While Brent Hayes Edwards is primarily known as a scholar, translator, and editor, he has had a longtime practice of making handmade paper collages, which started to gain attention when he began posting scans to his Instagram page during the first months of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

For this online exhibition, a small series of his “quarantine collages” is interwoven with a series of poems composed for the occasion, adding new layers of implication and visual counterpoint. The texts suggest a theory of collage Edwards calls “prevenance”: a practice that seems to bend and reshape time in the way it recombines print artifacts from different historical sources and moments. At the same time, as collages themselves — poems comprised of fragmentary quotations clipped from a wide range of sources — the texts take that practice into another realm. Yet another medium emerges in the interstices between text and image with Edwards’s audio recordings of some of the texts (as well as some texts not provided visually) amplifying both the lyricism of the poems and the delicacy of the visual constructions. This suggest that for Edwards, the contrapuntal aesthetics of collage is above all a matter of achieving a certain sound.


Brent Hayes Edwards is a writer, scholar, and translator who teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His books include The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (2003) and Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination (2017), as well as his translation of Michel Leiris’s monumental 1934 classic, Phantom Africa (2017). Edwards was a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020.