- Joyce Smithy:A Curated Review of Joyce in Visual Art, Music, and Performance
A panorama is sketched out, an anthology of artistic inspiration, a multifarious comment on Joyce. But more than that. The radiation … has a wider and more lasting effect than the sum total of our critical, scholarly comments and interpretations.Fritz Senn1
The James Joyce Quarterly’s initiative to list works of visual art, performance, and music that reference James Joyce is necessary at a time when artists often view their work as an analytical practice. They interpret their sources as much as scholars do—and even, at times, are as well informed—and they do not suffer from the pending accusation of being epigones. Since Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes began in 2004 to chart that field, collect material, and attempt an interpretive survey in both book and exhibition form, much has happened. Artists have created new work in abundance; Joyce conferences have seen panels on matters visual; musical and performative have proliferated; and art history has developed theories about the (social and political) efficacy of creative work in different ways. This new context arguably suits Joyce better than what existed previously, but there is also greater hostility towards artistic work among populist administrations the world over. One may or may not agree with Fritz Senn’s statement about the efficacy of art that responds to Joyce; the case for making such (interpretive) work available to Joyce scholars and students, however, is greater than ever.
There are some caveats to be mentioned and parameters to be set. Our ambition is to feature Joyce-related art year by year, beginning now with 2015. As far as books are concerned, there is always a clear publication date, and bibliographies are available to locate each text. Artworks are also frequently dated, but they may remain in the artist’s studio or notebook for decades until they are shown or performed. Current exhibitions and performances will play a major role in what we discover. Searchable reviews are few and far between. There is also some catching up to do in terms of central artistic positions with a connection to Joyce since 2004 (and where music, performance, or oversights are concerned from before that)—ideally where there is a current reason to remember the work. [End Page 181]
Joyce was not averse to light-hearted entertainment, and neither are we as his exegetes. In order for a work to make a contribution to the interpretation of Joyce and to the connection of Joyce to art/music/performance history, however, it is necessary to ascertain a level of ambition in the work that at least gestures towards that with which Joyce pursued his practice. Hence, t-shirts portraying round glasses, mug designs, or other creations of the tribute industry will not usually feature here.
The boundaries of “art” are also difficult to ascertain. Joyce himself crossed genre boundaries as do artists responding to him. Not all exhibitions with a Joycean theme are relevant here: library shows with manuscripts and memorabilia, where a portrait also happens to be displayed will not fall under our remit. Conceptual writing, however, which “lives” in the gallery space, despite taking the shape of books and texts, will. Video art also overlaps with mainstream film. Popular culture is well served by Joyce scholars proper, and while films and theater adaptations at times fall under the auspices of literary scholarship, these areas are not systematically included elsewhere and considerably exceed the realm of the literary. Performance art is very much a part of the task we are setting for ourselves, as are works that do not at first sight seem to have a Joycean link. It was a conclusion of Joyce in Art that the writer’s legacy is particularly strong—and the effect lasting, as Fritz Senn would say—when there is a faithful/unfaithful artistic response, an independent, even questioning, attitude, leading to work that updates, extends, and finds new contexts as well as audiences.2
The Joyce community will not, we hope, expect clear boundaries, especially at a time when all art forms (and ways...