The Word as Object: Concrete Poetry and the Materialization of Language - Luso-Brazilian Review 49:2

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The Word as Object: Concrete Poetry and the Materialization of Language - Luso-Brazilian Review 49:2
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  󰀷󰀲  Luso-Brazilian Review  󰀴󰀹:󰀲ISSN 󰀰󰀰󰀲󰀴-󰀷󰀴󰀱󰀳, © 󰀲󰀰󰀱󰀲 by the Board o Regentso the University o Wisconsin System The Word as Object Concrete Poetry, Ideogram, and the Materialization of Language  Pedro Erber  O artigo discute a relação entre discurso verbal e discurso visual a partir do legado da poesia concreta e neoconcreta dos anos 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰 e de sua teorização  pelos poetas Haroldo de Campos, Ferreira Gullar e Kitasono Katsue. A pre-sença da palavra escrita nas artes visuais dos anos 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰 foi frequentemente interpretada em termos da noção de “desmaterialização do objeto de arte,” elaborada pelos críticos de arte Lucy Lippard e John Chandler. No entanto, ao passo que a ideia de desmaterialização descreve bem o processo que se observa na obra de artistas conceituais como o norte-americano Joseph Kosuth, este artigo argumenta que a mesma noção não dá conta do uso da  palavra escrita na obra de artistas neoconcretos, tais como Hélio Oiticica. No neoconcretismo, e em grande parte da produção artística dos anos 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰, está em jogo antes o processo inverso, de materialização da linguagem no objeto de arte. No cerne desta discussão, o artigo aponta e explora a ideali-zação da escrita ideogramática sino-japonesa por Haroldo de Campos, sua elaboração em método de composição poética e a contrapartida do concre-tismo na obra do poeta japonês Kitasono Katsue. O leitor – se é que ainda podemos designá-lo por este nome – desceria por uma escada, abriria a porta do poema e entraria nele. Ao centro da sala, iluminada com luz 󿬂uorescente, encontraria um cubo vermelho de 󰀵󰀰 cm de lado, que ergueria para encontrar, sob ele, um cubo verde de 󰀳󰀰 cm de lado; sob este cubo, descobriria, ao erguê-lo, outro cubo, bem menor, de 󰀱󰀰 cm de lado. Na face deste cubo que estaria voltada para o chão, ele leria, ao levantá-lo, a palavra rejuvenesça.   Erber 󰀷󰀳 I s it an installation? A conceptual artwork? An “instruction piece”? In any case, it is certain that i it were not or its title and the author’s sel- proclaimed identity as a poet rather than as a visual artist, Ferreira Gullar’s 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀹 “Poema enterrado” would never be taken or a work o literature. Composed o a single word and a complex material structure, Gullar’s “poem” seems closer to the visual or plastic arts than to any literary genre.“Poema enterrado” stands in the end o a long trajectory o materializa-tion o the written word in (and as) the object o art. According to Gullar, since the actual object o poetry does not preexist poetic praxis, but is, by its  very de󿬁nition, created through poetry, the poem must exist as an object per se: “A poesia concreta não é um meio ‘mais e󿬁caz’ de atacar o objeto, porque o ‘objeto’ não preexiste ao poema, mas nasce com ele – o objeto é o poema: o poema ataca o sujeito (o espectador).”   Te development o Gullar’s poetic experiments in the late 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰s displays, thus, the process o becoming-object o the verbal artwork. In contrast to the process o “dematerialization”   per-ceived by Lucy Lippard in the post-minimalist art o the late 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s, Gullar’s poetic experiments reveal his increasing attention to the materiality o the written word and o the act o reading.Tis article examines the legacies o 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰s Concrete poetry in view o its questioning o the complex intricacies between verbal and visual, and throws light upon its signi󿬁cance within the context o avant-garde art circa 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰. In 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀶, poets Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari expounded their intention to create “uma area linguística especí󿬁ca – “ver-bivocovisual” – que participa das vantagens da comunicação não-verbal, sem abdicar das virtualidades da palavra.”   Concrete poetry explored the intrinsic material character o verbal language (and languages) and pushed Figure 󰀱. Ferreira Gullar, Project or “Poema enterrado,” 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀹  󰀷󰀴  Luso-Brazilian Review  49:2 phonetic writing to its limits, thereby disrupting the conventionally estab-lished boundaries between the visual and verbal as constituent aspects o a realm o social interaction. Te questioning o the materiality o language, which variants o Concrete poetry in the 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰s inaugurated, remained deci-sive or a large share o the avant-garde artistic production o the 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s.Te presence o verbal discursiveness in the visual arts o the 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s has requently been interpreted in terms o Lucy Lippard and John Chandler’s notion o a “dematerialization o the art object.”   Te paradigm o signi-󿬁cation permeated the practices o New York-based post-minimalist art-ists such as Joseph Kosuth and Sol Lewitt, who reerred to their own works and those o their peers as “conceptual art.” Since the late 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s, notions o conceptual art and conceptualism expanded their explanatory power to the point o including almost any artwork that happened to cross the boundary between visual and verbal discourses. In the 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀹 exhibition “Global Con-ceptualism: Points o Origin, 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰s – 󰀱󰀹󰀸󰀰s,” the terms conceptualism and dematerialization were rehearsed in relation to works as diverse as Xu Bing’s Chinese characters paintings   and Akasegawa Genpei’s copy o the 󰀱,󰀰󰀰󰀰 Yen bill,   or which precisely the material aspect was indispensable.Whereas Lippard and Chandler’s thesis o dematerialization nicely de-scribes a process that was taking place in the works o “ultra-conceptual” artists such as Lewitt, who compared his own art to “signs that convey ideas,” it is unable to account or the wide diversity o ways in which the 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s avant-gardes crossed and blurred the boundaries between visuality and signi󿬁cation. Lewitt claimed that “When works o art, like words, are signs that convey ideas, they are not things in themselves, but symbols or representatives o things”;   in stark contrast to this approach, Gullar sought in Concrete poetry “[uma] nova percepção da linguagem não mais apenas como simples reerência ao mundo dos objetos, e sim como um modo de realidade  desse mundo.”   Conceptual artists’ attempt to distance themselves rom materiality and their subsequent move towards a communicational model akin to that o verbal discourse existed in uneasy tension with the opposite tendency to bring written signi󿬁cation closer to its material consti-tution. Later on, when the visual artist Hélio Oiticica makes use o verbal, “conceptual” elements in works such as the 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀷  Mergulho do corpo , it is the process o the materialization o verbal discourse, rather than a sof version o the dematerialization o the visual art object that is at work.Whereas visual poetry has been particularly in󿬂uential in Brazil and Japan, it does not ollow that its basic principles are only valid within the speci󿬁c conditions o these two contexts. In act, the notion o a material-ization o the written word in the visual arts can illuminate an ofen-over-looked aspect o the works o even the 󿬁ercest dematerializers. Kosuth’s 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀷 itled (Art as Idea as Idea) , or instance – despite his own ideas about the  Erber 󰀷󰀵  irrelevance o the material in his works – with its particular attention to orm, ont and style, which convey the dictionary setting beyond the actual signi󿬁cation o the words, betrays this emergence o the materiality o writ-ing within the medium o the photostat. Between Word and Object: Ferreira Gullar and Kitasono Katsue In 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀶, Gullar created the 󿬁rst “livro-poema,” consisting o single words printed each on a different page o a white brochure. By turning the odd-sized pages, the reader gradually reveals the poem in its entirety. Trough its usage o the space o the page, the book-poem constrains the act o read-ing into a pronouncedly temporal experience; it reveals reading as a partici-patory activity, which entails intellectual and bodily praxis rather than mere passive contemplation. Te book-poem presents text and its material sup-port as an indivisible unity. It highlights the book’s objecthood and exposes the materiality o the written word. Gullar writes: Figure 󰀲. Hélio Oiticica,  Mergulho do corpo , 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀷  󰀷󰀶  Luso-Brazilian Review  49:2 Nasceu, deste modo, um novo livro em que a orma das páginas é parte do poema, de sua estrutura visual e semântica, e em que o passar das páginas é condição necessária para que ele se constitua e que se realize enquanto expressão. Porque este poema não poderia estar senão num livro com es-tas características – ao contrário de qualquer outro poema que pode estar em qualquer livro e mesmo na olha de um jornal –, aqui palavra e página constituem uma unidade indissolúvel, e daí tê-lo designado pelo nome de livro-poema.  Gullar’s late 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀰s “poemas espaciais” take the experiment o the book-poem a step urther. While still reminiscent o the book orm because o its articulated olding structure, the spatial poems resort through color and orm to more complex geometric compositions than his previous works. Te spatial poems contained, or the most part, a single word, which was hidden underneath the wooden structure and awaiting or the reader to unveil it. More than objects or contemplation, the poems were meant to be perceived through active, both physical and intellectual interaction.Gullar’s trajectory rom word to object – rom the early graphic experi-ments o the 󰀱󰀹󰀵󰀴  A luta corporal    all the way to the “livro-poema” and the “poemas espaciais” – is by no means an isolated phenomenon in the realm o twentieth-century art. At least since Stephane Mallarmé’s 󰀱󰀸󰀹󰀷 Un coup Figure 󰀳. Joseph Kosuth, itled (Art as Idea as Idea) , 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀷
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