There was an obvious first question raised by this densely packed show at Mostyn: ‘What is an Anathemata?’ Notes reveal it to mean a solemn blaming from the church.
To be met with an anathemata results in excommunication. And this show gathers three writers who were famous outsiders and a fourth known mostly to poetry insiders.
Antonin Artaud, Sarah Kane and Pierre Guyotat have, between them, written some of the most visceral, confrontational and seditious texts in modern European literature.
David Jones, on the other hands, a scholarly poet of Welsh origins, is easier to introduce to polite society. But like his peers Joyce and Elliot, he leaves polite society a little confused.
These four figures are assembled as if in a museum. Vitrines contain a football strip, spell-letters burnt and scanned, and reproduction etchings that contrast the bucolic with the horrific.
Presented in response are four contemporary artists: Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak, James Richards, and Paul-Alexandre Islas. Their work appears on slideshow and monitors.
The slides are arresting: sensuous x-rays which, by their silver veneer, look to belong to the world of early photography. Even in this present, Anathemata comes to us from the past.
Curator Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, who put this show together with collaborative partner Charles Teyssou, tells me that the guiding principle for their rich selection was the Epic genre.
All four historic writers conjure up epic myth – be it ancient, folkloric, or local to Wales – as a way to create a space for the sacred in the wake of the cataclysms of the twentieth century.
In the case of playwright Sarah Kane, she evoked a myth of gods fighting for possession of the sun, embodied here, on a third monitor screen, in an archived FA cup football game.
On this occasion in 1996, Manchester United beat Chelsea to gain possession of the sun. The epic heroes who claimed goals were Andy Cole and David Beckham.
Beckham would receive his own anathemata after a sending off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Imagine if, like Artaud, he had seen out his days an asylum.
Anathemata is on display at Mostyn, Llandudno, until February 6 2022. See gallery website for more details.