other than the pores on the back of you can’ting hand. 


Being faced with unliving has a way of abstracting everything. It has a way of removing borders


De lay waste de va state your dissent to the unvoiced vast. Fast.



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




Sophie Jung (lives in London and Basel) works across text, sculpture and performance, navigating the politics of re/re/representation and challenging the selective silencing that happens by concluding.
She employs humor, shame, the absurd, raw anger, rhythm and rhyme, slapstick, hardship, friendship and a constant stream of slippages.
Her sculptural work consists of bodies made up of both found and haphazardly produced attributes and stands as a network of abiding incompletion, an ever changing choir of urgencies and pleasures, traumas and manifestations that communally relay between dominant and minor themes. Jung hopes for agnostic alliances, cross-material solidarity and assemblages that defy resolution. Her approach to “stuff”—both legible utensil and metaphoric apparition sits somewhere between materialist responsibility and wild becoming. Her writing exists in the tradition of écriture feminine and lives as polyvocal collage, often materialized and extended collaboratively.

Recent exhibitions include Move at Centre Pompidou, Paris, Roma, A Portrait at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, They take it seriously, I think it’s interesting at Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Dans l’air les machines volantes at Hangar Y, Paris Meudon, Sanetroyem at E. A. Shared Space in Tbilisi, Unsetting at Istituto Svizzero, Milan; Sincerity Condition at Casino Luxembourg; Taxpayer’s Money for Frieze LIVE, Dramatis Personae at JOAN, LA; The Bigger Sleep at Kunstmuseum Basel. She is currently working on her first monograph with Mousse Publishing. In 2016 and in 2019 she won the Swiss Art Awards and in 2018 she was the recipient of the Manor Kunstpreis.