Material Poetics and the Communication Event

Kristen Kreider

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This article offers a theory of materials poetics alongside the development of a critical framework through which to consider artworks at a crossover of poetry and contemporary text-based art practices. (1) Toward this, Roman Jakobson’s scheme of the ‘speech event’ is crucial for understanding the meaningful materiality of artworks that employ a verbal message and how these artworks relate to their wider context. Deceptively simple in appearance, Jakobson’s scheme of the speech event elucidates the complexity of meaning in any discursive exchange. Importantly, this scheme is capable of accounting for how artworks that employ a verbal message are able to generate meaning not only through the language of their message, but also through their physical material properties. I call this a material poetics. Arriving at an understanding of material poetics through Jakobson’s speech event links an appreciation of artworks that employ a verbal message to Jakobson’s seminal argument concerning the nature and function of poetry. More broadly, extending Jakobson’s scheme, as I do through my scheme of the ‘communication event’, offers an analytical framework through which to consider the communicative capacity of such work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-89
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2015


  • material poetics
  • text-based art
  • jakobson

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