Essay Manoel Ricardo de Lima
In the early 20th century, between the years of 1910 and 1920, in a Russia that was preparing for the 1917 revolution, the main issue encircling new ideas about poetry went through Vielimir Khlébnikov, Vladimir Maiakóvski and Boris Pasternak. Those three menwere some kind of avant-garde conjunction, it can be said, seeking a certain language existing between sound and sense, which they called the phenomenon of the zaum: “the famous transmental language of the Russian Futurists,” remembers Boris Schnaiderman. Zaum is a sound language that makes us understand how each linguistic sign is also an ideological, political and transforming sign.
Cubo-Futurism perspectives were to follow up on the transformation of Russian men who were taking the streets; from factories to modern cities. Poetry follows the steps of oral language and then, overtaken by visuality, it also pervades, for instance, in poster art: it is poetry with direct immediate communication. Not surprisingly, this poetry would interest Brazilian concrete poets in the 1950s and 1960s: Augusto and Haroldo de Campos and Décio Pignatari. These poets worked with expectations turned to what they called verbivocovisual [covisualverbal], an expression trying to convey something we may call expanded poetry, meaning the occasion when poetry expands the sense of the word between written, oral and visual characters. Thus, concrete poetry sought to face, in that time, with broad theoretical reach, post-war technological industrialization, the first and real bloat in large cities, the emerging advertisement industry, consumption, new ways of life and, mainly, dialogues between literature and music, painting, new technologies and a kind of machine-like awareness.
One of the unfoldings of the transmental language of Russian Cubo-Futurism and of Brazilian concrete poetry’s verbivocovisualidade stimulates countless researches regarding the idea of hypermedia poetry [from videotext to videography], of interpoetry, of digital poetry, etc., pointing to various other relevant issues comprising different nomenclatures and procedures. And when we talk about that unfolding, two artists make very important contributions through their works and critical texts to Brazilian art and poetry: Philadelpho Menezes [1960-2000] and Wilton Azevedo [1958-]. Together, in 1998, theylaunched an interactive CD-ROM entitled Interpoesia: poesia hipermídia interativa [Interpoetry: Interactive Hypermedia Poetry; Fapesp/Mackenzie]. At the time, that CD-ROM emerged as a new interface between poetry and a reconfigured virtual space through the Internet and electronic and technological media; it was a pioneer movement towards anotherexpansion of poetry, a poetry from new media and technology times in the 21st Century. Wilton Azevedo is the designer and editor for this CD-ROM; his work as a poet, with constant interest in the development of such interfaces, and as a researcher-lecturer in the graduate section of Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, regards directly his interests in opening up new possibilities for the usages and operations of poetry so that itwill entangle itself in real-time, in virtual technologies, in design structures, in a dilated space, in possibilities generated by language, known today as technologic poetry – among many other variations.
Wilton Azevedo’s work is interested in expanding or rearranging the concept of poetry, that thing we verify as text, as context, as crisis in the idea we have of text and verse, in order to establish some communicative exchange, a communicative event, an interaction between poem and receptor; and to remake and reassess dilemmas between the subject of the enunciated and the subject of the enunciation. Poems come, thus, within an impact process on man, through and dynamited by the use of a computer and its various resources, of computer technology, in order to refute the idea of some closed sign system and present itself as action and performance in constant flow.
Wilton Azevedo works with some unpredictable rapport between sound, senses, image, word and plugs, many plugs, aiming at reverting language’s arbitrary logic and juxtaposing the poetry experiments of 20th Century avant-gardes (such as is the case of Russian Cubo-Futurism and Brazilian concrete poetry) in order to generate some kind of “interactive infography,” or a resource that goes from “stone to pixel,” as Julio Plaza expresses it. Wilton Azevedo’s work aims at inventing some anti-device that will create noise in language. We must note that Wilton Azevedo’s Master’s degree thesis, presented in 1984 and supervised by Concretist poet Décio Pignatari, at PUC/São Paulo, in Communications and Semiotic, is entitled “O Ruído como Linguagem” [Noise as Language]. Years later,in 1995, Wilton presented his Doctor’s degree dissertation, supervised by Arlindo Machado, also at PUC/São Paulo, entitled “Criografia: a pintura tradicional e seu potencial programático” [Creography: Traditional Painting and its Programmatic Potential]. Later still, after his Post-Doctorate in France, at Paris VIII, Laboratoire de Paragraphe, hedeveloped research in two lines directly related to his work as designer-artist: Hiperdesign: uma cultura do acesso Interprosa [Hyperdesign: Culture of Access Interprose] andInterpoesia: o início da Escritura Expandida [Interpoetry: The Beginning of Expanded Scripture].
We can observe a wide variety of interests, from noises that cut and assemble the synthesis of a place to be explored by language, to that of a hypermedia poet, to the simplest gesture of a painter leaning on natural pigmentations and resins and handmade paper. This painter’s work receives a different treatment when, in 1987, Wilton Azevedo exhibits his computer-made paintings at Clube de Criação, in São Paulo, and then at Museuda Imagem e do Som, MIS, in 1988. Arlindo Machado, on the occasion of a solo exhibitionof Wilton Azevedo at Kramer Galeria de Arte, in São Paulo, 1992, wrote in the catalogue’s introduction: “On the other hand, regarding visualized motifs, Mr. Azevedo’s painting is absolutely modern. It seeks inspiration in the electrification of current iconography, in stylish and elliptic shapes of pop culture, in prototype-like and diaphanous television images and in the intricacies of neo-baroque in post-modern design. Not by chance, this exhibition, which starts with a research on natural pigmentation, ends with acomputerized animation, on an electronic screen, in order to materialize an idea of artistic invention as a non-linear path, extending to every direction.”
We can say Wilton Azevedo’s work is related to some kind of poetry that invents and creates synthetic images within a poem context in order to produce another language phenomenon, that of hypermedia. Hypermedia is non-linearity and should always be considered as departing from an idea of expansion of hypertext, an extension, that is, a language with its own character, just like Russian poets established with their transmental language of the zaum and Brazilian concrete poets, on the other hand, created a poetic-critic set of ideas around verbivocovisualidade.
Wilton also wrote books such as O Que é Design [What Is Design], edited by Brasiliense in 1994, and Os Signos do Design [Design Signs], by Global Editora, in 1988, six years before. He also created the FILE-Poetry section within Festival Internacional de Linguagens Eletrônicas [Internatonal Festival of Electronic Languages]. In this way, finally, it is possible to consider that Wilton Azevedo, before presenting himself as a drawing artist or an illustrator, a designer, is mostly an artist constantly rethinking andreworking formal sign codification processes in art history, such as in rapports between image and word, word and image, so that he will later connect himself as a performer-artist, a performer-poet, in a path carved around images stripped of any reference of our apparent world, a poet with syntactic and synthetic inventions, poetic inventions that move through simulations of nature. Julio Plaza calls this synthetic poetry, that is, something we can consider the poetics of new rapports with our imaginary and, mainly,of new relations of that thing we consider to be reality. With Wilton Azevedo’s work, we are before some kind of poetry made to a now-future, an expanded- plug-e-poetry.
Interview Marcelo Rezende
How did your first experiences involving poetic production and technology come about?
It was in 1985, with a computer. They were not yet these complex machines; they needed independent processors, a very different environment as compared to today. If you wanted to do some illustration, you traced a bare colorless line, and after a few processes you ended up having a product, but it was a very hard work. Actually, I was not interested in the 3D aspect of it, in being able to work in three dimensions; I was not attracted by that. My backgrounds are in fine arts and graphic design. When I first started to work, I behaved a bit like “a painter on a computer,” basically. My background also included more experimental performance poetry; I worked with Xerox machines, which atthe end of the day are scanners, monitors. At that time, I also realized it was possible to work directly with typewriters, and then crumple the sheets . . . I was interestedin results from images that were not directly connected to a paper support.
However, with a computer, I began to notice that, in relation to what I was performing,be it a word or a line, nothing would happen in a direct manner. Looking at the monitorand drawing with the mouse was one culturally unexpected thing. It was very hard not tohave that direct relationship provided by a pencil or a brush. In the computer, I realized I could draw a letter; I could create an alphabet, words, because the computer allowed me to do that, and the result was poetry in itself. I called it allegoric poetry. The computer thus became to me a tool used to produce language, this language would comeout on the other end, the machine would complete the operation. For the computer, an algorithm, there is theoretically no distinction between image and writing, between imageand letter.
Then your work is in the nature and in the language of the computer itself.
Of course it is. While others see words or images there, that is not what I see. It took some time even for me to understand that. I started to research this. I decided I wanted to work with that technology, to see what I was capable of doing with it. However, it was only in 1997-1998 that I started to produce what we call digital poetry. I wanted to obtain a poetic structure through the use of technology, and I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that programming media was not restrained to broadcasting conglomerates any longer; any individual could create their own programs.
Does this mean anyone can claim to produce art when they do their own programming?
Currently, we are going through a very important moment in regards to one issue: whether artistic activity is professional or not. You can be both a doctor and a great poet, isn’t it so? From the moment you have a “www” system, a network system, you are a step closer to deinstitutionalization. I believe that in the future we will no longer have exhibitions for this, festivals for that, because in these events there are curators or a board deciding what is important and what is not. Art does not have a Darwinist character. There is no evolution; there is perfecting. However, there is a kind of artistic production that does not require galleries or museums; that do not require physical presence. Today, I see many people claiming to be artists, poets or musicians “of the digital age,” even though our current greatest advantage is precisely the fact that you do not need to claim to be an artist any longer. I belong to a generation to whom it was very hard to get something published; it was impossible to have an exhibition; it wasvery hard to show your work.
Do you think there is a risk of celebrating technology as if it were some sort of fetish?
My relationship with technology encompasses my own background, I have to say. I havea physical handicap, I cannot walk, I have never walked. When I was growing up, it was extremely unpleasant to have to ask my brothers to change the TV channels for me. You cannot imagine how moved I was when they started to sell the first remote controls. You cannot imagine what that meant in my life, to be able to change channels or turn up thevolume without having to walk up to the TV set. That changed everything. I think I was about thirteen years old. It was a huge box with six buttons, but it meant I did not depend on anyone else. This is the relationship I have with technology. That day I found out it was possible to be in another time and in another space without moving! It was an unbelievable feeling of freedom. If this freedom exists (and this is why totalitarianregimes must control the internet) and you begin to claim you are a digital artist, it makes no sense. I produce my work, but I do not feel any need to claim my position as an artist. Your address on FaceBook may exhibit what you do, your work, and people get in touch with it. I see art as something I do everyday in the late afternoon, when I have some coffee before I go back home. It is in everything I think, I need to understand what I do. I am not interested in what people have to say about “art and technology,” Iam not interested in pyrotechnics.
Are you still looking for the remote control?
I am! All the time.
Comment biography Wilton Azevedo
I was in a graduate class at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, in November of the year 1997, commenting on the importance of author Valêncio Xavier and his wonderful literary work: O Mêz da Grippe [The Month of the Cold].
At a certain point, a student told me about the opening, that same evening, of an Art and Technology event and asked me if I would be interested in coming. I did not answer straight away, however, at the end of the lecture, I realized I was persuaded to go and see.
When I got to the place, there were artists, poets, professors, and a quite large crowd to see the performances.
That evening, at Instituto Cultural Itaú, I saw for the first time after two years, Philadelpho Meneses. He was in a room filled with headphones, in which the visitors could access sound poetry produced all over the world, which had been gathered by him withhis typical curatorial rigor.
At that time, I talked about experiments I was conducting in my studio with authorship software and about palpable potential in those experiments in order to accomplish a new form of poetry-making.
The following week, Philadelpho came to my studio and then I showed him what I was doing with images, sounds and texts using authorship software. All that movement available in one unique medium seduced him; he got excited to do a work in collaboration.
At that moment, Interpoesia was born. In my small studio in Pinheiros (São Paulo – Brazil), we started to work continuously on an idea that was still nameless. Philadelpho decided to give me visual poems he had already finished and published in printing; I, on the other hand, started to imagine a way of translating those poems to the digital medium.
Many meetings followed, aiming at extracting from that language exercise a hypermedia product.
After many months of work, we started to see the emergence of a product that would be a benchmark in hypermedia poetry production in Brazil – and then I remembered we had to give a name to our production.
A week before, I had handed him the text Hiperdesign: Uma Cultura do Acesso [Hyperdesign: Culture of Access], and, based on that text, we thought about the name Hiperpoesia [Hyperpoetry]. Then, Philadelpho asked me what about Interpoesia [Interpoetry], and Ianswered: perfect.
Philadelpho intended to bring to hypermedia production his concept, which he called intersigno [intersign], and I was interested in developing virtual environments that would point to a new access flow, hiperdesign [hyperdesign].
Our creature had a first name; we still had to find a last name for it. Then we called it Poesia Hipermídia Interativa [Interactive Hypermedia Poetry].
Despite Interpoesia’s historic relevance, my work with digital poetry did not begin with this CD-ROM; I had done an exhibition in 1987, at Clube de Criação, in São Paulo, where I introduced for the first time Poesia Alegórica [Allegory Poetry]. Later, in February 1988, at São Paulo’s Museu da Imagem e do Som, I presented my work Signação [Signization], in which I considered software as a script of fixed images. It is important to note that these two works were part in Mostra Internacional da Poesia Visual [International Show of Visual Poetry], in 1988, and that I was able to publicly present them toEugen Gomringer.
Therefore, the continuation of this research and its praxis in hypermedia productionare established as crucial points within Brazilian poetry production using digital support.
Nothing in a digital environment manifests itself in its isolated form, there is no reintroduction of caogenous or redundant terms, and everything derives from programmed scripture, from expanded scripture.
As absurd as it may seem, digital poetry recuperates language ritualization because it is a preprogrammed process of making, predicted by its scripture, and this credit emancipates it as something new, without any noise or awkwardness, as everything is contained in some programming and it is preconceived, it is a process.
Because of this, a poem may be stripped of words, its enunciation is not in its discourse, its narrative does not tell tales, its poetry is in the expansion of symbols; tomake digital poetry is to constantly build mutating environments – ambientations – an experience that is not concerned with creating formulas. It was my concern whether my works have or don’t have an end or a formal end in the world of the letters, in the senseof a conclusive challenge, but that they were a line in expansion seeking experimentation.
In each different stage, digital poetry makes it more and more evident that a redundancy in its sign articulations exists in the form of poetry; however, it is not some redundancy promoted by pop culture that creates extensions of its signs; this is actuallydone by exhaustion, by excess as a process of strangeness, without the need of words.
Bibliographical references Marcelo Rezende
This space is where artist Wilton Azevedo presents his work, which is still in progress, as well as his virtually daily reflections about the state of the world.
Here you can see Mr. Azevedo reciting one of his poems, Momentos Polaroid(Polaroid Moments, 2009).
Cinco Poemas Concretos
This video, created by Christian Caselli, presents five celebrated poems of the Concretism movement [in Portuguese]. Cinco (Five, by José Lino Grunewald, 1964), Velocidade (Speed, by Ronald Azeredo, 1957), Cidade (City, by Augusto de Campos, 1963), Pêndulo (Pendule, by E.M. de Melo e Castro, 1961/62), and O Organismo (The Organism, by Décio Pignatari, 1960).
In these works, you can see how Concrete poetic procedures influenced Wilton Azevedo’s background.