James Shea, Star in the Eye

Star in the Eye is true to itself and to the heavier emotions that stem from awkwardness, transition, rejection, resignation, lost time and memory. Recent winner of The Fence Modern Poets Series, it is easy to understand why this one was chosen among its stealthy competition. James Shea’s thoughts are carefully constructed so that they become valuable to anyone, not just devoted poetry followers or even those who craft words themselves. Certain lines are so effectual and familiar—especially to those who question every iota, including their own flecks in and of the world—that Shea lets them stand alone: “Here, place me wherever.” Perhaps more guarded than their surrounding clusters, perhaps not, lines such as this one press the reader to denounce previous conclusions or reject the roles of others around them. Or: maybe this line refers to the collective sentiment of our spent generation… taking whatever job or role we can. There’s little room to be picky in an era similar to last century’s stifling Depression; there’s little room left after excessive technological spews, media binges, flagrant consumerism.

Thirty-one sensitive poems ranging from the unassuming “Poem” (”I was sad I was not the young boy who passed me each day the way water carries a ship…”) to the morose, filmic vignettes of “Dream Trial” often require a double-take:


The stagecoach resembles a teahouse
in which I’ve fallen asleep. The stagecoach
overturned in the canyon. Horses on their sides
crying out. Echoing back and forth inside the ravine.
Morning but the sun is not out.
The driver dead. A little girl survives.
She’s not sure where to go. She doesn’t know the canyon.
She stays near the body. Charged with questions.



I burn my house and mostly
the people in it. Others watch
so I pass the matches around.

Not strictly subjective but not objective either, these creative islands float in between two states, somewhat ubiquitous. Words push and tug the reader, just as much as they might have yanked the original one experiencing a moment (”I can’t imagine anything anymore. I feel like there are cameras on me, clicking while I eat and sleep”). Can any of us imagine living in an uninvaded milieu today? Who manages to escape self-consciousness and surveillance, and if so, how? Is it difficult to accept that the notion of a genius or harbinger of uncharted originality is now obsolete? But Shea emphasizes in “Stoic Wreck,” Ideally, you want to become shoreless. Talent or no talent, most of us struggle to be part of something larger than ourselves, while simultaneously wishing to be left alone.

Many of Shea’s lines are sharpened by their selective intimacy—the kinds of thoughts that one has while successfully living a very public, social life whilst also cultivating a parallel universe of solo-observations, notations, philosophical oddities left to be heard by the original thinker only until these gems are lassoed by Shea (”I took a train and when the doors slid open I felt the wind. Would I have to live again tomorrow?”). Does anyone need to live after one feels and sees the beauty of life? How many times must we see this beauty to be full? Or is this beauty the one narcotic that we share, infinitely search for and crave, despite our differences?

Shea’s style is mysterious, expectant, questioning, and accessible though not always comfortable. He writes:

Often two people must separate to reveal they are inseparable. In a world that we are told is getting smaller with improving technologies, the actual physical distance of being apart for those who love or need or want another cannot be replaced by the click-clacking of a keyboard or the sound of a voice over air waves. This is felt and known by those who have ever been removed from an attachment either deliberately or by an external force at work or play. Yet, no one likes to feel or think about these distances.

Maybe Shea believes that writing through such a distance can help one overcome its painful verité. More than one of Shea’s poems in this collection is linked to a recurring dream or fantastical alternatives and if they are not, they beg us to contemplate our own divisions between truth and diversion, the sleepers and the awake, the active and passive markers that we call humans.To see the review in context, click here.

Johannes Heldén, “The Exploding Book”

Johannes Heldén
Johannes Heldén, Clouds, 2017.

As one enters the space temporarily designated for Swedish artist and poet Johannes Heldén’s The Exploding Book at Konstakademin’s in Stockholm, one detects that Heldén is receptive to nuance; each creative gesture confirms his dedication to both text and image, expressed with equitable consideration. More »

Malin Gabriella Nordin, “Floating from Within”

Malin Gabriella Nordin, Veil of Dreams, 2017. Image: Gallery Steinsland Berliner.

Stockholm-based artist Malin Gabriella Nordin is one of many Swedish women artists who resort to the basics – or perhaps the old ways, meaning they’re not particularly interested in the digital. More »

“Survival Kit 9”

Andris Eglītis, Laboratory of Poetic Research, 2017. Image: Jacquelyn Davis.

The 9th edition of Survival Kit is orchestrated by a small team of Baltic and Scandinavian curators: Jonatan Habib Engqvist, Solvita Krese and Inga Lāce. All possess a background in organizing independently and within the confines of institutions, which may be their strong point—their fluidity. More »

The 9th Momentum Biennial

Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Image: Momentum 9.

Momentum 9, taking place in the industrial town of Moss, Norway, is being curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe, and Jón B.K. Ransu, who together represent the Scandinavian region. With this biennial’s focus on ‘alienation’, the curators joined forces to determine how alien processes and entities are infused in our lives through technological, ecological and social transformations. More »

Klas Eriksson, “Vet din mamma var du e?”

Klas Eriksson
Klas Eriksson, Evidence of Patchwork, 2017. Image: Göteborgs Konsthall.

Swedish artist Klas Eriksson has developed a practice rooted in examining subcultures via works in public spaces and spontaneous performances. With an interest in how power flows and how crowds function, the artist attempts to unpack sociopolitical dynamics using playful tactics. More »

Lovisa Ringborg, “Night Remains”

Lovisa Ringborg
Lovisa Ringborg, Fountain, 2017. Image: Cecilia Hillström Gallery.

In Lovisa Ringborg’s second exhibition at this gallery, the artist upholds the argument that displaying a set of harmonious works can be more potent than a plethora of free-floating entities. More »

Przemek Pyszczek, “1989”

Przemek Pyszczek
Przemek Pyszczek, Public Relief No 6, 2016. Image: Gallery Belenius.

Polish-born, Canadian-raised, Berlin-based artist Przemek Pyszczek displays new works which are primarily sculptural and mixed media, with stints into collage. More »

Ulf Rollof, “Kleptomaniac”

Ulf Rollof
Ulf Rollof, Hungry Stranded, 2016. Image: CFHILL.

Sequestered above the restaurant Nosh & Chow in Stockholm (designed by Barcelona-based Lázaro Rosa-Violán), renowned Swedish artist Ulf Rollof’s current solo exhibition is the last installment in a trilogy that began in Mexico City. More »


Magdalena Dziurlikowska, Corona Radiata, 2016. Image: Gotlands Konstmuseum.

Differentiating between public and private spheres can be challenging. This group exhibition focuses on how one might successfully share a subjective experience when most individuals are conditioned to distance themselves from others. More »