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Kurt Vonnegut Centenary Celebration

Friday, November 11


Plymouth artists celebrate legendary author Kurt Vonnegut’s 100th birthday with a body of work inspired by his 14 novels.

Friday 11 November 2022, 7-11PM

• The exhibition will be on view at Leadworks, Plymouth, UK on Friday 11th November 2022, the anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut’s 100th birthday

• It will show a collection of poetry, art, music and film by The Plymouth Vonnegut Collective, celebrating and taking inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut’s novels.

This November, on the anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut’s 100th birthday, PVC will present ‘Kurt Vonnegut, Centenary Celebration’. An exhibition featuring poetry, art, music and film inspired by the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.

The Plymouth Vonnegut Collective (PVC) began as a simple bookclub with the ambition of reading and then discussing each of Kurt Vonnegut’s 14 novels in order of publication. The first meeting took place on Monday 7th October 2019 when 1952’s Player Piano was discussed. The last bookclub for Kurt’s final novel, 1997’s Timequake, occurred 18th May 2022. In between these meetings, the schedule of which was often skewed by world events, members of the PVC spent time working alone and collectively on illustration, poetry, photography, music and video inspired by the novels read and the discussions had. Kurt Vonnegut died at the age of 84 in 2007, 11th November 2022 would have been his 100th birthday. This centenary feels worthy of celebration. Vonnegut’s fantastic works and their joint consumption have resulted in a thought provoking collection of creative output and cemented friendships new and old. The Plymouth Vonnegut Collective hope you’ll join them for this one-off event. ‘Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt’.

This unique experience will showcase an eclectic collection of work by members of the PVC. Drummer, musician and founder of the PVC, Tim Langsford has curated a music-and-video response to each of Vonnegut’s 14 novels. The dynamic body of work spans many genres, from ‘Mother Night’, a punk tune clocking in at just over a minute, with a chase-style video shot on an old camcorder, to ‘God Bless You, Mr Rosewater’, which uses recording of PVC members discussing the novel as its top line, set to a creeping waltz-time instrumental and a video utilising candid photography captured during the life-span of the bookclub. There is much collaboration in the musical performances, most notably from PVC member Jon Fazal who co-wrote a number of the songs and provides lead vocal and instrumental input across the project.

Designer and illustrator Alicia Raitt re-imagines all 14 of Vonnegut’s book-covers. Each design aims to capture the balance between beauty and despair, which underpins his writing. Zombie-like characters reflect Vonnegut’s sardonic worldview and darkly-humorous commentary on American culture. Some are approached conceptually, ‘Player Piano’ explores how automation impacts humanity’s sense of purpose. ‘The Sirens of Titan’ and ‘God Bless You, Mr Rosewater’ are inspired by specific snapshots of plot and character. Stylistic consistency is established using a design system inspired by the classic 1960’s Marber grid with typography influenced by some of Vonnegut’s most iconic early covers. This fixed typographic approach leaves the individual illustrations to tell the story.

Writer Cate Taylor has crafted poems which seek to give a voice to Vonnegut’s often underdeveloped female characters. Set to soundscapes composed by record producer Peter Miles, the recordings have an eerie quality which amplify the work’s exploration of loneliness.

Peter chose to explore Kurt’s work through black and white film photography rather than music. Dissatisfied with his initial experiments, Peter drew his focus to the personal relationships forged within the PVC, combining traditional portraiture with chaotic multiple exposure techniques to produce an intriguing collection of images hand printed using analog darkroom processes.

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