231 21st Street
Words to Let
Curator: Jaclyn Little
House: 231 N 21st Street
House photographer: Kelsey McClellan
House provided by: Homeport

Participating writers:

Nikki Cohoon
Matthew Flegle
Joseph Grande
Nathan Moore
Brad Pauquette
James Payne
Jack Ramunni
Charles Smith
Hannah Stephenson
Cassandra Troyan

Words to Let features the work of ten local and international writers and artists who have responded to the property of 231 N 21st Street through the form of text. The artists range from poets to video artists, traditional creative writers to sculptors. The only stipulation for this exhibition was that the main focus of the work be text driven.

Throughout the centuries, the relationship between humans and houses has been a consistent marker in literature. Often, the house becomes a focal point for readers, allowing characters to act through it, or serving as a source of spatial and temporal reference. At the forefront of the influence for Words to Let are those stories where the house not only affects the characters’ actions or overall mood, but entirely governs the narrative’s course, becoming a character in its own right: stories akin to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher or Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.

In these stories, the houses have purposes and memories in their own right; so too does 231 21st Street. Here stands a house that was at one point a home, abandoned long ago, long enough that its memory has likely faded in any who knew it, or, even likelier, has been erased completely with their passing. In this sense, Words to Let investigates those memories that linger beyond the home and become a part of the house, using text as the illumination to bridge memory with action.

The artists, too, react to the house as a property status, a governmental failure of sorts; in its past, the house was once surrendered, but today has been given new life through both Words to Let and its forthcoming rehabilitation. In these reactions, the text becomes political, inquisitive of the foreclosure process and the opportunities that are raised within these housing circumstances.

The outcome of the artists’ reactions are polarized; some respond with cynicism or melancholy, while others view the house with optimism and ambition. The disparity in individual perceptions serves as a mirror to the complicated consideration of the role of the house and the coinciding responsibility of the government and family to maintain or destroy it.

The pieces will be captured in text, photography, and video form and later imprinted into a catalog, tentatively set to release in late May.