text by Philadelpho Menezes
MENEZES, Philadelpho. Poetics and visuality: a trajectory of contemporary brazilian poetry. Translated by Harry Polkihorn. San Diego, California: San Diego State University Press, 1994. 230 p. ilus. 15x22,5 cm.
Contents: Concretism, Neoconcretism, Semiotic Poetry, Intersign Poetry. “ Philadelpho Menezes “ Ex. bibl. Antonio Miranda
Untitled – HUGO MUND JR. - 1977
Collage is characterized by a compositional procedure originated in the visual arts of modernism at the beginning of the century, in particular in cubist painting, as Herbert Read indicates:
... we verify in the development of cubism of 1912 and 1914 a growing dependence not so much on the motive or on whatever visual images associated with the motive, but on textures. From the imitation of textures with paint, Picasso and Braque passed on to the use of the original textures themselves, glueing pieces of newspaper, wallpaper, or fabric on the canvas and linking these elements with areas of paint or charcoal lines. The technique received a new name, collage, a normal French word for the process of montage or of joining
We see how from its inception collage served for the elaboration of plasticity, removing the work from its motive, its referential thematics, cancelling its figurativity. The aesthetic of collage was used already in the "tavole parolibere" of the Italian futurist poets and dadaism. There, the material glued is the word in different graphic typefaces. If the use of that compositional procedure is borrowed to underline the visual-plastic aspects submerged in materials considered anti-aesthetic for art, in futurist and dadaist poetry as in all the rest of poetry that uses this same procedure, the same effect causes the poem to approach visual preoccupations, emptying the semantic aspect of the verbal sign on submitting it to a visual dominant.13
In Brazilian experimental poetry, the "pop-crete" poems of Augusto de Campos and Waldemar Cordeiro, presented in an exhibition of 1964, use the compositional process of collage. In contrast, "pop-crete" poems do not succumb to the forces of negation of figurativity then fashionable, for example, in contemporary semiotic poetry. As the name itself summarizes, the idea takes off from pop art, recently arrived in Brazil, and takes as the primary material of the poem the signs of consumption of industrialized society or the industrialized signs of the society of consumption.14 Collage exercises the same function as in the visual arts, creating a consequent dysfunction in poetry, now that the chaotic organization of signs, ruled by the visual-plastic finality, makes the visual-sensory aspect of the work dominant. The dominant plasticity subjugates semantic finality, impeding a production of readings of signifieds, too diffuse and confused. The observer is directed to a predominantly visual sensory apprehension, although the poem is loaded with writemes. The proximity between the sign elements can, eventually, produce interpretable meanings, on the intellectual level of the reader. Reading, however, seems to be reduced to an intent to acquire information rapidly (preoccupation of modernism at the beginning of the century, the time of the birth of collage), which rejects the creation of semantic elaborations, the elucidative signified of the title prevailing (Figure 22), as in this poem by Hugo Mund/Jr.
If Mund, Jr.'s poem is confronted with a futurist or dadaist poem, we shall see that collage is the same in both.
The gratuity and causality of the composition reduce everything to the lowest common denominator of the visual-plastic dominant and the informational reductionism of the signifieds. Specifically, it shows influence of Italian poesia visiva of the early 1960s through its aesthetics of deconstructing newspaper and magazine language.
At the end of the 1960s/ collage was reconsidered in poems which without any plausible justification incorporated it into process-poem. The use itself of figurative images, such as photographic reproductions, is contrary to the principle of the rejection of the referential, thematic aspect that orients the movement's theory. Even the construction of the collage-poem is foreign to the movement of structure, to a controlled, predetermined formalism which is at the heart of process-poem theory. Not seeing a reason to include these poems in process-poem, we prefer to include them under the rubric of "visual poetry." Each sign of the collage-poem, as in cubist collage and the Italian "poesia visiva" of the early 1960s, goes through a
decontextualization to be withdrawn from its original "habitat" where it exercises a given function, charged with a given significance, and undergoes a recontextualization such that, as Wlademir Dias-Pino already affirmed, "the poet strives to reformulate the image whose Information has been damaged by its hav-
ing been processed through mass circulation."15 Meanwhile, the disorganization of syntax is what characterizes collage and the distance from the montage method. Compositional chaos does not permit more than a series of fragmented readings of the work, where each sign re spends in itself and reacts by happenstance with the rest.
The whole is a mere sum of the parts; the isolated signs, in the absence of a precise articulation, are not combined into new qualities, new informational charges, but become loose elements within a jumbled whole. The collage-poem project seems to proceed just in this sense of semantic dysfunction—"semantic vibrations: defocalization of reading, informational shocks: labyrinth of images."16
To propose the labyrinth of images coupled to the idea of the defocalization of reading, we see that syntax (or de-syntax) of collage considers not a principle of
constructive composition but a belief that mere destruction is enough for bringing about the recreation of information. The method of composition, therefore, relies on the graphic appearance of the work. The arbitrariness of the position of each sign within the poem does not search for justification in the virtually recreated signifieds, but does in the visual-plasticity of the work. The collage-poem—whether futurist, visiva, pop-crete, or process— privileges the texture of the graphic forms of signs, taking "figurality" as a dominant, reducing the net of significations, the semantic aspect of the work (which is maintained closest to the postulates of process-poem).
The privileging of the graphic—diminishing the semantic, informational charge of the work, depositing its dominant in "figurality"—forces us to ask if collage procedure doesn't lead the reader to a predominantly visual appreciation of the work, relegating to a distant plane the absorption of semantic information, which poetry appears not to dispense. On the contrary, it is sublimated in the game of reflections through a form which exteriorizes information.
At the same time one can see in these poems the same question of the interweaving of words and images, or a fusion of "figurality" and the "writeme" typical of cubist and futurist visual arts, where the verbal signs become "essentially decorative ends, like visual potentialities to be explored together with lines and colors, rhythms and textures."17 Wilson Pereira even observes that there is another function of verbal signs in contemporary painting, that of "thematizing quotidian experiences and objects, poetically transfiguring them. Words reinforce or beget links with reality."18 If on the one hand the cubists sought to privilege form by deconstructing it, even the form of verbal signs, clearly on the other hand the word carries with it in the painting its inherent thematic, referential dimension, external to the materiality of the sign. Meanwhile the familiarity of words and images, by virtue of their mode of articulation, presents a degree of predominance of one of their aspects. In the mode of sign articulation of collage, the degree of informational recycling through which words pass and the connotations they assume are always evacuated, vague, and bound to the pictorial, visual finality of the arrangement.
This amounts to saying that the use of the verbal sign does not make the work "poetry" by the simple fact of the presence of the word. The code does not determine aesthetic language. Between the use of the word and the poetic sign is placed the mode of articulation: compositional procedure transforms the language code, causing the dominant aspect of the sign and of the work to emerge.
Like the evacuation of the semantic aspect/ by virtue of the chaos of organization, the aesthetic dominant resides in the graphic effects of the sign/ the linguistic dimension of the signified being de-articulated and reorganized (impoverished) as a function of the predominant visual interests. The deconstruction and informality of articulation do not produce recreations on the semantic level, in the word, in the image, nor do they lead to a formal appreciation of the work. The absence of a syntax motivated among the verbal and visual signs pushes the work towards the field of pictoriality. "Tigurality" stifles the semantic level of the "writeme." It remains to be seen if poetry encompasses such a procedure.
12 READ, Herbert. Historia da pintura moderna. São Paulo: Círculo do Livro, 1981, p. 95. We should remember that so-called synthetic cubism, in its first phase, had more than one point in common with geometric constructivism, and that in cubism's second phase, called analytic, where the appearance of collage was given, fragmentariness
predominated, as well as a freer formal organization, approximating dada.
13 "Here we reconsider the distinction, which we shall attempt to clarify later, between "signified" and "signification," the first as a conjunction of conceptual acceptations (which geometric form does not
possess) and the second as a valorization of an aesthetic given before the cultural context (which geometric form possesses, as do all artistic signs that do not bear codified "signifieds," like the sounds of music).
14 CAMPOS, Augusto de. Vivavaia—poesia 1949-1979. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1986, pp. 123-31.
15 DIAS-PINO, Wlademir. Proceso: Linguagem e comunicação. Rio de aneiro: Vozes, 1973, p.7.
17 PEREIRA, Wilson J. Escritema e figuratividae. p. 7
18 Ibid. p. 8
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