Karenina.it - Poesia




In Memoriam Edgardo Antonio Vigo


By Clemente Padín


Undoubtedly every work of art or poem needs the involvement of a spectator or a reader. Umberto Eco (1984) acknowledges this fact. If ambiguity, that is, the diversity of meanings in a work of art is the key that defines precisely its artistic quality, then every work is necessarily "open" in the sense that it offers a variety of interpretative options. This is so in every case as long as the work is sound, that is, keeps being true to itself. This is possible because every person interprets according to his own background of knowledge and experience, thus the variety of interpretations. Nevertheless, Eco points out the existence of two types of works of art. On the one hand there are ones which:


…offer us an "opening" based on a theoretical, mental collaboration of the user, who must interpret an artistic fact already made, already organised according to its own structural plenitude (even though it has been structured to have ambiguous interpretations).


On the other hand there is:


…a more restrained category of works of art that because of their capacity to assume a variety of unforeseen structures, physically not yet carried out, we could define them as "developing works of art".


As we will see a good part of the Latin-American experimental poetic production, according to Eco's characterisation, would fall into this category of " developing works of art".


Concrete Poetry


We can date the origins of this phenomenon in around 1956 when the first exhibitions of Concrete Poetry took place in San Pablo and Rio de Janeiro. Here three movements converge. These were explored by Alvaro de Sá: namely the Noigandres group of San Pablo known for its structural rigour; the spational-metaphysical language of Ferreira Gullar that would evolve into Neoconcretism and the spational-mathematical language of Wlademir Dias-Pino that would give place to the Semiotic Poem and the Process/Poem. In the last two instances the "reader" must take a greater part in the poetic process.




For Ferreira Gullar, theoretician on Neoconcretism, the artistic object is an entheletical entity as long as it's not made concrete as a perceived object, a "nâo-objeto". In other words, as long as the poem isn't read or consumed it doesn't exist. The participation of the reader in relation to the poem is imperative in order to make the communication possible: for it to occur the reader must "act" upon the text. For it to occur the neoconcrete poets like Ferreira Gullar, Theon Spanudis, Osmar Dillon and others use the object-poems (poems where substituting the support is at odds with loosing the information), objects shaped as books or boxes where the folds, the uneven pages, the colours, the holes, superpositions, etc., act like triggers of the poetic information. Hence, when Ferreira Gullar encourages the reader to update and to be co-author of the poem while at the same time establishes the temporary duration as a privileged instance where the transcendental experience of the non-object is decided upon, he is forging the grounds of the art and poetry of the years to follow, especially, the tendencies Conceptualism would make popular.





OSMAR DILLON: Unfolding Object-Poem


Spacial Poem


Wlademir Dias-Pino who encouraged the spational-mathematical trend in Concrete Poetry, in 1956 had already proposed works of this type like the object-poem "A Ave", a book that can only be "read" if it's handled, in other words, if the "reader" works directly on the pages searching for the information embodied in the text. It's about a poem where the physical quality of the paper, its texture, its transparency, its accidents (holes and rugged surfaces) and the various possibilities of combining texts (in the turning and interchangeability of its pages) demand an active and attentive sort of reader. It not only indicates a total break from the Noigandres trends and the Neoconcrete tendency of Ferreira Gullar, at the heart of Concrete Poetry, by defining the poem as a physical object (not abstract), but it also represents a formal step forward as it widens the field of reception. In other words it demands a real and social involvement (not just abstract and individual) from the recipient.





Almost in the same sense the poem SOLIDA, by Dias-Pino, that was shown in the first Concrete Poetry exhibitions, not only made possible the semiotic transposition of the verbal characters used in the poem, but it also called on the reader to take part by offering him the opportunity of "remaking" the poem according to the sign system of the language he chooses or is able to use for creating his own version.



WLADEMIR DIAS-PINO: SOLIDA, spatial version, 1962


Semiotic Poem


The poem SOLIDA, as a result of its spatial formulations, made possible the materialisation of the Semiotic Poem, developed later in 1962 by Dias-Pino, and afterwards, in 1964, by the Brazilian poets Decio Pignatari and Luis Angelo Pinto in 1965. The Semiotic Poem substitutes the meanings of words for geometric shapes. The shapes are shown together with their corresponding meanings in a "lexical key" or "dictionary" and the new visual language proposed is revealed. The configuration or formations of shapes constitute the poetic texts to be read.





The next step was to displace the verbal language from its privileged position ( as the only source of the poetic expression) and to let all the languages ( including the verbal language) carry this weight. Here also the participation of the "creative-reader" is decisive. In the following Semiotic Poem by Neide Sá, belonging to the second stage of this movement, the elements of translating code not only define the icons but also participate in the text:



Semiotic Poem: NEIDE SA


On the one hand the linguistic code shown imposes a certain reading, but the reader by handling and modifying the direction of the shapes, also changes their meaning and hence the text. On the other hand we notice how certain expressions that wouldn't be appropriate linguistically, for example the conjunction between "know", "taste" and "life", that would give us the expression "know taste life" has no specific formulation in verbal language, but does acquire it on the visual language level. The meaning of the poem depends on the active participation of the "reader".




Towards 1967 with the creation of the Process/Poem, a natural outcome of the Semiotic Poem, was officially integrated within the scope of formal trends entitled "the version", in other words, the creation of the poem by the reader operating on the "matrix" or poem project in accordance with a repertoire of knowledges.

The version appears as a solution to the consuming of the traditional work of art (an expression of privileges) and lets the "reader" operate on the poem that is proposed, himself creating different versions. Now the poet, like an architect, only needs to describe visually or in writing the project of the poem leaving its materialisation on the "reader's" hands. Clearly the reading of the "project", via the "reader's" participation, will generate the corresponding "versions" according to the materials of a given place and time. This allows the poet to "update" the poem without fear of the advances in new technologies, inevitably brought about by scientific development, hindering its materialisation.



NEIDE SA: Transparencies


Poetry to Carry and/or to Be Carried Out


These formal advances of the Brazilian avant-guard poetry had an enormous influence on every sphere of art, poetry and its related disciplines. Thus in Argentina, Edgardo Antonio Vigo, who after addressing the Process/Poem as a "poetry to be built", in other words, a poetic that demands the participation of the reader although he follows the instructions of a "programme" or a "projector of the process", goes a step forward by admitting a programme that gives determined instructions (signals or clues) to the reader and he, the real "builder of the poem", will be the one who gives life to the poem. In his own words Vigo says, "…the possibility of art is not only in the observer's participation but on his active building." (1970).

The new "reader" or "true creator" receives a changeable project through his creative involvement. These ideas materialised on the 30th September 1970 in the Hall of the State University, Montevideo, Uruguay in the Exhibitions of the Avant-guard Editions, where the work of Edgardo Antonio Vigo "Demagogical Poem" was carried out. To each participant a form was given with the project to be carried out:


"Write, keeping anonymous, a phrase, phoneme, symbol or visual sign (etc.) which you can't do without in a poem in the blank space provided. Make a cylinder and introduce it into the BALLOT BOX Nº 1. You will receive a certification of your vote in the shape of a large card which you must hung onto your lapel. Thank you."


In this way each participant, having previously acted onto the blank space in the form, would introduce them into a special ballot box with a circular hole (not quadrangular like the regular ballot boxes). The day's proceedings were brought to an end by Clemente Padín's work "Poetry must be made by everyone". In this work the participants had to work on a blackboard where coloured ribbons and white cards hang; each participant was given a handout where the following was indicated:


"INSTRUCTIONS: write an infinitive verb that expresses your present need for action on a white card. Then pin it wherever you think convenient, so that the verb is covered by the coloured ribbon. When the poem has been completed the organisers will fix the white card horizontally in such a way that it can be read and the coloured ribbons are hanging. In this way there will be an indication of your concerns at a collective level and the plastic concretion of the poem that together with the others you have helped to create."


Now the consumer creates actively according to a project. However, he doesn't create individually according to a version resulting from his lone act of consuming but he does so collectively. From the expectations of Concrete Poetry and Visual Poetry moving on to the creative-building of the Poem to be Carried Out. The modification acts on the mode of the artistic production and therefore on the mode of consumption. "The deepest activating of the individual: his own making of the poem".

The essential proposal is on the modus operandi, the mode of production and consumption, not on the work or product itself, which doesn't obstacle the work of art from suffering alterations in unpredictable ways due to the unfolding of the mode of production (1971). 


Vigo sheds light over the matter by stating in his note to the Expo/International Proposals to be Carried Out in the Centre of Arts and Communications (CAYC) from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1971:


"Next 18th June this exhibition will be opened. It will present all those modern day experiences that have been carried out by artists that come from the field of Visual or Sound Poetry. Individual searches at an international level have lead to the constant reactivating of these two fields and have abandoned (almost entirely) the treatment of the poem at a visual level as well as the traditional spaces in their presentation (exhibitions) and their layout (book). The experiences gained permit their present PROPOSAL. Having come to the point where the freeing of the fields which the traditional arts had divided into genres without endorsing a WHOLE ART, the POETIC RESEARCHES have been kept within the mentioned field because it stems from all of them that imponderable and undefinable "mystery to be deciphered" as well as their features of a "contemporary romanticism" defined in relation to its form and conjugated in a different way. The exhibition has been organised by Edgardo Antonio Vigo with the direct collaboration of Elena Pelli (Resistence/Chaco) and Clemente Padín (Montevideo/R.O. del Uruguay). To keep a coherence within the presentations of the projects and their taking place, the display has began with the PROCESS/POETRY, movement that in Brazil breaks with the hegemony that up to 1969 had been kept by the NOIGANDRES GROUP (of CONCRETE POETRY) from Sao Paulo. The PROCESS/POETRY brings the possibility of a novelty for the observer who can ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE by using "MINIMAL CLUES" so as to give form and partial or definite content to the given poem. To this it is also added the possibility of a CONSTANT MODIFICATION of the results (because of the intensification of the audience and individual participation) that turns it into a "NEVER-ENDING" poem. Subsequently a world-wide current emerges where the poetic researches are proposed but not carried out. Up to this point it becomes a definite and necessary result the interchanging of ideas, concepts and PROJECTS and the freeing ourselves of the POETIC OBJECT (dear to the surrealists and their variant POETRY/OBJECT and proposed by the first theoretical notes of the process/poetry  - WLADEMIR DIAS-PINO  -) . The carrying out of the projected work can be undertaken by a society which is totally alien to the designer or researcher."    


Moreover we find this passage from the note by Edgardo Antonio Vigo (1971) where his project A VISUAL WALK ALONG THE PLAZA RUBEN DARIO is described:


"A large card indicating a MINIMAL CLUE and an element (that can be substituted), invites us to carry out an action that we can simply replace by another. The carrying out of our OWN ACTION is based on the particular reading. Let us explain: we take a piece of chalk, mark a cross (or any other geometric centre or not), inside that centre or surrounding it make a rotation of 360º (that can be less or plural), add a variant in relation with the horizon which itself may be varied by standing on tiptoes or in a crouching position (why not lower our bodies and literally lay down on the ground?), with any of these possibilities and their execution you have made A VISUAL WALK ALONG THE PLAZA RUBEN DARIO (designer: E.A.V., Bs. Aires, CAYC, 1970). The non existence of the work of art, the non necessity of its presence, the ephemeral quality of being, the open possibility of MATERIALISING different ACTIONS to the ones proposed makes us all MAKERS (that is traditionally: CREATORS) of situations and not consumers digitised aprioristically"




 "A visual walk along the plaza Ruben Dario", Buenos Aires, 1970.


Non-Object Poetry


The ideas by Clemente Padín had already been embodied in some of the works published by the Uruguayan magazine OVUM 10, for example, " Gastou, Gastou" and "In Hoc Signo Vinces" where the reader was encouraged to act upon the poems. Therefore, in 1971, Padín gave shape to a poetry based on the action that he named Non-Object Poetry. It must be kept in mind, that during those years (by the end of the 60's) a deep questioning of the language foundations, principally the written language arose. It was considered to be the source of all the informational deformation represented through ideology, and yet another agent for the enslavement and control of society. Hence, it wasn't strange that Padín's proposal tried utopically to leave behind the language of "representation", a characteristic of the written and other languages, that established their meanings conventionally by social agreement. He proposed a language of the "action" whose signs "would transmit by acting". In other words, it proposed to substitute the signifiers for actions and the signified for the consequences of the actions and the meanings they conveyed. Of course, in this particular language, only by virtue of "doing", the "makers of texts", would be taking part, while creating at the same time the "action poem". The weak point in this proposal, as it was recognised by the same Padín (1975), is that for communication to take place languages must exist and the "actions" had not yet been taken catalogued or conventionalised up to the point where each could be attributed a meaning (except for a reduced number to which by tradition a meaning has been given, for example, to give flowers as a present would mean "love", etc.). Furthermore the "readings" of the actions had to be adjusted according to the degree in which they affected the interests of the "readers" depending, not only on their repertory but also on their social expectations.




CLEMENTE PADÍN: " Gastou, Gastou", 1971.



Gesture/Hyper-Textual/ Sound Poetry to Build and/or to Carry Out   


We had to wait until 1996 to find "the beyond" of the proposals of the 60's with its poetry centred on the participation of the reader. An Argentine poet, Fabio Doctorovich from the Paralenguas Group, from Buenos Aires, while putting to work the dynamics of the new means, offers the "reader/active participant" the possibility of expressing himself through a variety of means: sounds, gestures, movement, etc., widening the sphere of the expressive possibilities. After recognising the contributions of Vigo and Dias-Pino and analysing the mono-conceptuality from nearly all of the poetic production from the 20th century, in other words, the decoding through only just one channel, he proposes a plurality of ways of expression, the Multi-conceptual poem, as it has, on the other hand, been taken on board by the present experimental Latin-American poetry in using all the language dimensions, not only on the semantic plane but also the phonic, visual and performative, etc.


On his theoretical formulation, Doctorovich mentions the following (1998):


"Carrying out the Multiconcept could result in the creation of works that employ a diversity of components (textual, visual, phonic, etc.) in separate interrelated parts that assemble as a modular structure. Each module, differently from the multimedia or the audio-visual means, wouldn't necessarily be represented simultaneously with the others.

This would give the modular work the characteristic of a "work to be build" because the reader is able to arrange the modules in a variety of possible sequences or to add his own modules, producing a multiplicity of readings.

With the purpose of making the work a unique whole (although divisible) and not the mere sum of its constituting parts, as well as focusing on one or more common topics, the modules would possess parts that function as pieces for fitting in, being the most obvious example of this the intertextual technique where phrases in the module B that refer to the module A would be employed."



FABIO DOCTOROVICH: Gesture/Hyper-textual poetry to Build and/or to Carry out 1.


PHASE 1: Recite out loud and making pauses, following the direction indicated by the arrows, according to the keys described to the left of the poem.


As we have seen, the poem can be divided into components that depend on the dimension of language that is considered (semantic, visual, phonic, etc.). The difficulty lies in the fact on how we will be able to reassemble those modules in a unique entity. In a verbal poem the solution is given, mainly, by the copulative conjunctions; in the visual poem by its own space; in the phonic poem by time; etc. In Doctorovich's proposal the modules get "embedded" according to "hyperpostypographical" as he calls it.


In other words, the audience (the embedders) not only fills each module with meaning, but articulates it with the whole. Finally, the last turn of the screw, the work stops being a definitive entity, because:


"The initial designer must busy himself with sketching a plane ( bi-, tri-, or n- dimensional) of the work that serves as a guide for further authors while at the same time he has to indicate the spaces to be filled (modules or fragments to be carried out)."


In this way, the work becomes a dynamic entity, constituted by assembled pieces that can be embedded or not, a piacere.


Also the concept "work of art" would disappear, for now we would be in the presence of "a metamorphic, gelatinous form, a kind of "blob" made up of real and virtual materials."


We don't forget the influence of the means, mainly, computing, in Doctorovich's proposal. To adequate the expressive instruments to the present time, is undoubtedly a challenge the poet will never walk away from. Moreover the devices have always been "contaminated" and had an influence on the forms. For that reason, the technological progress, principally, on the field of the expression and the communications has always caused formal changes, be it on the works themselves (when information is added), or be it on the characteristics or features of the consumption.




FABIO DOCTOROVICH: Gesture/Hyper-textual poetry to Build and/or to Carry out 2.






The new is born from the old (an obvious truth!). From the statement "all that is made by a human being can be art" by Duchamp to Cage's "all that can be heard can be music" and Beuys asseveration that "everyone can be an artist", all converges on the great contribution of the historical avant-gardes, above all of the Dadaists': "art is life". For life is a dialogue, it is communication, it is social production.

When artists and poets propose the participation as consubstantial to art and poetry, they are doing nothing else but reaffirming the premises by which art is freed from its condition of merchandise or an exclusive consumption product, subject to market forces.

When proposing the responsibility of the finished product on the "active-consumer", the artist is returning art to its first social function, to the usage area: a product (not necessarily material) that expresses symbolically their urges and needs ("Poetry must be made by everyone", Count Lautrèamont). The participation of the reader has been the subtle thread that has united each poem and every proposal of Latin-American poetry during the second half of the 20th century and undoubtedly, the new means, mainly electronic ones, will do nothing but encourage development through the interaction they make possible.




CIRNE, MOACY Vanguarda: un Projeto Semiologico, Vozes, Petropolis, Brasil, 1975

DE SA, ALVARO Vanguarda: Produto de Comunicaçao, Vozes, Petropolis, Brasil, 1977

DIAS- PINO, WLADEMIR A Ave, Ed. Igrejinha, Cuiabá, Brasil, 1956.

----------------------------------Solida, Ed. del autor, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil,1962.

----------------------------------Processo: Linguagem e Comunicaçao, Vozes, Petropolis,Brasil,1971.

DOCTOROVICH, FABIO ENCAszTERS, en catálogo de VI Bienal Internacional de Poesía Experimental, Sección Cono Sur Latinoamericano, Montevideo, Uruguay, 1998.

ECO, UMBERTO Obra Abierta, Planeta-Agostini, Madrid, España, 1984

FERREIRA-GULLAR Teoria del Nao-Objeto, en Suplemento de Jornal do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1959.

PADIN, CLEMENTE De la Representation a l´Action, Ed. Polaires, Marsella, Francia, 1975.

PIGNATARI, DECIO Entrevista en Correio da Manha, 21 de Agosto de 1965.

PIGNATARI, DECIO y AUGUSTO y HAROLDO de CAMPOS  Plan Piloto para la Poesía Concreta. En revista Noigrandes, nr. 2, Sao Paulo, Brasil,1958.

VIGO, EDGARDO ANTONIO De la Poesía/Proceso a la Poesía para y/o a Realizar, Diagonal Cero, La Plata, Argentina, 1970.

---------------------------------------La Calle: escenario del arte actual,  revista OVUM 10, nro. 6,1971, Montevideo, Uruguay.




Translator: Paula Einoder-Boxer