Macroscript, Microvision. Chrono-ideology of the iconization of the verbal. 

On the occasion of the closing of the exhibition dedicated to the art critic, poet, writer, gallerist and translator Mario Diacono (held in ARRHYTHMICS from 15 July to 24 October 2021) and of the opening in the same section of the solo show of the poet Patrizia Vicinelli, in this EXTRA we propose an extract taken from the essay by Mario Diacono Macroscript, Microvision. Chrono-ideology of the iconization of the verbal – present in the book Contemporanea (1973) – which is an introduction and in-depth study on the theme of concrete poetry and therefore acts as a trait d’union between the two exhibitions.

It is commonly recognized that the emergence of “concrete poetry” toward the end of the fifties was a new return to the “abstract” in literature. Even in the definition of the movement, half the expression, “poetry”, belongs to the critical lexicon of the verbal, and the other half, “concrete”, to the critical lexicon of the contemporary visual arts (Max Bill). The same can be said of the names that non-verbal or non-linear poetry assumed over the following decade, “visual poetry”, “object poetry”, up to the latest experiments which could be called, if it has not already been done, “conceptual poetry”, where the defining adjective, characterizing the generic noun poetry, comes from the lexical area of the figurative. 

Thus also, to give some further examples, in 1965 the first important exhibition of visual poetry, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, was called “Between Poetry and Painting”, and an exhibition of artists who include the verbal element in their works, held in 1967 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, was labeled “Pictures to be read, Poetry to be seen”.  

The stressing of the “intermediate” element in these two exhibitions was also a consequence of the fact that critics of the visual art focused on the phenomenon of visual writing before literary critics did (admitting that they in fact have done). This had inevitable methodological consequences, during the sixties, so that an exhibition entitled “Concrete poetry” held in 1969 at the Fine Arts Gallery of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, associated with the names of Belloli, Gomringer, Finlay, Kriwet and Niikuni those of Kosuth, Nauman, Oldenburg, Kaprow and Vasarely. With few exceptions, the critical writings and the most important anthologies (those of Williams, Bory, Solt, the essay-anthology of Spatola) have been the work of the writers themselves involved in the visual dilatation and intensification of the literary verbal.

Continuing with the list of equivocations, ambiguities or interactions (however it is preferred to call the phenomenon), we find at the end of the sixties the texts of visual writing with one foot still in the publishing communication space (often very limited, if not clandestine), and the other in that of the galleries, with the gallery-owners often taking over the economic role of publishers, thus confirming that at the level of consumption also it is accepted that these texts hold an intermediate position between painting and poetry. When, however, the text took the road of the book instead of the gallery wall, usually the number of published copies of the work was inversely proportional to its remaining relations with literature. Perhaps generalizing excessively, we can say that the passage in production from the work-book to the work-picture/sculpture/photograph was promoted by the specific consumption that visual work encountered toward the middle of last decade, consumption by galleries and collectors, and this passage has led to a lowering in the semantic rate of the text, an expansion of or takeover by the ideological conceptual aspect, i.e it has pushed the writer to a hypervaluation of and preference for the graphic and tactile elements of the surface of the writing as compared to the interior “word” of the work. It is certainly premature to qualify this behavior as negative, and it is probable that it is due to the writer’s need to explore immediately in time how far he can go with his means in space, but it seems to me undeniable that in the mean time we have arrived, on the general international level, at a situation of macrovisual micropoetry. 

Naturally the “visual” dimension did not arise in poetry with the “concrete” experience. Already in 1963 Belloli set out in an essay in the third issue of “Pagina” the number of futurist, dadais, cubofuturis and constructivist experiences which in the decade 1914-24, starting from the typo-visual pages of “Lacerba”, began the series of chain explosion in “Gutenberg Galaxy”. But those experiences had not been lined up on a specific theoretical frontier of eidopoetry; those operations of visualization of writing were rather the product of complex and radical global ideologies of aesthetic behavior, aimed at a transformation of the moving forces in “all” artistic languages. With the sole exception of Marinetti, I think Schitters, Van Doesburg, Lissitskij eclipse the verbal aspect of writing, highlighting the visual and phonetic above all as an extension to the language of poetry of the reformulations brought about in the language of painting. And in fact between 1925 and 1955 the notion of poetry is bound to the names of Eliot, Pound, Ungaretti, Breton, Artaud, Lorca, Rilke, Majakovsky, Mandelstam, essentially. Visual poetry is (re)born in the fifties with the “concrete” movement, starting not from the physically contorted page of the historical avant grade but from the linear, “composed” page of the poets mentioned above, subjecting it to a job of geometrization, symmetrization re-emergence of the futurist-dadaist-constructivist post-verbal experience. Who remembered after 1950 that Moholy-Nagy had written in 1926 in an essay entitled “Timely Typography” (“Zeitgemässe Typographie”): «The grey typographical text will give way to the colorful book-image, to be experienced as an uninterrupted visual flow (the structured sequence of a series of individual pages)»? In any case, it cannot be said either that this has turned out to be the main aim of the visuality of the poetry of iconic-semeiotic dimension as it has taken shape over the last few years, just as “painting” is not limited to repeating today with variations the structural themes of Malevich and Mondrian. With “concrete” poetry there reappeared the notion of a formal avant grade, in literature, but stripped of the revolutionary-topic accents which had been a feature of the languages of the pre-Fascist, pre-Nazi, pre-Stalinist avant grade movements. In the new visual writing, the absence of any polemics toward “traditional” poetry was conspicuous. The new visual language was presented immediately not as a alternative to “old” poetry but as a direction independent from it, parallel bot to literature and to painting, not interdependent with either. That the disappearance of verbal poetry (and the novel as major arts at the present stage of history is a direct consequence of the concentration of creative energy on visual writing remains a hypothesis, maybe premature, to be verified.