Intro to New Poetics of Labor

Oscar Muñoz, Cortinas de baño [Shower Curtains], 1985–1986. Acrylic on plastic, 5 elements, 190 x 140 cm and 190 x 70 cm each, various dimensions. Collection Banco de la República.


Poetry is a form of human labor…the labor of reshaping human value. And Labor is the way we assert our own terms of worth against the world of capital. Both the laborer and the poet share the struggle of revealing a meaningful form out of undifferentiated matter.

Poetry and Labor enable transformation through thinking and making – they help us to see beyond the limitations of a current reality, and make the impossible possible. With a performance of actions and words, laborers and poets bring something new into existence. Through New Poetics of Labor we can affirm a new reality with a language that belongs to all of us.

Labor and Poetry — these are two words that have changed and expanded over time. The distance between these definitions, and the elasticity within them, motivates us to ask:

—Are Labor and Poetry so separate from each other, and can they move beyond their coterminous existence through artists and workers’ identities and means of production?

—What examining labor might mean for resistance, especially in developing countries in the era of postcolonial critique and globalization?

What reflecting on her/his reality as a worker might mean for the artist, and similarly, what thinking of herself/himself as an artist might mean for a waged worker?

Our goal is to not necessarily answer these questions or suggest one interpretation over another. We are invested in the process of exploring what these words mean collectively with the artists who are part of this initiative, as well as with our readers.

We welcome your comments and questions as we begin together…


“A man who makes really good literature is like a fellow who goes into the fields to pull carrots. He keeps on pulling them patiently enough until he finds a carrot that suggests something else to him. It is not shaped like other carrots. He takes out his knife and notches it here and there, until the two pronged roots become legs and the carrot takes on something of the semblance of a man. The real genius takes hold of that bit of life which is suggestive to him and gives it form. But the man who is merely a realist, and not a genius, will leave the carrot just as he finds it. The man who is merely an idealist and not a genius, will try to carve a donkey where no donkey is suggested by the carrot he pulls.” — Robert Frost

Pixeles, 1999–2000
Pixeles [Pixels], 1999–2000 Oscar Muñoz Tâches de café sur morceaux de sucre, plexiglass, panneau 35 x 35 x 3 cm. Courtesy de l’artiste et Sicardi Gallery, Houston

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s