Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
George Brecht - events & performances
1959. For single or multiple performance. A source of dripping water and an empty vessel are arranged so that the water falls into the vessel.
1959. Second Version. Dripping.
1959. Fluxversion 1. Performer on a ladder pours water from a pitcher very slowly down into the bell of a French horn or tuba held in playing position by a second performer at floor level.
Performed in 2002 by Ben Patterson. Patterson wrote in the liner notes: "Recently, as I was preparing a concert of classic Fluxus works, I decided to re-examine the original scores, rather than rely on my memory of preformances of the traditional interpretations of these works. Thus, I discovered that George Brechts original instructions for Drip Music allowed for both a single source or multiple sources of dripping water. Remembering Georges first career as a chemist, employing laboratory equipment to produce multiple, dripping sources seemed appropriate. A device was constructed including 3 gerbil water bottles suspended from metal rods and a piece of molded plastic packaging, amplified with contact microphone. Only micro adjustments were made to provide differing drip frequencies. No electro-acoustic manipulations or editorial tricks." [source: Alfa Marghen]
On CD-Rom together with '370 Flies' (2003, Ben Patterson) edited by Alga Marghen. CDR edition limited to 200 signed copies. A reproduction of the Drip Music score is stamped on the back cover.
More images on Fluxorama 2001-2004.
SPANISH CARD PIECE FOR OBJECTS
1959-1960. From one to twenty-four performers are arranged within view of each other. Each has before him a stopwatch and a set of objects of four types, corresponding to the four suits of Spanish cards: swords, clubs, cups, and coins / One performer, as dealer, shuffles a deck of Spanish cards (which are numbered 1-12 in each suit), and deals them in pairs to all performers, each performer arranging his pairs, face up, in front of him / At a sign from the dealer, each performer starts his stopwatch, and, interpreting the rank of the first card in each pair as the number of sounds to be made, and the rank of the second card in each pair as the number of consecutive five-second intervals within which that number of sounds is to be freely arranged, acts with an object corresponding to the suit of the first card in each pair upon an object corresponding to the suit of the second card in that pair / When every performer has used all his pairs of cards, the piece ends.
COMB MUSIC (COMB EVENT)
1959-1962. For a single or multiple performance. A comb is held by its spine in one hand, either free or resting on an object. The thumb or a finger on the other hand is held with its tip against the end prong of a comb, with the edge of the nail overlapping the end of a prong. The finger is slowly and uniformly moved so that the prong is inevitably released, and the nail engages the next prong. This action is repeated until each prong has been used.
In 1988 performed by John Armleder, engineered by Brenda Hutchinson at Studio PASS, NY (:05). This event was recorded on cassette (Tellus #21). See UbuWeb.
CANDLE PIECE FOR RADIOS
1960. See Arte Sonore.
CARD PIECE FOR VOICE
1960. See Arte Sonore.
MOTOR VEHICLE SUNDOWN
1960. Motor Vehicle Sundown is a verbal instruction piece scored for any number of motor vehicles arranged outdoors. For each vehicle, 22 auditory and visual events and 22 pauses are written onto randomly shuffled instruction cards. Beside 'pause', the events include: Headlights on and off, Parking lights on and off, sound horn, sound siren, sound bell(s), accelerate motor, radio on and off, strike window with knuckles, open or close door (quickly, with moderate speed, slowly), open or close engine hood, operate special equipment (carousels, ladders, fire hoses with truck-contained pumps and water supply), operate special lights (truck-body, safety, signal, warning, signs, displays). At sundown '(relatively dark/open area incident light 2 foot-candles or less)', the performers arrive at the same time, seat themselves in the cars and start their engines at approximately the same time. They follow the instructions, substituting equipment for that which they do not have, and turn off their engines when they are finished.
1961. To occur in a railway station. A time table is obtained. A tabulated time indication is interpreted in minutes and seconds. This determines the duration of the event.
1961. Exit. See scorecard UbuWeb.
1961. Fluxversion 1. The audience is instructed to leave the theater.
1961. See scorecard UbuWeb.
1961. Five piano pieces, any number of which may be played in succession, simultaneously, in any order and combination, with one another or with other pieces.
The piano seat is tilted on its base and brought to rest against a part of the piano.
"Incidental Music, Part 2. Wooden blocks: A single block is placed inside the piano / A block is placed upon this block, then a third upon the second, and so forth, singly, until at least one block falls from the column.". A registration is made by Larry Miller in 1979, as part of his video 'Flux Concert'. See Electronic Arts Intermix.
Photographing the piano situation.
Three dried peas or beans are dropped, one after another, onto the keyboard. Each such seed remaining on the keyboard is attached to the key or keys nearest it with a single piece of pressure-sensitive tape.
The piano seat is suitably arranged and the performer seats himself.
1961. Preparing / Empty vessel.
1961. Fluxversion 1. Distill tea in a still.
1961. Red / Green.
TWO ELIMINATION EVENTS
1961. Empty vessel / Empty vessel.
1961. Consider an object / Call what is not the object 'other' / Exercise: Add to the object, from the 'other', another object, to form a new object and a new 'other' / Repeat until there is no more 'other' / Exercise: Take a part from the object and add it to the 'other', to form a new object and a new 'other' / Repeat until there is no more object.
TWO VEHICLE EVENTS
1961. Start / Stop.
THREE AQUEOUS EVENTS
1961. See scorecard UbuWeb.
THREE GAP EVENTS
THREE TELEPHONE EVENTS
1961. When the telephone rings, it is allowed to continue ringing until it stops / When the telephone rings, the receiver is lifted, then replaced / When the telephone rings, it is answered.
THREE LAMP EVENTS
1961. On.Off. / Lamp / Off.On.
THREE WINDOW EVENTS
1961. Opening a closed window / Closing an open window.
THREE BROOM EVENTS
1961. Broom / Sweeping / Broom sweepings.
THREE YELLOW EVENTS
1961. 1. Yellow yellow yellow / 2. Yellow loud / 3. red.
1961. Fluxversion 1. Three yellow slides are projected on a screen / Pause / One yellow slide is projected and then the projector falls down on the floor as the slide is removed / After the projector is returned to its place, a red slide is projected.
1961. Arrange to observe a sign indicating direction of travel / Travel in the indicated direction / Travel in another direction.
1961. Turn on a radio / At the first sound, turn it off.
1961. See Arte Sonore.
NO SMOKING EVENT
1961. Arrange to observe a NO SMOKING sign / Smoking / No smoking.
1961. Eating with / Between two breaths / Sleep / Wet hand / Several words.
1962. Handwritten card with 'KEYHOLE' and beneath 'Through either side / One event'.
1962. A vase of flowers on a piano.
1962. Three Piano Pieces. Standing / Sitting / Walking.
SOLO FOR WIND INSTRUMENT
1962. [Putting it down].
1962. Disassembling / Assembling.
1962. Fluxversion 1. The piece is announced / Performer enters stage with an instrument case / places it on a stand / opens it and pulls out a trumpet / realizes the mistake / puts it quickly back in the case and exits.
SOLO FOR VIOLIN, VIOLA OR CONTRABAS
1962. Shaking hands.
CONCERT FOR CLARINET
1962. Fluxversion 1. Clarinet is suspended by a string tied to its center so that it holds it in a horizontal position about 6 inches above the performer's mouth / Performer attempts to play a note without using his hands / He should do this either by swinging the reed end down or jumping up to it and catching the reed with his mouth.
1962. Fluxvariation 2. A clarinet is positioned upright on the floor / Performer with a fishing pole, sitting at a distance of a few feet should attempt to hook, lift and bring to his mouth the reed end of the clarinet.
CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA
1962. Fluxversion 1. Orchestra members exchange their instruments.
1962. Fluxversion 2. Orchestra members exchange their scores.
1962. Fluxversion 3. The orchestra is divided into two teams, winds and strings, sitting in opposing rows / Wind instruments must be prepared so as to be able to shoot out peas. This can be accomplished by inserting a long, narrow tube into wind instruments. String instruments are strung with rubber bands which are used to shoot paper missiles / Performers must hit a performer on the opposite team with a missile / A performer hit three times must leave the stage / Missiles are exchanged until all performers on one side are gone.
Conductor acts as referee.
1962. A smooth linear transition from white noise to sinus wave tone is broadcast. Title is announced at beginning and at end, but at end, title is announced by a tape played backward. Recorded 1962 with James Tenney and George Maciunas.
Available on cassette Tellus #24 (The Audio Cassette Magazine) Special edition: 'Flux-tellus' (1990). For excerpts see UbuWeb.
1962. Through a hole.
1962. Fluxversion 1. Performers position themselves behind a full size photo of another orchestra and insert arms through holes cut in the photo at the shoulders of the photographic musicians / Performers may hold instruments in the conventional way and attempt to play an old favorite / In case of wind instruments, holes must be cut at mouths of photographic musicians.
1962. Fluxversion 1. Thick score books are positioned on music stands in front of the orchestra members / As soon as the conductor begins to turn the pages of his book, orchestra members start turning theirs / The books are leafed through either at different rates of speed or same rate of speed, but all are turned to the last page.
1964. at three / from the tree / all night / at home / on the floor / the yellow ball / in the water.
1964. Fluxversion 1. [On the floor]. Orchestra members sit down on the very forward edge of the chair and hold instruments in ready position / Upon signal from the conductor, all players slide forward and fall smoothly off their chairs in unison.
OCTET FOR WINDS
1964. Equal number of performers seat themselves opposite each other. A large pan of water is placed between the two groups and a toy sailboat is placed on the water. Performers blow their wind instruments at the sail of the boat pushing it to the opposing group. Both groups try to blow the boat away from themselves and toward the other group. If possible, all performers should play some popular tune while blowing on the sail. Piece ends when the boat reaches one end or the other of the pan.
FOR A DRUMMER
(For Eric) 1966. Drum on something you have never drummed on before / Drum with something you have never drummed with before.
1966. Fluxversion 1. Performer drums with drum sticks or drum brushes over the surface of wet mud or thick glue until brushes or sticks get stuck and can't be lifted.
1966. Fluxversion 2. Performer drums with sticks over a leaking feather pillow making the feathers escape the pillow.
1966. Fluxversion 3. Performer drums over drum with 2 ends of slightly leaky water hose.
1966. Fluxversion 4. Performer drums over drum with rolled newspapers until the rolls disintegrate.
1966. Fluxversion 5. Performer dribbles a ping-pong ball between a hand-held racket and drum skin.
1966. Fluxversion 6. Performer drums with mallets or hammers on a helmet worn by another performer.
1966. Fluxversion 7. Performer drums with brushes inside a vessel filled with cream until cream is thick.
1966. I. before hearing / II. hearing / III. after hearing.
1966. The music of dreams / dream music. Second version: dream.
1966. Fluxversion 2. Second version: dream. Event Score / Arrange or discover an event / Score and then realize it.
The artistic career of George Brecht (New York 1926) began in the late fifties, while he was working as a research chemist in New Jersey. This dual situation enabled him to employ scientific models of the time to reflect upon experience, and to use art a means to represent his thoughts. In 1956-1957, he wrote a reference work entitled Chance Imagery, a systematic investigation of the role of chance in the 20th century in the fields of science and avant-garde art. The piece revealed his respect for Dadaist and surrealist projects as well as for the more complex aspects of the work of Marcel Duchamp, whom he considered the embodiment of the 'artist-researcher'. At the same time he initiated a series of experiments he called 'Chance Paintings', randomly staining bed sheets with a clearly anti-pictorial, anti-representative intent. Brecht referred to these early attempts to convert time and chance into the basis of his work as a kind of 'corrected abstract expressionism'. In this period, which coincided with the death of Jackson Pollock, he struck up relationships with artists imparting classes at Rutgers University, in particular Allan Kaprow and Robert Watts with whom he co-signed a text (A multi-dimension project, 1957). The piece was an attempt overcome and go beyond the huge influence exerted at that time by abstract expressionism, in pursuit of a form of advanced art, radical conceptual practices and multimedia.
Brecht’s closeness to John Cage, with whom he shared an interest for Oriental thinking, led him to attend the classes on 'Experimental Composition' Cage was giving in New York. He encouraged Brecht to look for new mediums for his creative practice, such as the generation of a new (musical) score by means of procedures involving chance and the use of surrounding noise employed as sound ready-mades. Brecht was convinced that 'experience in every dimension' could be highlighted and encapsulated in the shape of verbal scores and, from there, developed the concept of 'event scores' with which he structured the space and time of his work, at the same time inviting the audience to participate in the piece.
This is precisely what happened in his first exhibition 'Toward Events: An Arrangement' (1959) in New York’s Reuben Gallery. These works brought together objects similar in shape to the vocabulary emerging from Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblage and combination, and from the 'collection' in the work by Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. One radical difference however lay in the insistent emphasis on the temporary and participatory nature inherent in the words 'event' and 'arrangement'. This quality alone reveals Cage’s impact and the originality with which Brecht had been able to broaden his sources. All of the objects made in the years immediately following this group of works included a variety of different types of scores. In some cases they would arise out of the creation of the object, while in others the object was discovered and Brecht subsequently wrote a score for it, thus highlighting the relationship between language and perception. Or, in the words of the artist, “ensuring that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.” The event-score was as much a critique of conventional artistic representation as it was a gesture of firm resistance against individual alienation, as may be appreciated in his last long-format score Motor Vehicle Sundown (Event) 1960 to John Cage. The score idea evolved between 1959 and 1962, until reaching the form of a simple white card bearing a few typed lines intended to propose an object, thought or action.
The early sixties was also a period in which Brecht developed his own critique of the institutional framework and mechanisms employed in the distribution of art. His first 'Chair Events' in 1961, in which he placed a real score beside an unaltered everyday object, constituted an expression of resistance to the galleries’ demands to present his work in a more formal way. From that moment on, the design of models distinct from conventional channels would become an integral part of his work. His 'Contingent Publications' were a postal address in New Jersey from which he distributed his scores and event objects. The 'Yam Festival', planned in conjunction with Robert Watts, was created as an alternative to the gallery system in that it produced art which could not be bought, spreading the notion of non-material artistic practice and at the same time organising representations or concerts of his most recent work, alongside that of other like-minded fellow artists.
This conceptual base was highly significant in the Fluxus context on the other side of the Atlantic, in which Brecht's event scores were widely known and performed. Fluxus began, in fact, in Wiesbaden (Germany) with a series of 'new music' concerts organised by George Maciunas using the radical scores created by Brecht and other artists in his circle, including Dick Higgins, Emmett Williams, Robert Filliou, Eric Andersen, Alison Knowles and Ben Vautier, among others. Maciunas published the scores and a series of transient works by this group of artists in the cheapest, most accessible form possible. The first of these multiple packages was a boxed collection of some 70 scores by Brecht, entitled Water Yam.
In 1964, shortly before travelling to Europe, Brecht proposed a new format for his work, that of the book in construction, which he called The Book of the Tumbler on Fire. According to Brecht, the title captured his perception of all his work as an 'investigation into the continuity of different things'. The core of the book is made up of an important series of events in the form of satin-covered boxes. Brecht continued producing these boxes until fairly recently and they make up, along with the chairs, paintings, scores and all kinds of diverse formats, chapters of his unending volume.
In 1965 Brecht travelled to Rome, and a little later to Villefranche-sur-mer to meet up with his friend and fellow Fluxus member, the artist Robert Filliou, and to found a 'permanent creation workshop', which they named 'La Cédille qui sourit' [=The Cedilla that Smiles]. This fertile period of joint activity may be explored in a separate section, which includes a little-known film made by the two artists.
George Brecht lives in Cologne.
Julia Robinson for Macba Barcelona.
The WORD in ART - From Futurism to the present day
Academic committee: Gabriella Belli, Achille Bonito Oliva, Andreas Hapkemeyer, Nicoletta Boschiero, Paola Pettenella, Melania Gazzotti, Daniela Ferrari, Julia Trolp, Giorgio Zanchetti.
The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with: Museion – Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bolzano
from 10th November 2007 to 6th April 2008
Written, drawn, declaimed, thought, cancelled, the word has played a fundamental role in the experimentation of the historical avant-garde movements, and its presence has accompanied every significant change in the artistic poetics of the 20th century.
From Futurism to Dadaism and Surrealism to Fluxus and the contemporary scene, the relationship between word and image has given life to the boldest expressive forms, making an original innovative contribution both to painting and to the more traditional forms of written, poetic, literary and artistic text.
With alternating fortune, now rare, now dominant, writing has appeared throughout 20th-century art, and even today the ambiguity of its relationship with the image is as never before at the centre of interest for young artists.
The word in art. 20th-century avant-garde. From Futurism to the present day seen through Mart’s collections, as is the tradition with the museum’s major exhibitions, explores this important relationship, opening up fresh avenues of enquiry into artistic work of the 20th century. Thanks to the presence of paintings of the highest quality, drawings, posters, manuscripts, literary works, collages and large installations, with over 800 works on show, many of which from Mart’s own holdings, but also from leading international museums and collections, the exhibition provides an overview of 20th century art from a new critical stance, based not on “fine painting” so much as on “the sublime hybrid of the cross-fertilisation of the languages of art”.
The exhibition is divided into 11 section, in line with a thematic and chronological itinerary, planned to enable further investigation and transverse comparisons with the panorama of contemporary art generally. Following a “prologue” focusing on the first avant-garde movements of the 20th century, the exhibition presents a rich documentation of all of 20th-century art, ending with the latest experiments which find in the relationship between word and the visual arts a fertile terrain for new approaches and interpretations of the contemporary aesthetic experience.
The project for the exhibition is the result of the work of a curatorial committee, coordinated by Giorgio Zanchetti. The catalogue, published by Skira, contains contributions from Gabriella Belli, Achille Bonito Oliva, Giorgio Zanchetti, Roberto Antolini, Silvia Bignami, Nicoletta Boschiero, Domenico Cammarota, Davide Colombo, Silvia Conta, Daniela Ferrari, Melania Gazzotti, Andreas Hapkemeyer, Antonello Negri, Aleksandra Obuchova, Julia Trolp and Federico Zanoner.
The exhibition opens with the first, important “literary experiments” of Futurism. From the celebrated parole in libertà (‘free words’) arising from the nocturnal poetic explosions of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Francesco Cangiullo and Giacomo Balla to the lyrical sounds of Fortunato Depero’s onomalingua and the pictorial compositions cross-fertilised with collages by Gino Severini, Ardengo Soffici and Carlo Carrà. Also on show will be a 1910 painting by Umberto Boccioni, "Gli uomini", an early example of the artist’s combination of painting and writing.
Dada and Surrealism
The inventions of Futurism in later years interweave with the linguistic and poetic Dadaist research of Raul Haussman, Francis Picabia and Tristan Tzara, and with the ready-mades and livres-objet of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. Kurt Schwitters is represented by a series of collages, in which paper comes into contact with the materials of the everyday to obtain a plastic, almost sculptural effect in the work. The Surrealist movement is present in the exhibition with some works by Andrè Masson, Maurice Henry, and with two drawings by René Magritte.
The Russian Avant-garde
In the 1920s, the form and composition of the word played an important role in the USSR, making use of the extraordinary work done with the Constructivist avant-garde in typographical propaganda. It is books and posters above all that became the medium most used for this experimentation. Among the most significant examples, it is worth recalling the artistic work contained in the texts of Vladimir Mayakowsky, of which 13 examples are on show in the exhibition, comprising magazines and books.
The form of the word
It is in these historical avant-garde movements that we need to find the roots of the investigation into the relationship between work and image which became firmly established in the second half of the 20th century. For the artists of concrete poetry, working in the 1950s, this investigation highlights the composition and visual possibilities offered by typographical characters, as is evident in the works of Carlo Belloli, Eugen Gomringer, Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Heinz Gappmayr, Arrigo Lora-Totino.
Revolution in words
For the representatives of visual poetry, active from 1963 onwards and linked by their adhesion to the neo-avant-garde literary movement “Gruppo 63”, the use of verbal and iconic elements originating from the mass media, conveys messages of political and social portent: works by Ketty La Rocca, Lucia Marcucci, Eugenio Miccini, Nanni Balestrini, Lamberto Pignotti, Sarenco, Ugo Carrega, Martino Oberto will be displayed, together with a photograph by Jochen Gerz of 1990.
Words at play
Very different in nature are the operations associated with the world of mass communications by the artists of New Dada, of Pop Art and of Nouveau Réalisme, and of the experience in Italy of such as Mimmo Rotella and Mario Schifano. Plus, from the 1980s, the contribution made by Jean Michel Basquiat.
From their explorations of the universe of logos and evergreen symbols in the history of world-wide consumerism – from the “combine paintings” of Robert Rauschenberg to Warhol’s series of Campbell Soups and Arman’s trash assemblages – arises what has been defined the social criticism reflecting on the false morality of contemporary man. The American artists were less ideologically committed, while the European ones were more politicised.
Word and action
The transnational artistic phenomenon of Fluxus (1961) confirms the interdisciplinary nature of the languages of art, which finds it maximum expression in the assemblage of materials and words, things and signs, able to intercept the experience of daily life in its incessant flow. Many results emerge from such a broad field of investigation: from the musical cross-fertilisations of John Cage and Giuseppe Chiari to the subtle irony of the phrases painted by Ben Vautier and on to the accumulations of materials by Dieter Roth and the strongly politically connoted work of Joseph Beuys.
Two works by the German artist are of particular interest: two blackboard made for his performance at Perugia in 1980, in the presence of Alberto Burri. The whole creation of the works can be followed at the exhibition thanks to a video documenting the event.
Of particular interest is the section in which word, writing and painting combine in a pure manifestation of the artist’s gesture, as in the works of Cy Twombly, in which the sign, writing and graffito are loaded with pictorial suggestions, and in those of Gastone Novelli, who possessed an innate sensibility for emotional painting-writing, guided by the rhythm of chromatic poetic connotations.
Word and thought
In Conceptual art, ever since the 1960s, the dialectic relationship with writing has played a fundamental role: art is no longer specific materiality but principally idea and thought. The creative action appropriates the practice of language, finding a full expression in the elaboration of ideas or in the enunciation of a method. Tautology, or the enunciation of “absolute truths”, by Joseph Kosuth and the expressive rigour of Lawrence Weiner compare with the irony of Piero Manzoni, with the poetic and political zeroing of Vincenzo Agnetti, and with the calembours of Bruce Naumann, as well as with the classification of signs and words by Alighiero Boetti and with the Picture/Readings of Barbara Kruger.
The room containing the three works of Giulio Paolini “Dove”, “Lo spazio” and “Qui” constitute a site-specific realisation. This space, planned in 1967, will for the first time be arranged by the artist in accordance with the original project. This section also includes a mural work by Robert Barry and a neon text by Maurizio Nannucci.
The international artistic movement of the 1970s, “narrative art”, combined photography and test, recording fragments of everyday life that actually happened or were merely imagined. The historic representatives of this current, such as Bill Beckley and Franco Vaccari, are compared in the exhibition with contemporary artists such as Sophie Calle. This last – who has represented France at the 2007 edition of the Biennale di Venezia – uses texts and photographs to recount experiences of her own or of others, playing with reality and the imagination.
The word denied
The idea of the word denied – absent although inferred, or illegible – constitutes a thread that runs throughout the varied setting of verbal and visual artistic work of the late 20th century.
The strong symbolic charge of the book has led to the result that many artists have chosen it to communicate the absence of possible narratives. The "Enciclopedia Treccani cancellata" by Emilio Isgrò will be for the first time reassembled since its presentation in 1970. This container par excellence of human knowledge is meticulously cancelled out in every part by Isgrò, with the exception of just a few words, which leap to the attention of the reader, suggesting personal interpretations.
For his part, Bruno Munari produced the "Libro illeggibile n° 12", (1951), one of his first. Created personally, the volume is made of paper of varying colour and thickness, cut by Munari, then glued and stitched, but it contains no written words.
Also present are nine "Scritture illeggibili di popoli sconosciuti", of 1975: immaginary ideograms executed on computer printouts, and created by imitating the graphic signs of Arabic and Chinese writing.
The bond between image and word seem all the stronger in contemporary artistic research.
The cross-fertilisation of genres expands in a transverse manner and affects every process of experimentation in today’s avant-garde movements, without barriers, just as occurred in the first half of the last century. The exhibition documents this rich chapter with a series of significant works, placing a multitude of very different artists’ experiences at the centre of the overview of the contemporary scene. For all of these artists, however, the word constitutes not a casual exercise, but a fundamental element of their very poetics: from Shirin Neshat, Ghada Amer, Thomas Hirschhorn, Raymond Pettibon and Moshekwa Langa, who use writing to highlight cultural and political problems; Tacita Dean who makes use of a poetic approach to evoke the dimension of memory and past; Tracey Emin disturbs the observer by using a shocking text to provoke emotions. On show too are three volumes of "Encyclopaedia Utopia", 1990, by Nedko Solakov, Golden Lion at the 2007 edition of the Biennale di Venezia, in which texts, drawings and photographs are ordered in accordance with an imaginary cataloguing process, combining fantasy and personal experiences.
Many of the works on show set up a dialogue with the exhibition spaces, as in the case of the 2005 work of Jenny Holzer and that of Joe Amrhein of 2002, or invite the visitor to interact with them, as in the case of the large installation produced for the Mart in 2006 by Douglas Gordon or the words “piercing” the screen by Jan Mančuška. Likewise the plays on words of Kay Rosen, and the ironic decalogue of the two Austrian artists, Fischli & Weiss, "How to work better", 1991-2007.
This particular work will appear in different zones of the Mart not destined for exhibitions: from the cafetteria to the lavatories, the garage and the offices. It constitutes a decalogue of “recommendations for working better” with the objective of suggesting an ambiguity between exhibition and working functions within a musuem.
The word also appeals to and fascinated the latest generations of artists. Using different approaches and methods, the word is the source of inspiration and protagonist of the work of Stefano Arienti, Micol Assaël, Monica Bonvicini, Alessandra Cassinelli, Chira Dynys, Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Paolo Gonzato, Scott King, Salvatore Licitra, Marzia Migliora, Sabrina Mezzaqui, Ottonella Mocellin, Sandrine Nicoletta, Nicola Pellegrini, Luca Quartana, Gaston Ramirez, Albrecht Schäfer, David Shringley, Vibeke Tandberg, Enzo Umbaca.
The word in art is an exhibition tying in with the emergence of renewed interest on the part of many European museums into the study of the relationship between art and writing.
In this respect, the Mart can boast of having been the first to have been chosen, back in the mid-1990s, as venue to preserve and showcase some of the most important collections in this sector.
The aim of the exhibition is thus to promote awareness of an extraordinary chapter in artistic creativity of the 20th century.
The word in art has been made possible thanks to the loans and donations of works and archives dedicated to verbal and visual research preserved in the Mart’s Archivio del ’900 (20th-Century Archive), in the permanent collections and in its specialised library. These last works have arrived at the museum thanks to the generous long-term loans from Paolo Della Grazia’s Archivio di Nuova Scrittura, from the Carlo Palli collection in Prato, from the Panza di Biumo collection, from the Bellora di Anna Spagna collection in Milan, from the Archivio Tullia Denza archive in Brescia, from the Fondo Sandretti of 20th-century Russian art, from the VAF-Stiftung and from the Sonnabend collection. There are other equally important loans from private collections, such as the group of works from the Calmarini collection, and from Italian and international museums.
The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with the Museion – Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bolzano
THE WORD IN ART. 20TH-CENTURY AVANT-GARDE. FROM FUTURISM TO THE PRESENT DAY SEEN THROUGH MART’S COLLECTIONS
MartRovereto - 10th November 2007 al 6th April 2008
Academic committee: Giorgio Zanchetti, coordinator, Gabriella Belli, Achille Bonito Oliva, Andreas Hapkemeyer, Nicoletta Boschiero, Paola Pettenella, Melania Gazzotti, Daniela Ferrari, Julia Trolp.
The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with: Museion – Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bolzano
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Saturday, January 12, 2008
INTERVIEW WITH EMMETT WILLIAMS
On the occasion of an extraordinary exhibition curated by Paul Schimmel over the past eight years at the Museum of Contemporary Art entitled "Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979" and the ancillary event called "Beyond the Pink" which brought performance artists from all over the world to Los Angeles, I had the great privilege of escorting Emmett Williams, the pre-eminent poet-performer known to many through Fluxus, but who has distinguished himself throughout Europe as a visionary poet, visual artist and performance artist for a week in February. During that time, I asked him if he would be willing to sit down and have a chat, and here it is on the eve of the publication of his book: Mr. Fluxus: A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas to be published in the U.S. by Thames & Hudson in May 1998.
I told him that he has been in my vocabulary for at least 25 years, but we never sat down and talked before this very day of Friday the 13th of February.
I asked him how he got involved in Fluxus.
It was because of receiving a letter one day in Darmstadt, where I was living, from La Monte Young and he was saying he had seen some of my writings and drawings in a German book called Movens (1959) and he wanted to know if he could use some of this material for a magazine they were preparing called Beatitude, and I said yes, and all things developed from there. I did have a letter from La Monte that there was this strange guy named Maciunas who was coming to Europe, trying to escape some bad debts, and that he would look me up and talk about performance and things like that. His letters to me are all in the Getty now because of the Jean Brown Collection. Suddenly, there came George Maciunas, and he had heard about my work, and the work of Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri, and Dieter Roth, who were all good friends of mine, and Jean Tingueley and so on and so on. Eventually, in September 1962, that was Wiesbaden and that was the beginning of Fluxus as performance festival. It was simply performance. And of course, there were 14 concerts in Wiesbaden and then Paris, and then Copenhagen (1962) and in early 1963 we went to Dusseldorf for a series of concerts and that was when Joseph Beuys joined the club.
What distinguished me was that I belonged to the European faction, because my friends were Europeans, and soon after Dusseldorf, George Maciunas went back to the United States and started the Fluxus thing in the United States. Alison and Dick had been visiting from Turkey and so that's how I got to know them in Wiesbaden. I remained in Europe, and Fluxus became something very important in Europe, much more so than in America, thanks to Beuys, Vostell, Ren≠ Block and other people who believed in Fluxus in a much more serious way than in the United States. These were very accomplished artists, and they were involved in Fluxus and people took note. They explained what Fluxus was, different from what I thought or what Dick thought, and it remains a very very European phenomenon. George was Lithuanian-born himself and had spent the first part of his life in Europe, shaped by these things. He was the "immigrant boy".
Was the transition in New York, in the heart of AbEx and Pop Art, the reason that Fluxus could not grab on with such competition.
No, no one called himself or herself a Fluxus artist in New York who could match a Vostell or a Beuys or a Kopke or others who remained in Europe and had an entirely different approach. People who made Fluxus created a glorious scene in Europe--Eric Anderson, Kopke, and we did not come out of nowhere, because we had been doing things. My Opera was first done in the 1950s, and so much of my work was done before Fluxus. I knew Vostell, Spoerri, Beuys, Filliou, Ben Patterson and Nam June before there was a Fluxus. I remember meeting in Milano before Fluxus went to the Biennale in the early 1990s and Gino di Maggio asked, "How did Fluxus change your work and your life?" Oh, Ben Vautier said this happened and this happened, and I just said, I saw you Ben Vautier in London before Fluxus and you were doing the same things before Fluxus and after Fluxus. When George said, Let there be Fluxus, we didn't change our ways and do something else. He gave us a forum so that we could come together and do things.
Did you come together before Fluxus?
I was very close to Spoerri and Filliou. The first performance of Opera in 1959 was with Spoerri and Klaus Bremen and myself in the Keller Club in the Castle in Darmstadt. Daniel was very active in theater at the time, he comes from ballet--the poetry that has come to be identified with me as Fluxus was all there before. It was my work that many people regard as Fluxus work that La Monte saw and that caused Maciunas to phone me and say that I'm coming over to talk about Fluxus. So many of the Americans allegedly came out of John Cage's class. The only comparable thing in Europe was the summer courses in music outside of Darmstadt where I first met these Americans like Earl Brown and John Cage. I was more interested in those days in Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez-- whose ideas of notation changed the nature of my poetic work and gave me ideas of structuring my performances.
I was in Europe from 1949 - 1966 when I went to New York to become the Editor-in-Chief of the Something Else Press. My closest friendship there was with Ay-O, and we are more than brothers to this day. And there were others. And during the years when I taught at Cal Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and the Sabitas Girl's School in Massachusetts and at Mt. Holyoke and then the culminating teaching experience in the United States was at Harvard. Ann Noel and I had the finest time at Harvard. We had marvelous students, many friends, and we did not want to stay there forever, because it was far too comfortable. In 1980, I was invited to be a guest artist in the DAAD program in Berlin, and we went to Berlin and have been there ever since. Gary, our son, is now a composer studying in Canada, and Annie and I see our old friends who are still alive and with whom I collaborate: Spoerri, Hamilton and Roth. Al Hansen finally came to Europe, but he dropped dead recently. My friends and collaborators remain European. It is significant that the only prize I ever won was the first Hannah H ch prize, given to me by Berlin, and it was so funny for an American to get this. It made me feel very comfortable. This year, Vostell got the prize. It's very interesting that this marvelous award should go first to an American, and the next year to Vostell and it is for lifetime achievement in the Arts. I'd like to think that it was given to me in Berlin by Germans.
Berlin has been very good to you, recognized your merits, given you a great studio. It's very unusual for an American to be embraced so much by this German city.
It is really very nice, and I do this not as a Fluxus artist. When I have exhibitions, I do not say I am a Fluxus artist, I say it is my work. And that makes me very comfortable. And it's nice to outlive descriptive titles like that. There are not too many people who know about my background. They come to my shows and buy the work, because they like it.
The 30th year anniversary of Fluxus seemed to stimulate the interest in Fluxus with students, curators, and art historians. It was not only in history, but with actual performances, objects, and installations.
The beginning of the anniversary in 1982, and then in 1992 had international repercussions. But many people misunderstand what Fluxus artists complain about--that is, that the museums had ignored their work, but in the beginning there was no work, there was nothing to put on the wall and nothing to look at, so it wasn't until there came to be things by Fluxus artists to put on the wall that they came to see things on the wall. In fact, what distinguishes the US Fluxus from the European is that Fluxus USA began to make boxes, and we in Europe continued in the tradition of performance. We did participate in the box program, but we didn't do boxes exclusively.
But coming to the States in 1966 to become Editor-in-Chief of Something Else Press obviously attracted you.
Well, I would never have done it on my own, but the fact is that Dick Higgins knew the French edition of Anecdoted Topography of Chance of Daniel Spoerri, and I translated and re-anecdoted that book and Dick Higgins published it as a Something Else Press book and invited me to the United States to be his editor-in-chief, and passage was paid for this translation, and there is that connection. I had no intention to come to the US for a signing party. I came because to it was to help pay for the translation.
Two years ago, in London, Atlas Press brought out an absolutely staggering new version of The Anecdoted Topography of Chance, all reworked, so that except for Robert, and Topor presented a little introduction, and we all went to work and re-anecdoted the thing again--it is much thicker and more beautiful--and the British press just raved over it. They liked the first thing I had translated, but the Times Literary Supplement said this is the classic of its time--etc. And this time around, of course, the publisher used Fluxus. He said he personally felt that this was the most important Fluxus document ever published--From my point of view, I don't think so at all. And Daniel would certainly disagree with that, since he wasn't so hot about Fluxus when he first did that book, and the word doesn't even appear in the original book. Now it does, because it is inevitable and in the book, we debate that. Dieter Roth translated for the German edition of the book my anecdoted notation in German and re-anecdoted that, so the Dieter Roth German appears for the first time translated into English. Dieter didn't like Fluxus and didn't like George (from the Mr. Fluxus book) and Dieter has always been considered a Fluxus artist, and George Maciunas hoped and believed that he might be, but Dieter thoroughly rejected George's ideas of design, etc.
How did you pick up artists?
George said, we have this museum in Wiesbaden, let's do something. We have this church in Copenhagen and let's do something. Mind you, we paid our own way. Why did we pay our own way? Because nobody had a dime. George had a job and I had a job, but I was raising a family and we had real jobs in Germany working for the government. He was supporting Fluxus and his mother, and I was supporting my family. He paid for all of his boxes out of his own pocket. He didn't have a work ethic, because he didn't have a play ethic. It was all work.
Is Fluxus a movement?
It was enough of a movement so that Spoerri and Tingueley had a big argument about it, because Daniel and Tingueley and Yves Klein were Nouveau Realistes. When Daniel got involved in Fluxus, Tingueley, his best friend, told him to leave it alone--it's no good. You have to go in a straight line--that was Tingueley's warning. But Daniel said, I never go in a straight line, and participated in it. It didn't mean he was the great champion of Fluxus, but he joined it. As far as Christo and Jean-Claude, they were very friendly to Fluxus and proposed a thing for George, and their contribution to Mr. Fluxus was very sweet in the book. They remember him very kindly.
Then there are embarrassing things. Nam June talks about how Maciunas knew so and so and worked at Cooper Union, and George knew Oldenburg--so I wrote to Claes and asked him to tell me about his relationship with George. He answered that it wasn't like that. I have documentary proof that George and Claes didn't work together. I worked with Claes about the Store Days book in 1966, and I don't think we ever talked about Fluxus. Claes was teaching me all about Pop Art and the American scene which I had missed while I was in Europe. He did not talk about Fluxus at all.
When you were with Something Else Press, what was the distribution problems?
Dick and I tried to get a campus bookshop to get interested in the product, but they said they never got involved in the "vanity press" publications. Dick joined up with Aperture and the Small Press thing Michael Hoffman directed--and there was a meeting with the salesmen. I remember that I was so proud of the international success of a book I did with Hansjorg Mayer, Sweethearts, which Richard Hamilton loved and Duchamp loved it, and eventually Dick decided to publish it. He published it, and Duchamp was very happy to put the coeur volant on the cover. So I had to listen to a salesman, who said, well there was one book, Sweethearts, by Emmett Williams, you know it's printed back to front--how are you going to sell a book like that to a bookstore, you ought to burn the whole edition. This very thing of considering it printed back to front has generated an essay about that, placing me in a class with Jewish mystics by Jean Sellem at Lund He sent me the outline of his essay and I told him that he was convincing me! It's nice to know that the ambiguities are there to allow critics to re-interpret the book far from the intentions of the author.
What about your Anthology of Concrete Poetry?
I supposed I was the ideal person to do it, because I was doing that before I came to New York in 1966. I had published my first book of concrete poetry with Daniel Spoerri in 1958, and published quite widely, and I knew all the poets and they had my work and I had theirs. I had brought most of it to become the core of this book (1966-67) and this was seen in America widespread for the first time in that book. With 18,000 copies sold--quite an achievement for a small press. And in Budapest, so many people there had a copy of my book. I consider some of my best work is in the German language now which is not known to those who do not have the language facility.
For those you know you only as a "concrete poet", doesn't that seem a limited view of Emmett Williams?
I am a poet, visual artist and performer--and those objects are what sells. What I'm involved in now and for the next couple of years is a project of tongue- in- cheek history of post-studio art from 1960 to the present day (there are going to be 100 of them, and I've already done 75)--and 12 ceramic pieces in Verona--learning how to do ceramics--and two of those things are going to be made into tapestries in Pakistan. It was not my decision.
I did some fascinating prints a year ago with a genius in Hanover who does these extraordinary special effects things--and people said it's some of the best work I've ever done, but it's not really me, since he did them--but I hardly take credit for them. Annie and Gary always want to bring me up to date with these machines, but I do it my way.
We've made some trips to Africa, and I've made designs of the little people I make--and decided they should go on large wheels and shields--and so these were carved by natives in Kenya (not artists) and they are large and in such bad shape (transport, etc.) and it takes weeks and weeks to get them in shape in order to paint them, and so Annie and I are working on 25 of them. And it will be smashing when they're all done. The wood has to be dried, and then we have to plane it down.
When did you think about Mr. Fluxus? Was it a long-term project?
When I was in New York--after the death of George--I had been in Harvard and came down for a weekend. And Ay-o and I decided that wouldn't it be fun to do a book about George--the dozen important people in Fluxus who had been there--called The Book of George-because we saw that after the death of George, funny things were happening. Someone released a story that "I will be in charge of Fluxus"--others said, he was nothing. Two of my friends said well there is not very much to say about George--he's an overblown figure.
So I asked certain people to give five anecdotes about George Maciunas so that we could get to know him through the anecdotes that people remember him by--from Watts, Shiomi, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Ay-o, myself, about a dozen. We thought how to do this--Ay-o went to Japan and I to Europe, and we forgot the whole thing. I mentioned occasionally that Ay-o and I had been planning to do this, and Michele Verges said I'd publish it if you gave it to me.
I started working on it again 10 years later,trying to find people. It took about 10 years to get letters, manuscripts to me to get them all together--and then to bring it together. I wanted to do a book "from womb to tomb" in the words of other people--sometimes with anecdotes--the story of his life, of his death and how he was loved, hated and feared by all these people and their assessment of what he was--great or terrible. Out of the most devastating is that of Allan Kaprow, who zeroes in on the feud with Stockhausen.
And what about this Love-Hate situation with George Maciunas?
We were all kicked out--only two were not kicked out: Ken Friedman and Ben Vautier. We were all prima donnas--all kicked out. Vostell was never let in; George hated his guts. Beuys was never let in. George absolutely despised him, but Beuys loved him. George not only kicked me out--Kopke, Anderson our of Fluxus, but he denounced us to the Soviet press and to the world as fascist thugs--and this was a joke that Eric did: Eric was making a trip through Eastern countries and started to send letters and postcards from Moscow, etc. how we were performing Fluxus in various cities and George believed it, and we were dismissed.
Bici (Hendricks) has one of the most beautiful accounts of the dying. But it was only after he had died that we knew that it was "gossip" . We only renewed our friendship when Jean Brown brought George to an exhibition of mine at Mt. Holyoke-- and George said that maybe we can be friends again and gave me a beautiful name box--but I told him we had always been friends, but "you didn't believe it". But he never forgave Dick Higgins for Something Else Press.
There are those books which dictate Fluxus as defined only by George Maciunas. What is Mr. Fluxus about?
George does not have the last word in this book. There are some 70 people pro and con telling what they think Fluxus is and what Fluxus is not. This is not hero worship. 75% ended up in the garbage, and they could save it for their books, but not this one. And I told some contributors that I was returning stuff asking whether they could try again?
Ken ended by saying he hardly knew him. Ben Vautier loved George very much showing a maximal amount of respect for George with a poem that he wrote. Catalogs have served as amazing new data about Fluxus. Ren≠ Block's 1962 Wiesbaden Fluxus 1982 is still one of the best. The Fluxus in Germany catalog I believe is the best documentation and it's too bad it has not been translated.
Do you think that art history books in the future will give Fluxus its due?
I don't see how they can avoid Fluxus. the time hasn't quite come yet, but you have some first-rate historians such as Thomas Kellein whose small book on Fluxus published by Thames & Hudson has been translated into German, Japanese and English, and the English edition is now reprinted in a second edition.
And now that Mr. Fluxus is almost here?
Well, the jacket by Ay-O is definitely eye-catching. And I was very happy how the critics treated My Life in Fluxus with great seriousness. It was not a history of Fluxus at all, but was an attempt to show what one member of Fluxus did, what it was like to be part of Fluxus. In this regard, I had many arguments with Jon Hendricks, because he was basing the history of Fluxus on a collection that Gil Silverman was able to buy, which is not complete and not comprehensive.
Let's talk about Hanns Sohm for a minute.
Well, no Sohm, no Fluxus. The Hanns Sohm Archive was before Fluxus, and it's all there. Fluxus fits into a large and important archive. If you want Concrete Poetry, go there; if you want Ginsberg, Beats, go there. If you want Wallace Berman, go there. The Sohm Archive gives context to all movements. I used to enjoy going to Sohms' and staying there before the collection was sold to the Stuttgart Museum. He looks at the material first, then puts it into context. I send all my material to him at his home, before it ever gets to the museum. I had my Opera performed last summer in a Castle outside Stuttgart and it lasted four hours. Sohm was there. And he's there when you're short of cash; he'll buy something to keep you going. And the museum of Stuttgart is one of the jewels of Europe, and it's wonderful that the archive is there. My letters to George and to Daniel Spoerri are at the Getty now, and it's too bad they're not in Stuttgart.
And tell us what plans you have now.
Well, Mr. Fluxus has been translated into German, Lithuanian, Japanese and English. The German translation came out first, and it was from the English original. The English edition is larger, since it has more new material in it. And we have several Fluxus books by this one publishing house in England, Thames & Hudson , including the Fluxus show at the Tate. Ben Vautier and I have done a tape of our ICA performances in London. In March, I have been invited to Australia as President of the Museum in Lodz, Poland and I plan to work with the Aborigines, as well as doing performances in Melbourne. Perhaps I will also visit the Fluxus Collection in Queensland.
above copied from: http://colophon.com/umbrella/emmet.html
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Concrete Poetry and Conceptual Art: A Spectre at the Feast?
The fascination that language held (and still holds) for many artists associated with concrete poetry and conceptual art and to question the intentions of both movements towards language. Rather than trying to assert a visual correlation between Concrete Poetry and Conceptual Art, (which may only be symptomatic or coincidental anyway), it seems more important to try to discover any causal links that may exist to connect them.
Whilst written language is without doubt the largest common denominator connecting Concrete Poetry and Conceptual Art, the 'Spectre' at this particular feast is not a direct reference to the ghastly omnipresence of text as the unifying trait of two genres but to a suspicion that there may be other, less visible factors that intersect both movements.
Concrete poetry first emerged as a coherent movement during the 1950's and 1960's and its precepts were exemplified by a number of central figures who incorporated text as a visual element within geometric, symmetrical and occasionally pictorial arrangements. 1 The work of the early concrete poets manifested itself in a number of forms, as visual art, as written manifestos and to a lesser extent as performance and sound works. 2 One of the most influential of the first generation of visual poets was the Swiss artist Eugen Gomringer, who, in seminal compositions such as "Silencio"(1954) made bold use of blank page space in order to highlight its potential as a metaphor for the reader's contemplative silence. 3 The whiteness of the page in Gomringer's "Silencio" is interrupted by a regimented raft of text, the image/poem gives the impression of disrupted calm. The pattern of disturbance finds further verification in the printed insistence of the word "Silencio"and we are forced to speculate that "Silencio" might be construed as a remorseless and monotonous instruction to the reader. The text-image and page space in "Silencio" are intended to be mutually definitive, but as with many other concrete poems, the effect of text as image effectively seems to disconnect the act of reading from the narrative possibilities of language. 4 "Silencio"paid direct homage to Mallarmé's typographically complex book work "Un Coup de Dés / jamais n' abolira le Hasard" ("The Dice Throw / Will Never abrogate Chance" 1914).5< The typographical exaggeration of "Un Coup de Dés...." was a calculated attempt to force the viewer to encounter blank page space as a compositional element within an illusionistic picture plane. "Un Coup de Dés...."effectively reduced the legibility of the written word to that of a typographic pattern, text is marginalised to such an extent that the viewer is forced both literally and metaphorically to read between the lines. The layout and graphic overprinting of "Un Coup de Dés..." deliberately renders text illegible as naturalistic or figural narrative and this is confirmed by Mallarmé's description of the work as a constellation or shipwreck.
The obscured word patterns of "Un Coup...." resemble a series of histograms that correspond to the visual characteristics of language but wholly disrupts any possibility of reading as a means of accumulating information.. "Un Coup de Dés..."was probably one of the first modern poetic works to utilise blank page space as a visual metaphor for interpretive silence. Mallarmé described this spatial counterpoint as "espacement de la lecture", or a contemplative space for the reader. "Un Coup de Dés..." also effaced the distinction between pictorial representation and representations made in words. Linguistic conventions became transformed into aesthetic determinants and, more crucially, the symbolic status of language became subverted as its letter forms became pressed into service as decorative typographic motifs. Mallarmé's belief that text could be manipulated as a visual special effect ran contra to many sanctioned uses of language, either as an agent for the preservation of knowledge or as a tool for enlightenment. As if to reinforce the near-heretical nature of his claims against legibility, Mallarmé is alleged to have declared: "strictly speaking I envisage reading as a hopeless exercise." 6
The development of European visual poetry at this time was not unique, and the mid 1950's also witnessed the emergence of the Brazilian 'Noigandres' group of concrete poets. 7 The 'Noigandres' were distinct both conceptually and geographically from Gomringer's loosely affiliated 'Darmstadt Circle' 8 , and from 1955 onwards, the São Paolo based group published experimental works (dubbed Poesia Concreta by Haraldo de Campos) through the auspices of their own publication 'Invençao'. The work of the 'Noigandres' group followed a tendency of imitative naturalism derived from an earlier tradition of iconic figurative verse. This tradition is perhaps best exemplified in the "Calligrammes" of Guillaume Apollinaire. 9 The Calligrammes took the form of poems whose compositions visually echoed the meaning of the words within them, in examples such as "Il Pleut"(1916), words appear to cascade down the page like raindrops on a window pane. The lyrical richness and graphic flair of Apollinaire's work persuaded the founder members of the 'Noigandres', the de Campos brothers and Decio Pignatari, to consider the possibility of allowing the reader to encounter language in much the same way as one might experience natural phenomenon. 10
The Brazilian concrete poets were further distinguished from their European counterparts by a cohesive group identity and and by their work which concerned itself explicitly with social and political comment. Issues such as hunger and poverty were openly discussed in Haraldo de Campos' "Proem" and "Poem" from "Servidão de Passagem" (Transient Servitude) of 1961. Here, de Campos questions the necessity for poetry in circumstances of deprivation or hardship. Similarly in Pignatari's striking "Hombre, Hambre, Hembra" (Man, Hunger, Woman") of 1957 we are left in no doubt about the evident realism of the title's triangular equation, or of its far reaching implications. However, it would be inaccurate to portray the work of the Noigandres purely as social comment, and as they stated in their 'pilot plan for Concrete Poetry',11 the "ideogrammatic"picture-poem was intended as an appeal to/for non-verbal communication... and to primarily deal with communication about form, not messages".The concrete poets produced various manifestoes and protocols that were intended to characterise the production and attributes of concrete poetry, and in 1958, the group produced 'a pilot plan for Concrete Poetry', which embodied concrete poetry as: "the tension of things-words in space-time".13 An example of this can be seen in works such "Aboio, (the Cry of the Brazilian Cowboy)" by Pedro Xisto. Here Xisto investigated the ideogram as a spatial object that could utilise graphic communication whilst retaining a suggestion of paronomasia or multiple meaning in the written word. Other concrete texts of this time such as the celebrated 'City Poem' by Augusto de Campos(1957) and Decio Pignatari's 'LIFE' (1968) continued the concrete poets self-conscious drive to combine typographical and geometric appropriateness.
The work of the Darmstadt Circle, the Noigandres and others was essentially driven by shared concerns about the capacity of written language to act as an authentic proxy for ephemeral and transparent depiction. With the advent of the concrete poem, linguistic structure was merged with typographical conceit to such an extent that conventional readings were rendered not only inappropriate but nonsensical. In concrete poetry, graphic layout and phonic wordplay combined to expose the aesthetic side-effects and translucency of textual representations. Whilst accepted literary protocols such as the stanza and sonnet had traditionally been used to discipline the form of poetic language (and to test the technical adeptness of the poet), there seems little doubt that the concrete poets' persistent use of text as patterns, snares and obstacles was tantamount to a considered rejection of the conventions associated with a poetry of expression.14 Even so, at the heart of concrete poetry there seemed to exist a semantic loop that endlessly reiterated the (unanswerable) question to the viewer: 'If a picture paints a thousand words, then what does a picture constituted from words paint?' The quandary for the audience becomes clearer as he/she is forced to consider text not just as text, but as the image of text. Consequently, within concrete poetry, text frequently ceased to have any possibility of an indexical relationship to the real world as words are converted back into pictures again.15
Many of the chief exponents of concrete poetry gained notable international success and recognition, major public showings such as "Concrete Art" at the Museum of Modern Art, São Paolo (1956) first introduced concrete poetry to a wider audience, whilst a substantial exhibition at the Brighton Festival (1967) was an indicator that concrete poetry had reached the zenith of its formal and conceptual development. By incorporating text into the realm of the pictorial, the concrete poets could credibly claim to have redefined the limits of written language as being at the threshold of visuality.
Even at the height of its popularity, the potential of concrete poetry seemed to be constrained by stylistic rigidity and a tendency to produce visually formulaic works. Whereas Mallarmé had managed to construct a visual parody of communication that was determined by the structures of language, within concrete poetry, syntax was readily disfigured to accommodate an austere design sensibility as with Ernst Jandl's "Lustig" (Merry). The swift decline of Concrete poetry in the mid 1960's was further accelerated by a wider perception that the form of the visual poem was compromised in the eyes of both literary criticism and and art theory. Sadly, despite the well-defined and authentic internationalism of Concrete poetry, its 'onomatopoetic'17 utterances of the 1950's and 60's were destined to become muffled by critical lethargy and disowned by interdisciplinarity.
Whilst the phenomenon of concrete poetry might claim to have attended a minor revolution in graphic and literary communication, the advent of conceptual art was symptomatic of a far more fundamental reexamination of political, social and cultural values. Whilst conceptual art itself effected a crisis in a particular version of Modernism, it also became a litmus for the global economic, social and moral reevaluation that seemed in evidence around much of the industrialised world.18
Conceptual art's abandonment of the modernist conventions of the frame/pedestal, meant that the form of conceptual art was politicised or at least problematized well before its contents became discernible. 'Dematerialized'19 works such as the Air Show by Art & Language offered the prospect of an elusive cycle of artistic production and audience reception that was commercially and critically unwelcome.20 Within the broader context, conceptual art manifested itself variously as 'information art', 'anti-form', 'site specific art', and 'land art' in a series of self-conscious attempts to confound the acquisitive tendencies of connoisseurs, collectors and cultural institutions. Kosuth and Art & Language mobilised the definition of art as a precondition of artistic production, and for the first time manifesto, proposal and artwork became interdependent components.
In addition, the rigour, articulacy and density of theoretical texts generated by artists such as Joseph Kosuth and Art & Language were clear attempts to counter the necessity for artist and audience to negotiate meaning/value via the interpretive parenthesis of Modernist art criticism.21 Conceptual art's ascetic assault on materiality and visuality was clearly intended as a rebuke to modernism's preoccupation with aesthetic sensibility as the primary measure of artistic achievement. Not surprisingly, this critique prompted an unequivocal rear guard action from prominent modernist critics such as Michael Fried, who, in his 1967 article "Art and Objecthood'22levelled serial accusations of 'theatricality' and 'literality' at conceptual art.
The numbers of artists who sought to present knowledge as reified information is well represented in Lucy Lippard's annotated journal of the conceptual art movement 'Six years:..', but seminal conceptual artworks such as 'Six Negatives' (1968-69) by Art & Language bore direct testimony to the corrosive effects of linguistically derived systems of classification brokered by many social and cultural institutions. In 'Six Negatives' Art & Language selectively deleted positive characteristics from excerpts of Roget's Thesaurus in an attempt to expose the potential for linguistic arbitration to be both volatile and prejudicial. In relation to this work, Ian Burn commented, "....The only attitude for viewing seems to be through recognition - recognition of the Thesaurus and what it represents....One must recognise the systems for dealing with language before one can "see" the work....."23 . Subsequent works by Art & Language, such as 'Comparative Models' (1972) and 'Flags for Organisations' (1978), demonstrate their enduring commitment to the use of textual and emblematic components which mimic the institutional use of information as a means of social control and cultural approval. For artists such as Hans Haacke the availability of a diversified range of media such as photography, montage, text offered not only the possibility of a more flexible approach to production but also the opportunity to reintegrate art into a wider cultural discourse from which Greenbergian ideas removed it /abstracted it. Works such as "Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings: A Real-Time Social System, as of May 1 1971" by Hans Haacke controversially revealed the typically invisible control surfaces of institutionalised language that had been used to define a whole range of relationships between the individual and the social.24
Questions of linguistic representation in relation to conceptual art however, extend far beyond the internalised workings and externalised production of its exponents and toward the realm of historicity itself. The term 'conceptual art' became a convenient repository for any work that exceeded the recognised parameters of other identifiable genre. Any fixety of 'conceptual art' as a term is probably attributable to an accretion of written history rather than viewer experience of symptomatic works in museums.25 Despite this, conceptual art was able to coherently differentiate itself from preceding avant garde movements by virtue of its self reflexivity and its ability to draw upon a far greater range of intellectual resources. Many of these such as philosophy, semiology and social anthropology were previously seen as being outside the of remit of artistic concern. Significant within these spheres of influence was the work of linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921-22) did much to fuel the debate around the functions and definition of art.26
The importance of the Tractatus cannot be overestimated when looking at the structuralist turn in art and philosophy during the late 1960's. Wittgenstein's statement: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world", is indicative of his view of language as a philosophical instrument that could be used to interrogate and define the limits of both experience and understanding. The idea of language as the ultimate means of definition found particular endorsement in works of Joseph Kosuth. Works such as Kosuth's 'Titled' (Art as Idea as Idea)[meaning]' (1967) proved to be highly influential in conceptual art's reworking of aesthetics and materiality.28 'Titled' (Art as Idea as Idea)' consists of a white on black photographic enlargement of the dictionary definition of 'meaning' that is synonymous with art's own crisis of identity. 'Titled' presents object and language as a seamless entity that renders both signifier and signified inseparable from each other and highlights an interpretive predicament of meaning predicated upon language. The text in 'Titled' is important because it signifies the semantic capacity of language and not just because of what it says per se. The supposed impartiality of language is exposed in a way that makes us acutely aware of the difference between the act of reading and the act of interpretation.
In his cogent essay 'Notes on Conceptual Art and Models', Kosuth declared:"...all I make are models. The actual works of art are ideas. Rather than 'ideals' the models are a visual approximation of a particular art object I have in mind...". (This resembles Wittgenstein's Tractatus statement: "A proposition is a model of reality as we imagine it."29 From this premise, Kosuth was able to formulate a very particular perspective on the objects of art. Kosuth proclaimed art as ideas mediated ("approximated") in the form of objects, (although little aesthetic or material value was attached to these objects except for their importance as as surrogates). Kosuth was also eager to point out here that these 'models' are not ideals, Kosuth was certainly aware of the differential that frequently exists between the idealised trajectories of linguistic models and the rigours of real-time art production. The case for the precedence of ideas over form is also clearly stated in Sol LeWitt's essay 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art' (and later, in 'Sentences on Conceptual Art'), where conceptualism is seen to represent a relaxation of the 'economy-of-means' sensibility exemplified by Minimalism.30
Unprecedented in the modernist era, conceptual art assumed that audiences had the ability to absorb neutralised text much faster than poetic/imagist language (even if the the meaning of the work was only retrieved by the viewer much later). Lucy Lippard confirmed that she admired "the immediacy of transmission of information with Conceptual Art" (as opposed to the "continuing word relationships formed within poetry).31 However, Lippard's characterisation of conceptual art and poetry as vehicles for linguistic representation raises questions about the viability of written and spoken language to function as an object in its own right. The semantic and aesthetic tensions implied by Lippard's commentary were later directly refuted by Dan Graham in his statement that: "......it is not a word-object dichotomy".32
The work of artists such as Lawrence Weiner is also central to the debate concerning the potential for tension between language and object (signifier and signified). From 1968 onwards Weiner's sited statements, books, posters and records were augmented by a written 'schema' that was intended to characterise alternative options for the production and distribution of art. This 'schema' has accompanied all of the work he has made since this period.
1. The artist may construct the piece
2.The piece may be fabricated
3. The piece need not be built.
Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the the occasion of the receivership.
Weiner's schema bears more than a passing resemblance the the ideas outlined in Kosuth's 'Notes on Conceptual Art and Models'.
The status and tenor of Weiner's statements is left open to conjecture, texts such as 'Terminal Boundary'(1969) can be read as hypothetical description, imaginary performance or apocryphal anecdote. Perhaps surprisingly, concrete poets such as Gomringer also seemed to share Weiner's fascination with the aesthetic astringency of the litany and its potential for representation as narrative; Gomringer's 1961 work, "Snow is English", is mechanically descriptive in such a way as to defeat any sentimentalised (modernist literary) interpretation of pastoral landscape. The list of over one hundred implausible adjectives used to describe snow transcends any experience or expectation that we may have about pastoral verse, but confirms what we know about the potential for language to combine as visual 'free radical' elements to dramatic poetic effect. The meticulous attention to typographical detail that individuates concrete poets such as Gomringer also serves to promote simultaneous and conflicting readings of the text that leaves the spectator as speculator. Typically, Weiner's texts are floated speculatively as a territorial or linguistic markers that indicate not only an absence of the materials of art (apart from text) but also stand as approximate representations of ideas rather than as objects in their own right. Weiner's works are symptomatic of the idea that the consciousness of the viewer should be seen as a direct corollary of 'place', and potentially in opposition to the idea of the exteriorised pastoral 'landscape'. Support for this view might be drawn from an unexpected source in the form of Ian Hamilton Finlay, who in his 'Detached Sentences' states : "An inscription need not actually exist in the landscape; if it is in the consciousness of the viewer it is in the landscape."33
At the WBAI-FM Symposium in New York (1970), Carl Andre did not hesitate to describe Lawrence Weiner as a poet and it is perhaps in the works of Weiner and Ian Hamilton Finlay that conceptual art and concrete poetry aesthetically and momentarily intersect in their challenge to linguistic codes of representation. Ian Hamilton Finlay (b.1925) is one of concrete poetry's most enduring exponents, he is renowned for the acuteness of his critique of culture and landscape. Like Weiner, Finlay's sited texts and concrete poems have manifested themselves across a range of materials and forms as part of an ongoing commentary that is intended to expose the ambivalence of contemporary culture. Whilst appearing to have strong visual affiliations to Conceptual art, Finlay's stance as a poet is diametrically opposed to the tautological self-legitimation and anaestheticised approach to production represented by Kosuth and Weiner. Typical of his strident but good humoured critique on what he sees as the shallowness of the information aesthetic, Finlay observed: "to try to separate the idea of art from the idea of beauty seems to me quite grotesque. It's like separating the idea of football from the idea of goals."34
This aside, one cannot take the text aesthetic at face value in the works of either Weiner or Finlay, especially given the potential of context to condition speculation about the significance of information and/or intentions of the artist. As social readers we are accustomed to the use of sited texts and signs across a whole range of public and private contexts, as an agent of state/governmental control or as an indicator of social cohesion. Signage also acts as a metaphor for commercial activity, as information or advice or is presented for moral or educative purposes. We are rarely prepared to encounter written language as a catalyst for speculative interpretation or aesthetic appreciation unless it is in the form of protest or memorial. In particular, the 'sited' texts of both Weiner and Finlay present a challenge to conventional readings in the light of localised and frequently shifting conditions.35 Text based work also allowed conceptual art and concrete poetry to exploit the visuality and processes associated with language/signage in a way that did not require a regression into a sentimentalised or expressionistic mode of representation. In looking at Weiner and Finlay there is strong evidence to support the view offered by Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden that the filter of language facilitates a world view rendered inaccessible via primary sensory apparatus.36
Within the context of conceptual art the sited text works of Lawrence Weiner, Douglas Heubler and others were intended to mobilise the potential of place and to sensitive the audience to the conditions of production for the artist at work in 'real-time'. In this 'situationist' setting, the frequently austere production values more generally associated with conceptual art demonstrated a potential to elicit a dynamic critical reception that transcended the means of production. In addition to this, in works such as Weiner's Lambert text (1970) 37 the written word allowed the kind of reader access that could be neatly adapted to accommodate emerging aspirations to democratise cultural property rights whilst expediting the idea of communication about communication. For artists such as Kosuth, Art & Language, Hanne Darboven, et al., the susceptibility of written language to become art, whether as information or textual analogue, helped form a direct challenge to the hierarchy of linguistic and cultural power that had previously been the preserve of institutions and critical commentators.
In terms of a differentiation or comparison of concrete poetry and conceptual art, one might usefully begin with Lucy Lippard's comment that: "there is a distinction between concrete poetry, where the words are made to look like something, an image, and so-called conceptual art, where the words are used only to avoid looking like something, where it doesn't make any difference how the words look on the page or anything."38
The visual differences identified by Lippard are symptomatic of far more deep rooted characteristics that serve to distinguish the two forms. Certainly, concrete poetry and conceptual art both posed severe challenges to reading, representation and interpretation by exposing language to a radical shift of context. Concrete poets such as Mathias Goeritz disrupted the conventional expectations of expressive poetry by subjecting text to the extremes of graphic composition. For the concrete poets, the sequential characteristics of reading and literary representation were superseded by the desire to create visual special effects that might transcend or augment the symbolic function of language.
As we have already established, so-called conceptual artists such as Art & Language, Joseph Kosuth were primarily interested in using language as an analytical and philosophical instrument that could stand for art's ideas, rather than the concrete poets obsession with verbovisual pyrotechnics. Through the writings and curatorial ventures of critics such as Lippard, conceptual art rapidly became synonymous with a challenge to the visibility of art, and this was embodied in various attempts to find a dematerialised equivalent or proxy for ideas. The limits of visuality were tested by conceptualism and were found to exist at the threshold of written and spoken language, either as description or quite simply as information.
However, similarities between concrete poetry and conceptual art could be said to exist, they were certainly amongst the first visual arts movements to deploy text simultaneously as both object and narrative, as signifier and signified. This synergy of communicative means as communicated meaning ('the medium is the message') had already been broached by Marshall McLuhan in the context of the early articulations of his thesis describing an electronic 'global village'.39 If one accepts a characterisation of both conceptual art and concrete poetry as 'communication about communication', this might well be seen as a common undercurrent.
Whilst the cultural significance of concrete poetry as a movement per se may still be the subject of some inquiry, its importance to the development of other artistic forms and its precedence in wresting a share of language from the grip of the literary cognoscenti and integrating it into visual art practice seems significant. Although one cannot claim that concrete poetry was a major influence in its own right, it was certainly part of a wider mobilisation that sought to incorporate written and spoken language into the realm of the visual arts. Of the 20 th century visual art movements that embraced text, including Vorticism, de Stijl, International Spatialism, Lettrism and Fluxus, it is probably true to say that concrete poetry and conceptual art were probably the most viable and the most radical. 40
The majority of text in art was characterised by written commentaries within books or museums or as explanatory accompaniment in the form of title or material description. As we have already seen from earlier examples of concrete poetry and conceptual art, the title or caption often assumed a central importance in the work, both visually and conceptually. Within concretism and conceptualism, text became routinely deployed as the primary object of the work, whether as phonetic mantra as in the works of Mathias Goeritz and Gerald Ferguson or as disclosure as in the works of Emmett Williams and Hans Haacke. As the form of Concrete poetry had previously addressed itself to the effect of aesthetics on language, so conceptual art compounded the relationship between subject and its representation in language.
The evidence would seem to indicate that both movements were essentially self-conscious in their use of written language as an object of art, and although conceptual artists did not fetishize typography as the concrete poets had done previously, the earnest desire of conceptual art to exceed the existing predilections of art criticism became an obsession in its own right. For many of the main protagonists of both movements, language had offered the promise of cultural embourgeoisemént for an aesthetically liberated readership as well as an escape from the preoccupations of Clement Greenberg and Hugh MacDiarmid with approved aesthetic sensibility. Ironically, the various attempts of conceptual art to close down modernism's fixation with aesthetics soon emerged as a type of aesthetic in itself. For some critics the idea that written or printed language could be used as the earthly representative of a pure form of art idea began to resemble claims to legitimacy supported by the Modernist material hierarchies of visual art forms such as painting, printmaking and sculpture.
Michael Claura's essay 'Outline of a Detour', described art as an unavoidable consequence of visual language and that the immateriality and literality of picture-poems and theoretical manifestoes as being too arid to be sustainable as long term cultural strategies.41 Claura concludes this line of argument by inferring that the conventions of written language inevitably fall into conflict with and become overtaken by the artists aesthetic obligations and an innate audience predisposition towards sensuous materialism. This was by no means an exceptional view and conceptual art and concrete poetry are frequently represented by history as evidence of irretrievable artistic folly, having failed to deliver on what now seems to be a hugely ambitious and optimistic agenda. For many critics, including Lippard, the loftiness of these ambitions was to become an indicator of the self-regarding naiveté of both movements and accusations of pretentiousness and elitism rapidly solidified into a critical force at the heels of conceptual art and concrete poetry.
The decline of concrete poetry was almost certainly precipitated by its irreversible tendency to decoration and over-elaboration. What started out as a daring mass trespass across literary conventions and alphabetic signs deteriorated into a demonstration of the elasticity of language as it became deformed by both geometric contrivance and numbing repetition. Having established itself on the borders of both the visual and literary arts, concrete poetry abandoned both discursive speech and syntactic structure in its attempt to reconcile the historical separation between pictorial representation and representations in words. By contrast, conceptual art is distinguished not only by its profound impact on postmodern thinking, but by the articulacy and scholarship of many of those directly involved with it. Conceptual art offered a revised view of the relationship between text based communication as content and the arbitrary organisation of linguistic systems as context. Conceptual artists were able for the first time to show how secularised language/information within abstract social systems often generated friction when in the face of the 'lived experience of language'. Conceptual art is also characterised by its relentless rejection of the importance of form and material to the point where this becomes a subscription to an antiform/pro-text aesthetic. So-called conceptualists crossed the divide between aesthetics and linguistics in the belief that text might allow them to transgress not only the visual, but also the semantic and the aesthetic.
Concrete poetry and conceptual art offered a challenge to the unassailability of linguistic signs by generating semiotic and aesthetic conflict to deliberate effect and perhaps one could assert that the two share a resentment of the ulterior qualities of language. Ultimately though, concrete poetry and conceptual art seem to be connected by little more than the spectre of perversity - a counter cultural sensibility that motivated poets to make pictures (and extend language beyond its limits); and visual artists to use text (as a surrogate for ideas that were essentially optimised by language).
1 The earliest antecedents of visual poetry can be clearly identified in the guise of the English pattern poet George Herbert (1593-1633)1 and the figured verses of Lewis Carroll in the 'Mouse's Tale'.
2 Theo van Doesburg, 'Numero d'Introduction du Groupe et de la Revue Art Concret ', (1930)
It is within the writings of Theo Van Doesburg (1883-1931) (a.k.a. I. K. Bonset) that we discover the first manifesto for 'Art Concret'. Van Doesburg was the founder of Netherlands Dada who distributed a series of manifestoes and typographical experiments through the magazines 'Art Concret' and 'Mecano'. In 1917 Van Doesburg founded the magazine 'de Stijl' in collaboration with Piet Mondrian, which served as a forum for the writings and poems of artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara and Hans Arp. Van Doesburg's manifesto announced "A search for a universal formal language which has no relation to nature , emotional life or sensory data, and the pursuit of works which are completely devoid of lyrical symbolism or dramatic _expression."2
This runs somewhat counter to the style of visual poetry envisaged by Apollinaire and represents a radical shift away from making imitative imagist drawings with words and characters and towards a more abstract rendering of visual language.
Se also Teddy Hultberg Ed., 'Manifesto for Concrete Poetry '(1953) reprinted in 'Literally Speaking: Sound Poetry and Text-Sound Composition', (1993 ed.) Swedish artist Öyvind Fahlström published his 'Manifest for Konkret Poesi', but its circulation was confined to Sweden. In this document, Fahlström coined the term for the movement and enumerated many of the linguistic features that were to characterize first generation Concrete poetry. Fahlström subsequently moved to New York in the early 1960's where he became a significant intermediary between the New York avant-garde and contemporary Swedish artists. In 1963 his seminal work, 'Birds in Sweden' was broadcast by Swedish Radio and received widespread critical acclaim as a watershed in the development of text/sound composition. see also the Noigandres, 'A Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry' (Sao Paolo, 1958)
3 The Bolivian born Gomringer, who had previously been employed as secretary to the concrete painter Max Bill, perceived his work to be directly descended from an established tradition of visual poetry that originated with Stephane Mallarmé and Guillaume Apollinaire.
4 Earlier, in 1951, Gomringer had also produced a collection of one-word poems, which he named 'Konstellationen' , ('Constellations', Spiral Press 1953), or 'thought-objects'. These encrypted texts were visually arranged within the space of the page to compliment the poem's narrative. Again influenced heavily by Mallarmé, Arp and Max Bill, Gomringer described the role of the reader in this equation as one of "collaborator" whose task it was to decipher and "complete" the word associations of the work.
5 Stephane Mallarmé, 'Un Coup de Dés / jamais n' abolira le Hasard', (Paris: Gallimard, 1914), published posthumously.It is widely thought that Mallarmé completed this work in 1896/97.
6 Antje Quast, 'What Does Poetry have to do with the World?'. Wilfried Dickhoff Ed., Marcel Broodthaers', 'le poids d'une oeuvre d'art', (Cologne: TINAIA, 1994)
7 see 'Noigandres, Noigandres' Ezra Pound, 'Canto XX', (New York: Exile.1927)
8 for an expanded definition and membership see Stephen Bann Ed., Introduction to 'Concrete Poetry: An International Anthology', (London: London Magazine Editions 13, 1967)
9 Guillaume Apollinaire, 'Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War', (1913-1916), translated by Anne Hyde Greet, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.)
10 Mallarmé's model of experimental typography was not the sole inspiration in this respect. The succeeding decades saw the emergence of a number of independently conceived, stylistically distinctive visual poetic forms from authors as diverse as Guillaume Apollinaire, Ezra Pound and Constructivist artist El Lissitzky.
In 1914, in England, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis founded the Vorticist movement. through The journal 'BLAST' gave artists the opportunity to publish experimental typographic works and imagist poems. These proved to be influential among poets and artists in the immediate period post-1945.
11 Noigandres, 'A Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry' (Sao Paolo, 1958)
12 James Joyce, 'Finnegans Wake', (London: Faber & Faber, 1939)
13 The group, led by the De Campos brothers. embraced a model of Concrete poetry which intended to take advantage of the simultaneity of visual and written imagery without diminishing the three dimensional 'verbivocovisuality' of the communication. Although it seems that neither the Noigandres or Gomringer had any awareness of Fahlström's 1953 manifesto, in 1956 Noigandres and Gomringer came together in Sao Paolo, Brazil and formally agreed to promote visual/verbal practice under the collective banner of Concrete poetry.
14 Although earlier graphic movements such as Lettrisme, Vorticism and concrete art had laid claim to a constructivist legacy of poster art, nowhere had such a concerted and cohesive movement addressed itself to the contradictions of pictorial and textual communications.
15 This puzzle of language was obviously key for both Gomringer and de Campos not only in terms of their poetic works, but also in moulding their respective manifestoes which went to great lengths in laying out the defining formal characteristics of concrete poetry.
16 Whilst it is fair to say that the earliest manifestations of concrete poetry's verbal acrobatics were constricted by visual stylization and rigid typographical conceit, second generation visual poets such as Jackson MacLow, Pierre and Ilse Garnier, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dick Higgins, Hiro Kamimura and others had no such stylistic inhibitions. It is also worth comparing this membership to Ken Friedman's list of the "founding circle of concept art" , which includes: Henry Flynt, George Macunias, Dick Higgins, Jackson MacLow, Emmett Williams, Ben Vautier and others. From this we can conclude that concrete poetry and Fluxus as the beginnings of conceptual art had at one time or another shared a number of common personnel. Fluxus itself attracted artists from a broad range of origins and backgrounds and its membership included such notables as Joseph Beuys, George Brecht and Alison Knowles. It is difficult to distinguish the contribution to conceptual art of those members of Fluxus who were second generation concretists, but Fluxus undoubtedly represented an important developmental move away from the formality of concretism towards the more expansive contextual concerns of conceptual art. Fluxist petitioning for a fusion of art and life found _expression using a whole range of 'alternative', everyday means such as mail art, happenings, demonstrations, artists books etc., Works such as 'Fluxus I' (1964), a book compilation of different artists works in envelopes with accompanying printed texts were indicative of an informality that Fluxus ultimately emphasized through interactivity and sensory experience.
17 Johanna Drucker, 'Figuring the Word', (New York: Granary Books, 1998)
18 The events surrounding the emergence and origins of conceptual art are delineated in 'Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin', (New York, 1999). Although the evidence in support of an emerging pandemic of conceptual art seems inconclusive.
19 Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972...'Escape Attempts', (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
20 Air Show/Air Conditioning Show, Coventry, England. See also Art- Language: 'Hot Warm Cool Cold', (Coventry: Art-Language Press 1967)
21 See for example: Joseph Kosuth, 'Art After Philosophy', Studio International vol.178 (London Oct/Nov/Dec 1969). 'The Role of Language', by Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden: 'On Art', (Cologne 1974). Terry Atkinson: 'Editorial introduction to Art-Language', (Coventry, May 1969)
Sol LeWitt, 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art', Artforum Vol.5, no. 10, Summer 1967, pp. 79-83. LeWitt came to the acerbic conclusion that the vernacular of Modernist art criticism was " part of a secret language that art critics use when communicating with each other through the medium of art magazines....".
22 Michael Fried, 'Art and Objecthood', (Artforum, Summer, 1967)
23 Ian Burn 'Read Premiss', reprinted in 'Art & L anguage in Practice', Vol 1. (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1999) pp. 23-25
24 Jack Burnham, 'Hans Haacke's Cancelled Show at the Guggenheim', Artforum (June 1971)
25 Arguably the greatest license for critical palimpsest was granted unintentionally by Lippard's annotated journal of Conceptual art, "Six years:...". In her attempts to disclaim the idea of a dominant narrative for the development of Conceptual art, Lippard's cross referential "Six years:..." now reads as a work that lies somewhere between historical reference and narrative fiction. The very bricolage ofthe book seems to exacerbate the the problem of representing a form of art that cannot be extricated from its critical past. Lippard's sensitivities to the limits of art criticism anticipate an erosion of the meaningfulness of art for artists that seems enshrined in the legislature of Post modernism.
26 Ludwig Wittgenstein, 'Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus'(New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co.,1921-22)
27 see Michel Foucault 'What is an author?' 1969, and other essays, reprinted in 'Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post Structuralist Criticism Josue.V. Harari, Ed. & Translator. (Ithaca 1979 ed.). See also commentary of Fluxist/Concretist Brion Gysin who had contributed to the discourse about semantic and linguistic authenticity/ownership somewhat more discursively.in his 'Statement on the Cutup Method and Permutated Poems",' Fluxus I, ed.: (NewYork 1965)
28 The title of the work also refers directly into Ad Reinhardt's influential essay 'Art as Art of 1962 which proposed a similarly tautologous view of art production that was both self-validating and subjectively emptied. see Ad Reinhardt, "Art as Art,"., Art International VI, no. 10, (Lugano 1962)
29 The limitations of philosophical supposition in relation to lived experience was recognized in the revised phenomenology of thinkers such as Maurice Merleau-Pont who perceived the pragmatic imperatives of visual art production as an antidote to the generality and abstraction of conceptual projection. For a fuller account, see Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 'Eye and Mind', 'The Primacy of Perception', James M. Edie (Ed) Trans. by Carleton Dallery, (Evanston 1964 ed.)
30 Sol LeWitt, 'Art-Language', Vol.1, no. 1 , The Journal of Conceptual Art', (Coventry, May 1969) and Paragraphs on Conceptual Art', Artforum Vol.5, no. 10, Summer 1967, pp. 79-83. Whilst LeWitt was in accord with Kosuth over art's self-legitimizing 'uselessness' as an aesthetic trait, LeWitt himself was never quite drawn into the inquiry concerning the definition of art.
31 & 32 Lucy R. Lippard in conversation with Dan Graham, Douglas Heubler, Carl Andre and Jan Dibbets at the WBAI-FM symposium, New York, March 8, 1970.
33 see: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 'Detached Sentences', Robin Gillanders, 'Little Sparta', (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1998)
34 From an Interview with Robin Gillanders, 'Little Sparta', (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1998)
35 Compare for example: Ian Hamilton Finlay's 'Blue and Brown Poems', (1968) with Lawrence Weiner's: '10 pieces in English and German', exhibited: Aachen Zentrum fur Aktuelle Kunst (May 1970)
36 Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden, 'The Role of Language' Uber Kunst/On Art, (Cologne, 1974).
37 Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972...', pp161 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
38 Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972...', (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
39 Charles Harrison and Paul Wood Ed., 'Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas', (Oxford, UK, Blackwell, 1992), pp. 798-799.
40 Lettrism was initiated in Paris after the Second World War by the Rumanian artist Isadore Isou. The aims of Lettrism were political and social: a reorganization of culture in terms of a radically reformed linguistic model.Text was only one component in the arsenal of the Lettrists who used books, film, fashion and performance to mount an aesthetic campaign against the prosaic use of language in favor of a more innovative, pictorial and cognitive approach to communication generally.
41 Michael Claura, "Outline of a Detour," Production, David Lamelas Editor (London: Nigel Greenwood Books, 1970)
reproduced from: http://www.ubu.com/papers/powell.html