An Asemblance of the Fragmentary

Images: Julia Farrer
Texts: Robert Vas Dias
Published by Shearsman Books, 2016

Julia Farrer Robert Vas Dias Black Book

Black Book is an ethical response to a range of contemporary atrocities and acts of inhumanity: ISIS attacks, drone assassinations, the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo, the plight of refugees, government surveillance of ‘persons of interest’, the destruction of civil society and the killings of civilians in Syria. In short, it confronts us with what has become our common world since the initiation of the ‘war on terror’. Through its aesthetic principles of abstraction, fragmentation, chance and repetition, this collaboration is as up-to-date as this morning’s news. The wall that divides Bethlehem anticipates Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border and events yet to come. Black Book’s use of randomness and found text interrogates the mind-set of the wall-builders and its violent outcomes, cloaked in the euphemisms of ‘neutralizing’, ‘enhanced interrogation’, ‘cleansing’, while a ticker-tape of text bears witness to the suffering of the body under regimes of torture. This is a sequence that speaks effectively to the times in which we live.

ROBERT HAMPSON, Professor of Modern Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London

Here are the fruits of a remarkable collaboration. A poet and a visual artist share and express saeva indignatiosaeva indignatio, tempered by pity and sorrow, at the horrors that attend upon so much of the contemporary global political scene. How to achieve that expression to more than effect? For each to be true to their own poetical and artistic self, both being both poetic and artistic: having in each case a keen ear and a keen eye, those organs being the very portals to the separate brains and minds that feel and know the pain that engenders the indignation they share. Vas Dias is an experimental poet whose language is always simple and direct, who does not beat about the bush, except to flush out a startling truth, transform the familiar to a strangeness. Farrer is an artist for whom the abstract is a means to the controlled expression of the deepest and most sharp feelings, to a refinement of poignancy, a stoic poise. A progressive interaction; a keen edge; a cut through: a single work.

MEL GOODING, art critic and writer

That words and images complement each other is an axiom of the visual world. We see them side by side in the pages of a newspaper, on the website home page, on the billboard, in the funeral service order, and together they suggest and create meaning. So a new book, full of colour, full of word-pictures and pictures of words is called black.


Because beautiful black dwells just before the light shines and hurts my eyes. Black invites me to rest from the uninvited and exhausting battery of illusions that fill my days. A book that is black narrates stories of night-time experiments in the telling of truth. Which in their chilling lists of the dead and deadly, confront violence without despairing.

Listen to this black book bringing cruel comfort to a world as it is. And still dreaming of how it could be.

THE REVEREND LUCY WINKETT, Rector of St. James's Piccadilly, London

Julia Farrer


Julia Farrer Bibliography Page 2