"I have written only some 50 lines and have read nothing, literally - I sketch the people after a fashion," Eliot writes in a letter to a friend, currently on display at 'Journeys With The Waste Land', this year's flagship exhibition at Margate's Turner Contemporary. "I rather dread being in town at all - one becomes dependent on sea or mountains, which give some sense of security in which one relaxes."
The culmination of a three year research project, 'Journeys with The Waste Land' brought together Margate residents - a handful of them artists and curators, but most with no experience of galleries or of Eliot's poem - to produce a collectively curated exhibition. In contrast to the poem (surely one of the English language's most notoriously erudite and elitist compositions) the drive to dismantle curatorial conventions - to disperse the single voice of the expert-curator across a diverse group of people - was decidedly democratic. Indeed, a desire to penetrate the difficult text - to let people in and to render it more accessible through visual responses - underpinned the curatorial ambition. Yet, perhaps more significantly, the collective approach also saw itself as the poem made manifest: different voices, patchworked together, sewn under the fragmented unity of The Waste Land.