Beyond Words presents the idea of freedom as part of a process of public dialogue, ongoing struggle, a rejection of the proprietary understanding of art and language, and a celebration of the challenges that artists can make to the status quo. For each of the commissioned artists, the opportunity to explore existing freedoms, those in jeopardy, or those yet to be achieved, has been set in relation to the reverberations located throughout the history of Hull. Its libraries and archives have provided material and inspiration for these works, and historical moments associated with the port city resonate throughout the publications. The struggles associated with freedom of movement, migration, asylum and detention, housing, slavery and emancipation, children’s rights, and the anti-apartheid movement, are themes that unfold through the pages of these publications.
Beyond Words at WISE comprises a reading room showing the full collection of artists’ publications together in one place for the first time, and it also marks the final publication for the series by Ruth Ewan who has brought Twenty-Nine Thousand Nights: A Communist Life the unpublished autobiography of Nan Berger to life through archival research in libraries including the Liberty Archive at the Hull History Centre. Material from Nan Berger archives is shown, together with films by Helen Cammock and Hannah Dawn Henderson that were made in response to their library residencies, as well as a selection of other Book Works titles.