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In concrete poetry the word is image at the same time, but with no extra verbal connections. The verbal-visual identity of the word is enhanced, by inquiring into the internal structural links of  letters and the relationship between them and  words, by a deliberate concreteness which refuses to take  symbolic components, whether narrative or subjective, into account, that is whatever is extraneous to spatial  relationships of verbal contiguity or discontinuity. The concrete poem is a reality in itself and not a poem about something else.

Since 1960, by the experience of “new writing” one intends to question the rationality of concrete poetry,  aiming, among other things at rediscovering the expressive dimension of the manual sign-word, that is of the act of writing. So that chirography, the materialness of writing, its instruments and media, both paper and non-paper, are favored. One of the purposes is recovering what the hand expresses even, in some measure, of the unconscious,  with reference to the sign/painting experiences of the forties-sixties from Michaux to Wols, from Tobey to Twombly, from Mathieu to Novelli, not to speak of Paul Klee, the precursor.

Beside all this, and in consequence of it, one aims also at inquiring into the relationships between word-writing and drawing and one rediscovers the origin of writing from the primeval sign, that is the fact that writing the written word is also iconicity and also the consequences in the contemporary world of the abnormal development of the image through the press, the illustrated magazines, television etcetera, a phenomenon particularly inquired into by the group of technological-visual poets.

In this chapter we are going to mention only Italian authors, but of course many foreign authors could rightly have been included, such  as, for instance Alain Arias-Misson, Joseph Beuys, Jean-François Bory, Jochen Gerz, Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman, Roman Opalka, Ben Vautier, Wolf  Vostell, Lawrence Weiner and others.   


Vincenzo   Accame

(Loano, Savona, 1932 – Milano 1991)

In accordance with the ideas expressed by Ugo Carrega on “symbiotic poetry”, for Accame dimension, form and colour  in words are meaning bearers no less than  the linguistic code that marks them as members of a language. He believes  symbiotic writing to consist in a series of poetic operations, which must bear in mind the interaction between verbal and graphic signs. In his tables, phrases written in very minute characters  start a discourse on the line based on the identity of the concepts stated with the graphic arrangement of the semantic material employed. For example the word “line” becomes a line and short phrases may mime elementary geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, circles (Table I).


Vincenzo Agnetti

(Milan, 1926-1961)

In his life as painter Agnetti identified art with his refusal to paint, in order to be more present on the cultural scene, through writings on the work and behaviour of those few contemporary artists, such as Paolo Ferrari and Manzoni, who endeavoured  a total break of the aesthetic discourse. It was the period which he called of “liquidationism” or “no art” , that is making art as a pure analysis of concepts, statements and theories  working as “visualized thought”. In particular he analyzed the differences between the initial time and the present time, between the moment of coming true and the actual time: “when more work-instants are given, there will always be a work-duration  containing the  given instants”. From which his typical paradox follows “forgetting by heart”, a conjunction between logic and estrangement, like the writing that sums up his self-portrait: “when I saw myself, I wasn’t there” or other axioms again  such as “the line is the moving  reference” or “space is a conquerer of times” or again in “Portrait of an unknown  person” (1970) the sentence “by covering his face he tried to be like himself”.

In 1968 he created “drugged machine”, that is an Olivetti Divisumma calculating machine, whose ten figures are replaced by as many letters of the alphabet. Consequently the digital code is betrayed as such but not destroyed, because it is transformed into another language, that of words and the machine becomes, in its turn, creative. Then came “Neg”, a stereophonic record-player which allows one to listen to silence, because when the sound-signal comes, an inhibiting circuit blocks it.  Thus pauses in music are taken into consideration, the microinterval between sound and sound, so that one listens to music in negative. (Table 2).


Paolo Albani

(Marina Di Massa, Massa,  1946)

One of the most brilliantly ironic and incisive artists, Paolo Albani makes use in his texts of displacing techniques and exquisite and highly enjoyable  surprise effects. He has published collections of poems such as “Parole in difficoltà (1973), “Words in progress” (1992). Together with Alessandra Barsi he edits “Techne”, a magazine which focuses its attention on a verbo-vusual experimentation, aimed at the comic, at nonsense, at the bizarre, the playful. He is a member of Oblepo (Oulipo) that is  “opificio di letteratura potenziale” (workshop of potential literature) and has edited with Berlinghiero Buonarroti  the dictionary of imaginary languages “Aga Magira Difura” (1994) and with Paolo della Bella the encyclopaedia of anomalous sciences “Forse Queneau” (1999). (Table 3) 




Gianfranco Baruchello

(Livorno, 1924)

Words and images seem to show, in the point where they cross, something which is neither word nor image, but has its root in the collective unconscious, which obscurely remembers the birth of the written word from the primeval  image and tends therefore to annihilate the difference between the two sign systems. “In Baruchello’s autonomous and selfproliferative world – writes Caramel – the two systems naturaliter coexist” almost like in  cavemen’s graffiti.” (Table 4)




Mirella Bentivoglio

(Klagenfurt, Austria, 1922)

Mirella Bentivoglio starts from the realization that with concrete art poetry becomes an object, just as in passing from representative  to abstract, painting becomes an object, insofar as it paints itself and not other things. Bentivoglio states that the identification between verbal and iconic language could not have taken place without the previous  pulling apart by concrete art. By pulling the word apart, concrete poetry  liberated it so as to identify it through interlinking- identifications founded on signifiants. Franz Mon wrote that “the word  and not the sentence, as in every other literature, is the primary element in concrete texts”.

Carrying on her research, Bentivoglio moved further in the direction of sign-objects, sign-matters, as far as the almost total disappearance of the verbal element. For instance in her performance “Gubbio 76” a large  withered tree, one of those trimmed to look like a candlestick, was set at the centre of the square  and given a new life  by the gestures of passers-by, who wrote their impressions on scraps of paper that, in their hundreds, took the place of leaves. Or again in  1979, again at Gubbio, under the vault obtained by turning the tree upside down, which was turned into a womb, the reading of the scraps of paper turned into a sort of collective poem. Another interesting action was the “Operazione Orfeo” , “Orpheus Operation” (1982): a deep cavern in the entrails of Monte Cucco in Umbria was fecundated by a concrete egg-sculpture (Tables 5 and 6)   



Irma Blank

(Celle. Germany, Lives In Milan)

Though it never becomes “writing” as we normally understand it, Irma Blank’s table, composed by all the available mediums of writing, could be defined “as though it were writing”. If the metaphor consists in transferring to one object the name actually belonging to another one according to a relationship of analogy, Blank, through analogy transfers to a writing of pure asemantic signs the name actually belonging to a writing made up of words. If not verbal, it may metaphorically be “visual orality”, being its underlying phantasm, and is anyway  “Urzeichen”, primeval signs, a text with no text but not deprived of context.

Unforgivingly minute and dense, Irma Blank’s graffiti mean to be read as verbal absence, though readable,  a trace perceived in the transference of analogy. And then the minimal differences of the tracing become substantial signs of time, of breathing, of pauses, of silence. We are in an auroral area in which the tracing is about to signify, but it is not yet the signified:  they are the “Eigenschriften”,  like “the body of silence” or “the tale of silence” or “the total book”. With her “Ur-buch” (ancestral book) Irma Blank introduces blue, the colour by which she obsessively constructs blue pages, which only at their fringed borders prove to be composed  by a very thick web of deep blue doodles.

In 2001 she published the artist’s book “hdjtljr” digitally printed, where the alphabet is reduced to eight consonants and no vowels. The text is formed according to self-creating rules, as they go on. It  can be read and pronounced but not understood in the conventional sense of the word, that is it doesn’t belong to any codified language, it is an open text whose meaning is entrusted to rhythm and repetition.

In 2002 Irma Blank published “Hyper-text” composed by digital printing and consisting in phrases written in English, Italian and German, but illegible because the opacity  of white ink on the whiteness of paper or cloth  makes them evanescent. In presenting her work at the Cenobio-Visualità Gallery  (1974)  Dorfles defined Irma Blank’s writing as “asemantic writing for those who can read and for those who can’t”. In a recent publication by Irma Blank “Trascrizioni 1973-79”  (“Transcriptions”) Francesco Tedeschi mentioned the Verona riddle, which is considered one of the earliest texts  of the Italian language, which perfectly suits Blank’s work as meta-discourse about writing: “se pareba boves/alba pratalia araba/ albo versorio teneba /negro semen seminaba  (he pushed forward oxen /ploughed white meadows /used a white plough / seeded a black seed).  (Table 7) 




Alighiero Boetti

(Turin, 1940-1994)

Boetti is a conceptual author perpetually balancing between couples of antinomies: order- disorder,  chance-necessity, searching-finding, similar-different, positive-negative, number as rhythm and as illimitate. Boetti thinks  that order stands to disorder as chance to necessity, or that he who merely seeks flounders at the horizon and he who merely finds is in the thrall of chance. For Boetti repetition is memory, the past thought looking back or the future is project, or that man is a condensed time. One sentence-opus by him says “to give birth to the world in Rome in the spring of the year 1978 thinking all round” (“mettere al mondo il mondo a Roma, pensando tutto tondo”).

Most of his painting is made up of sentences such as “the thousand longest rivers in the world” or in the hand embroidery of words such as “order-disorder” or in the cloths and carpets composed by sentences,  made in Afghanistan by local weavers. (Table 8).



Ferruccio Cajani

(Milano, 1927)

A poet and a painter (Pictures 41-42). With Liliana Ebalginelli in 2001 he founded  the publishing house “lilianaebalginelliEditrice”, devoted to visual and sound poetry, and began  publishing “Ulu-late” ( His own visual works published in form of books are “ Squille belle squille eterne e altre composizioni figurate” (1976), “Dieci Poesie” (1976),  “Voyage” (2001), “Incudine ai tropici. Romanzo globale” (2008). One of the salient aspects of Cajani’s work is his strife against the possibility of deciphering his work, a hand to hand fight which reveals the complexity of the contemporary situation. It is in fact a sort of” slap in the face of the taste of the public”. His “Dieci poesie” for instance, which Carlo Belloli describes as “paravisual  rehearsals”, open the way to several semantic routes overlapping one another, making it obvious that  exhaustive representation is impossible.  The novel “Come un cadavere, ovverossia morto che parla” is unreadable owing to a series of  whimsical oddities such as the substitution of entire pages by the mere number of the page or the sudden widening or contracting of the plot. “Non vale la pena di leggere” (2000) states that reading is not enough because a crowd of ultrasensorial pressures urges elsewhere and that the place of the narrative text is taken over by sounds and ikons. A text which is therefore open  to totally visual and optophonic forms, which are in some ways reminiscent of the futurist style of the kind of Marinetti’s  Zang tumb tumb” or “Cangiullo’sPiedigrotta”. The page becomes each time the screen and background of a wide variety of graphic solutions – I refer especially to “Voyage” and to “La valle dell’eterna andata senza ritorno”. The page is indeed the overwhelming protagonist of the tale: it speaks in black or  boldface or light type or by sections that cut the sheet into compact blocks or lies in lazy monotonous lines or lines up or develops into ribbons; ribbons that sing in various coloured inks, that vary from very delicate chromatisms  to the most lurid purple or  fades into brown/sepia or soot. Many pages bear the same text: what changes, instead, is the complexion  into chromatic music variations. In Cajani, therefore we find the explosion of a kind of graphic expressionism, giving birth to a series of painted texts where the words, the speech, are delivered in convulsive writings and strident chromatisms



Ugo Carrega

(Genoa 1935 – Lives In Milan)

After working with Martino and Anna Oberto on the magazine “Ana Etcetera”, Carrega edited in Milan, from 1965 to 1967, the mimeographed sheets of “Tool” as works in progress, where he enucleates  six fundamental strata in the printed page, that is two  verbal elements  (phonetic and propositional),  one graphic-verbal or lettering and three graphic signs (sign, shape and colour), suggesting by the term of “symbiotic writing”  a system of heterogeneous  elements influencing one another. For instance there is a great difference between writing in print types or typing or handwriting or writing on stones or by pencil or pen etcetera: “every idea has its specific way to be communicated, originated by the idea itself.”  Hence the possibility of an interchangeable  language, in which the word is just one element  among others and may be substituted by the object or by other signs.  To Tool contributed Rodolfo Vitone, Lino Matti, Vincenzo Accame, Rolando Mignani and others (Table 9).  



Luciano Caruso

(Napoli 1944 – Firenze 2002)

Caruso assigns to the gesture of writing an autonomous function; his is an anti-writing forever engaged around an “unspeakable” text,  where the verbum is by now irredeemably embodied in things, even in those which Caruso uses as verbal elements. The verbum becomes tactile and is transferred everywhere, from the string to the bark, to the pebble and so on. Caruso’s in an exercise on the edge which divides the field of writing from that of image or thought from matter.  For Caruso, literary accumulation produces an overlapping of situations, which alienate images and words ad infinitum. “Repetition affirms, blocks the becoming”. Going beyond the quotation would reveal our natural leaning to the labyrinth,  the sign of a sophisticated psychology, ambiguous and insidious in its own absentmindedness. It is not improbable that there may be a way of going through the labyrinth by counting steps and turnings, without allowing oneself to be caught by the anxiety of the unattainable, confusing it with the anxiety of what has already been gone through. (Table 10).




Giuseppe Chiari

(Firenze, 1926-2002)


For Chiari “as disconcerting and as subtle as a Buster Keaton of music, or elusive in his seriousness” according to Bruno Corà’s definition, music is the word written, but not necessarily audible. It was therefore inevitable that he should  join the international movement Fluxus, where he found himself in harmony with such people as John Cage, La Monte Young, Re Merce Cunningham  etc. (Table 11)



Corrado Costa

(Reggio Emilia, 1929-1991)

“A clever and subtle writer, starting from crystal clear and brilliant ways of writing, with his equable manners and his Emilian speech, he left  indelible imprints going through the order of things and spreading surrealistic veils like a playful but impalpable and disconcerting phantom” (Giovanni Fontana, “La voce in movimento”, 2003).

This suggests the analogy with the image of “leafing through…” (1970), a pack of leaves which is an object-book and at the same time a concept and an allusion to the base of writing in classic antiquity, the papyrus leaves. Corrado Costa is very clever in culling the transient flutter of thought when discovering analogies; he was a zen master in the Po plain. (Table 12)




Betty Danon

(Istanbul 1927 - Milan 2002)

With Mirella Bentivoglio, Irma Blank and Ketty La Rocca, Betty Danon is one of the most impressive protagonists of the second half of the 20th century in Italy. Early in 1975 she fixed on tape the friction of the action of writing, that is its phonic parallel. Writing being for the West the transcription of alphabetic sounds, Danon therefore lets us listen to the sound of the transcription itself, a conceptual and at the same time physical short circuit.

In her “Sound and sign” (Galleria Milano, 1977) she expounds a research on the dot as starting point and on the line as itinerary, focusing the attention on seven words expressing being and becoming: blowing, breathing, space, sigh, shout, pause, silence. To every word  a different  linear or vertical or horizontal tracing corresponds, and of this series of actions the sound of the transcription is recorded.  In the “abstract music score” the lines of the pentagram are traced by hand, giving body to pause-caesuras,  to knots, comings and goings, undulations, ripples up to being reduced to the final dot.

The title of her book “I & I” (1978) aims at inviting the reader to read the vowel  “i” from two different points of view according to whether one looks at it under its visual or phonic aspect. “I & I” in English  goes back to the dot-line theme,  summarized in the “i” vowel, and it also throws into relief the mirror contrasting between the “I” and the else as shadow of the self.

Finally, the series of words which as they go on being re-written pass from the normal sign to the acronym, then to the line and to the dot, a path of the notation of the sound up to its extreme abstract simplification is particularly interesting. (Table 13) 



Mario Diacono

(Rome 1930 - Lives In The U.S.A.)


In 1961 Mario Diacono published with Emilio Villa the magazine “Ex”, which is one of the most intense experiences of avantgarde poetry in the second half of the twentieth century.  In his “De nomisegninatura” (1962) he published a series of transformations on the body of the word, to widen its connotation  area  and constructing hallucinated sentences descriptive of an alienating society. In his next book “Obj Texts” the linguistic disruption brings to an interaction between image and word. In his “Jet 1”, by replacing the type lines of Mallarmé’s “Coup de dés” by colour lines he obtains a precise visual placing of the evocation  of the French poet in the chromo-space counterpoint of the page. Later, starting from an analysis of Marinetti’s tables of “ Les mots en liberté futuristes” (1919), where we are confronted with a metalinguism and a fusion between language and matter, Diacono is attracted by the simultaneous presence of many values and by the sign flexibility typical of  ideogrammatic writing systems and engages in the finding of cosmic conjunctions between object and language in a unitary abstract sign, in which word and object are interchangeable and the sense of the world is nothing but the evidence in itself and for itself. (Table 14) 



Liliana Ebalginelli

(Schio, Vicenza, 1947)

Poetess and artist (Pictures 43-44), with Ferruccio Cajani in 2001 she founded  the publishing house “lilianaebalginelliEditrice”, devoted to visual and sound poetry, and began  publishing “Ulu-late” ( Her own  visual works published in book form are “Voyage” with Ferruccio Cajani (2001), “l/Amami” (2007) and “Manes” (2010). “Voyage”, written four hands with Ferruccio Cajani, consists in a linear poem by Ebalginelli which is entwined and immersed into Cajani’s visual and word/sound translation: its theme is a voyage, amorous and symbolic, attuned on the search for the cultural roots of the modern era. A CD of the voices of the authors, reciting the text, accompanies the book. But what is most interesting is the successful wordphonic and visual fusion of the two events into an unprecedented counterpoint, where the essence of the poetic word merges into an aerial and dynamic often exhilarating form. “l/Amami” offers an optophonic writing. Some devices add refinement to the work:  for example the mirror like effect between even and odd pages, that makes the comparison almost compulsory, a novel kind of rhymed couplet or a mirrorlike relationship between the two opposite  pages of the open book.  l/Amami is a slender book which proves to be a busy thoroughfare of newer and newer situations. “Manes” is an artist’s book in three copies illustrating the performance of the same name created for an exhibition held at the Museo della Carale Accattino at Ivrea on May 2010. The mise en scene is divided into various parts that mirror a sort of both spatial and symbolic texture and a series of plates placed in different positions – the exploding of the memories – some of them bearing the poetic text, others suggesting extremely out of focus images of remarkable visual impact. And these are the “Manes”, the family’s godheads. In this case we find the device of iteration, by which the text goes continuously back on itself with a wave-like movement, as in certain passages of “l/Amami”. The artist’s book “glorifies” the mise-en-scene  and fixes it in time in the form of  an object- event, particularly interesting in its stylistic and lyrical impact.



Vincenzo Ferrari

(Cremona 1941)

Ferrari’s writing is a form of painting and viceversa a word potentially painted to lead graphic signs back to a non obsolete sense, “Ut pictura verba”, as De Chirico  might say, Ferrari creates a painting with mobile types, that is, a repertory of ideograms (a hand, an arrow, an eye, a spiral and so on) which combined together give rise to a limitless number of variations. Ferrari has conjectured  about an encyclopaedia of doubts, of unanswerable questions, finding in the image of the labyrinth the most appropriate metaphor, where truth is encountered in the shape of a further question. Already our friend Agnetti used to say: “I believe only in the things that don’t exist. The rest is contaminated.” (Table 15).



Elisabetta Gut

(Rome, 1934)

A visual poetess, Elizabth Gut has, with other poets such as Luciano Caruso, Luciano Ori, Anna Torelli, Rochelle Cooper worked on the materialization of sound, in the sense of creating even tridimentional object-scores, by referring to object  and matter elements.  Elizabeth Gut places, for instance, feathers and vegetable matters over the musical score, so as to obtain precious visual effects or creates “instrument-books” with large exotic signs within which she frames music crystallized in dozens of petal-pages. (Table 16).



Ketty La Rocca

(La Spezia 1938 - Florence 1976)

La Rocca created a series of works based on “an ABC of bodily gestures”, especially of her hands in an area already bordering on that of body art. The photos of her gestures were  redesigned with handwritten words and sentences, almost always abstract in a form of modern calligram, to underline the path of the photographic gesture: an expression of immediacy , which hinted at the possibility of a connection between the “graphic” and the “verbal arabesque”. The verbal element was only one way of throwing into relief the graphic and sign value of body movements and their paths.

Ketty was obsessed with writing and into writing she changed gardens, trees, entwined lovers, in a small pantheon of calligrams which communicated what hands, for instance, are able to say beyond what the common discourse can say.

(Tables 17 and 18) 



Stelio Maria Martini

(Naples 1934)

Since 1958 Martini together with Persico, Villa, Diacono, Desiato and Caruso has given rise to an uninterrupted succession of magazines and reviews, from “Documento Sud” to “E/mana/zione” etcetera. In 1974 he wrote “Neurosentimental”, a very original autobiographic novel  interwoven with images, almost a particular genus of photo-novel.  Martini’s visual poetry is almost always conducted on simultaneous images and chirography, where also the chromatic element interferes, contributing to render the written event more precious, for instance in the series “ciò che mostra il tempo” (Verona, 1996) or in the variants of “Lettera morta”, a collage of letters handwritten on nostalgically time-yellowed papers. (Tavola 19)




Plinio Mesciulam

(Genoa, 1926)

Mesciulam’s operation is very particular, as it consists in the enlarging of details of notes, that is of the everyday cursive handwriting,  to which  normally  no importance is given, except as hurriedly jotted down scribbles; he then glues them on small boards stuck on wooden sticks, so that they may be carried like advertising poster in a mobile exhibition on the streets. In this way precarious insignificant signs become “ostensible epiphanies” (“epifanie ostensibili”) of the ephemeral, as the author himself calls them. (Table 20).



Eugenio Miccini

(Florence, 1925 -2007)

Modern civilization is the civilization of image and consumerism, of mass media. Miccini  expounding his poetics writes “as I came from literature I realized in the early sixties that words were no longer enough for me, that they sounded a mockery and unable to survive the noise and the redundancies of languages and that they could no longer be, for the traditional poetic fabulating expression uncontaminated and innocent spaces. The communication noise  produced by the present-day media and by the ideologies underlying them, has generated silence. Under these conditions I have attempted a new koiné between word and image, such as to develop a certain synergism of expression  capable of adding together the  instruments  of communication culled from the two – and  how different! – systems, the linguistic and the iconic; or of exorcising them to the point of annulling the original sense, of finding again a silence neither impotent nor imposed, where the acts of thought, meditation, a critically achieved vigilance are reborn. Words and images are therefore represented by elisions and hyperboles, by interactions or extraneousness,  to form those typical ambiguous sand enigmatic imperfect communications which art makes use of and that we  all can and must practise together” (“Testuale” edited by F. Caroli and L. Caramel, Milan 1979). “Miccini brings to this operation a more marked sensibility for syntactic structures, for the interrelations of signs, a linguistic self-reflection and at the same time a discourse on the world, that is poetic thought. As in pre-Socratic philosophy, of which appropriately he propounds a passionate re-reading by images and words”  (F. Menna, from the catalogue “Trittico veronese” (1986) (Table 21)   




Magdalo Mussio

(Volterra 1925-2007)

Magdalo Mussio is the chirographer par excellence: writing for him is a private gesture, the journal like flow of reinvention of the everyday, but also a tale which often enters the forest of the indecipherable and anyway a writing that has a duration, has pauses, lighting ups, developments and negations as in an endless prose. Mussio’s page is  fragmentary temporalities,  which is condensed in microsituations by the continuity of writing, “a play of delays and allusions, which are at the same time tracings and alarming signs, memories and anxious expectations, essays of a new code of the daily and of the fantastic” (Vittorio Fagone, Catalogue Santandrea “Il gesto poetico”, 31-3-1977). (Table 22)



Gastone Novelli

(Vienna 1925- Milano 1968)

Also for Gastone Novelli words were the favourite signs of his painting. He used them to give thinking form to the loss of sense of traditional pictorial signs and that is why he had to paint also words, alphabets, digits, “the linguistics of the universe” as wrote Alfredo Giuliani who, with Elio Pagliarani, Giorgio Manganelli and Achille Perilli was a friend of his. Many texts by Bataille, Beckett,  Claude Simon, René de Solier were reproduced on canvas by him.

His research coincides with the exigency to find a significant measure with a foundation act of pre-verbal essential data, the constituents of the word, of the phrase, of the sentence, having recourse to a series of archetypal figures charged with myth and passing through an alogical dismemberment of the phrase, so as to find a mythopoietic form of graphematic symbols deriving from archaic representations (meanders, planimetries, serpentines, exchequers, signposts), symbols still active because they are timeless.

His writing is like a writing on some walls, where rational control and automatism work in unison, and it is not possible to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. The allusion to Paul Klee and also to the “degré zéro de l’écriture” is evident.” (Table 23)      



Martino Oberto

(Genova, 1925)

In 1958 Martino Oberto had propounded on the magazine “Ana Etcetera” (1951-72) the anapoietics, that is a systematic culturally anarchical subversion of making poetry, where every stylistic proposal, every theoretical enunciation, every deviation from the code must always remain at the stage of project. Oberto hates the “finished” and, as the title of one of his texts says “Je ne suis pas encore”.  For Oberto, acting coincides with thinking and he was perhaps the first who inaugurated that modus operandi,  which will be later called “conceptualism”.

Starting from a tabula rasa, scratched on a uniform white (1955) Oberto Martino has developed a series of archetypical oppositions condensed in compound words: r’evolution, museoon, ana/logical poetry, which will never find a solution unless in the infinite so as, according to a baroque geometrist, the straight line  is a curve whose  radius  is at the infinite or as mathematically zero multiplied by any number will always give zero and any number divided by zero will always be the infinite. (Table 24).




Luciano Ori

(Florence, 1928)

Luciano Ori has been one of the Florentine technological and then visual poets. For Ori visual poetry is painting to be read and poetry to be seen, while he recovers  and sets as his models the formal  structures of mass-media, though despising both their messages and their meanings.  The relationship between image and word takes place through a collage juxtaposition  and the contraction of the message to mere slogan. Which may be applied not only to publicity,  but also to several other fields of activity in a society like the present one, which is a society of images. In particular in his “visual music” Ori binds to the pentagram tiny letraset figurines or small objects (safety pins, buttons, matches), creating a sort of object music, which is the allegory of everyday life as for example the table “Il risveglio”, waking up (1991), a score where the warbling of birds is represented by the tight interweaving of flights. (Table 25).



Stanislao Pacus

(Cagli, Pesaro, 1938)

Like other conceptual artists, Pacus replaces the image with the word, intending to question it. Which is concretely effected in the series of his “lapidi” (tombstones) which stand out as paradoxes,  as they don’t emphatically celebrate an event but criticize it in a lapidary style. According to Pacus “tradition had better be forgotten”. (Table 26).



Claudio Parmiggiani

(Luzzara, Reggio Emilia, 1944)

Ever since his early research, Parmiggiani  has been inquiring into the meaning of signs. In his “Libro di albicocche” (The Book of Apricots) (1969) he makes it clear that the book may be smelt, eaten, touched and not only read.  By his “tavole di scrittura” (writing tables) and “papiro analfabetico” (analphabetic papyrus) he exhibits a writing that is alien to customary reading codes, but is however  legible by icons. In “Deiscrizione” (Deinscription) (1971), consisting in a naked person sitting on the ground in the position of the well-known Egyptian statue of the scribe, with  his epidermis completely covered with various scripts, from cuneiform  to hieroglyphics,  Parmiggiani creates a pure tautological axiom.

The meaning may be born from  a situation on the border of the impalpable: an empty space, for instance, with the floor covered with a saffron-coloured dust, another space with the floor covered with footprints in the instep of which lie drops of mercury, a big ear placed at the far end of a corridor to which, on the opposite end, corresponds a large mouth: absolute colour, the metaphor of Hermes-Mercury, the opposition of word and silence. These are some of Parmiggiani’s operations.



Luca Patella

(Rome 1934)

Patella aims at making clear the problem of interdisciplinarity  and complexity of cultural production. In this aspect he is near the area of Fluxus theories,  such as the ones which have been called “intermedia” by Dick Higgins and are based on the fact that today’s forms of art, from poetry to music, from painting and sculpture to mimic and dance and so on, tend to overlap in forms that have taken up names such as “”event”, “happening”, “performance”. “body art”, etcetera. Likewise  the formula of total poetry had already been proposed by Adriano Spatola in 1969. As far as Patella is concerned, we must quote the “intersemiotic synergisms” of his graphic texts and  image-actions of his books, such as “Sono qui” (Hera I am”), (1972), “Atlante Speciale” (“Special Atlas”), (1973-78), “Gazzette Ufficiali” (“Official Gazettes”), (1972-79) and “Analisi proiettive in atto” (“Projective actual analyses”),  that is public performances. Also interesting are his mirror works: a head or a phrase duplicated in the mirror, but partly changed as “Ut ima ames-ma ami tu?”. (Table 28 )



Giancarlo Pavanello

(Venice 1944 -  He Lives In Milan)

In the period 1977-1980 Pavanello had promoted a form of “Elementary theatre”, composed by objects, musical events, projection of calligraphic texts, fragmentary recitation. Of the great theatre of the world, to put it in the baroque style, he perceives the fragmentary existence of the street, the market, the homely, made up uf television micro-events, of dailies, illustrated magazines and so on.

In 1972 he published with the Geiger editions of the poet Adriano Spatola his “Epigrammi scritti con una penna di pavone” (“Epigrams written with a peacock pen”), such as “I must invent an art for myself”, “Unfortunately I already know the artistic experiences of cave-dwellers” of minimalist quality in the contamination of genres. His “visualized poetry”, particularly in the period 1994-96, when among his texts there are shots that congeal metropolitan graffiti, is a kind of found poetry, analogous to that of Franco Vaccari’s “Tracce” (“Traces”), (1966).

But “visualized poetry” is also his chirograph  writing, perhaps as opposed to  found poetry – where overlapping,  erasing,  re-writing are all part of the urge to communicate, which reminds us of what has already been hinted about Emilio Villa’s “Sibille”. In one word, the spirit of modern times.

With “Poesia critica” (“Critical poetry”), (1996),  Pavanello offers a “book of assembling composed  by twenty-five  cardboard boxes, each box bearing printed poetic aphorisms like “Polluted sun, dry boughs, a snake escapes, a garbage pinewood, youth is renewed dirty”; or  “Life is the virus of the infinite, protected by illusion”; or again “Fog, the score of a muted symphony”. And these boxes are thrown haphazard on the floor, like  thoughts that rise at random in the mind.

In 1999 Pavanello starts his “laconic poetry”, composed by one single word or no more than three words, associating, for instance, two nouns with one adjective or one present participle: “apathy, enduring drought”, “musicasthenia”, “solitude, dark-room”, “Oblivion, dirty rags”, “memory, torn anaesthesia”, “silence, polished marble”.  In this apparent scattering, we perceive a damned coherence, the creation of a theatre of events caught in their fragmentary randomness,  which is perhaps a form of purity. (TABLES  29-30) 



Tullio Pericoli

(Colli Del Tronto, Ascoli Piceno, 1936)

Word and images appear to be metaphors in the point where they intercross, a quid which is neither word nor image, but is partaking of the qualities of both, the sign. In the collective unconscious may we perceive the common origin of the drawing-painting and of the transcription of the oral speech. But if writing brings us to rational concept, drawing carries us back to a pre-rational, almost childish level. Just think of Klee’s instinctive and immediate drawings, not yet wholly filtered through reflection. Thus manual writing stands to printed writing as drawing stands to photography or as the performance of the sound poet stands to the professionally correct diction of the rhetor.

In Tullio Pericoli’s works all this is particularly evident, because he succeeds in the identification between drawing and word. But all this happens also, at least partly, with the authors studied in this chapter. (Table 31)



Lamberto Pignotti

(Florence, 1926)

In Florence from 1963 onwards the group of the “visual poets”,  composed by Lamberto Pignotti, Eugenio Miccini, Luciano Ori, Ketty La Rocca , Maurizio Osti, Lucia Marcucci became organized. In the years 1963-1967 the group identifies with the activity of the “gruppo ‘70” and with the practice of technologic poetry, that is by the use of words borrowed from advertising and political texts, treated as collage materials. Visual poetry actually springs from technologic poetry,  the collage being enriched with images mostly taken from newspapers and illustrated magazines. From this point of view in visual poetry characters of realism are extant, as evidence of the contemporary period following the second world war, not immune from ideological, political, or philosophical connotations. Visual poetry thus puts to work elements which may be verbally expressed, which accompany, develop and make use of the image inglobing it.

Between 1972 and 1979 other not only Italian artists, like Bentivoglio, Perfetti, Sarenco, Bory, Damen, De Vree. Arias-Misson, Valoch, Takahashi, Todorovich, joined the group.

In particular Lamberto Pignotti thinks that “traditional rhetoric  has  by now taken the form of visual-verbal rhetoric, where the allegory is overlapped by the metaphor, the phrase by the ideogram, the word by the sign. We all communicate by a language with an interlaced syntax, flowing from a grammar composed by visual verbs, olfactory sentences, auditory adjectives, tactile nouns, gustatory adverbs. Thus visual poetry is bound for “plurigraphy”. On the other hand, Pignotti adds, in a society chock-full of images and saturated with words, the first and most instinctive thing that comes to mind is creating a little void and a little silence: the “horror pleni” takes the place of  “horror vacui”. Thus in more recent times Pignotti has begun to erase  details of  images from illustrated magazines, “invisible poems”, through erasures that suggest analogies with the irretrievably lost parts of old frescoes or with  scraped off lines of ancient palimpsests. (Table 32)



Concetto Pozzati

(Vo’ Di Vecchio, Padova, 1935)

Pozzati states that the word, which formerly was a discourse about figurative arts or a caption, a classification, a pointing out, a declaration, an acknowledgement, is today an iconic signal or else art’s internal interrogation: art wants to speak to itself, criticize itself, living its own insecurity. Art practises the criticism of art. “There is no longer – he says – in my work any dualism between word and image: they are by now the same thing”.

Pozzati’s work from 1970 onwards is the track of time: his “Porte del tempo (“Gates of time”) or “Registrazioni, Dispense, Memorie” (“Recordings, lessons, memories”) as the titles of his works read, “Dizionari delle idee ricevute, inventari” (“Dictionaries of received ideas, inventories”). (Table 33)



Giovanna Sandri


Both in her lines and in her wall tables, that is in the field of physical space, Giovanna Sandri, a manipulator of shards of signs, raises the alphabet letter to protagonist of her work. The verbal rite  is the equivalent of the pictograph archetype. This is expressed by the broken up, distorted, amplified letter on the surface of the page, a track of semantic nuclei hinting at the object being its shadow and also the meaning of enigmas written out in a starry sky of alphhabets. (Table 34).



Franco Vaccari

(Modena, 1936)

For Franco Vaccari, at the outset of his artistic career, what counted above all was the exploration of the word of graffiti,  to be intended as a chorus of anonymous voices, yelling out their own wishes and their rebellions. Graffiti are the most radical refusal of every kind of exploitation, they are the immediate expression of an existential situation,  trying to break through the dull resistence of the world. In this sense Vaccari has published “Le Tracce, poesia trovata” (“Tracks, found poetry”, Bologna, 1966) an ample collection of photographic documents of graffiti. Consequently Vaccari found himself involved with the “precarious uncertain noises of the birth of sense” as he himself states. Our attention, he says, must be focused on those frontier linguistic areas not yet crystallized into neat conceptual  structures. By the use of parallel  languages, he  intends to throw into relief  the germination of meaning, its proliferation, its dynamics, its existence as a movement holding positions, which are at the antipodes of the tautological conscience. The mental space thus defined is an uncertain one, but full of ferments, a space where there are not yet any stable representations, explicit expressions, definite concepts, but where the possibility exists to pick out these elements while they are being born. Thus his research experiences are born, for instance on the sound of crickets, on the strokes for the price of goods or in a series of “exhibitions in real time”, like number 4: “leave a photographic trace of your passage” (1972), where people were invited by the artist to be photographed in a box set up for that purpose; then an exhibition followed of the whole series of the photos, through a photographic record on emulsified cloth. (Table 35)




Patrizia Vicinelli

(Bologna 1943 -1991)

Strictly correlated with her sound poetry is her “Pittografia” (“Pictography”),  as she herself defines it, but actually the style key of her work can be summed up as a disconnection at the semantic and the syntactic level of the discourse, which no sooner starts than breaks up in a shattered diction - in public performances – and also in the shattering of the word; its shards are scattered all over the surface of the page and seem to be precariously used in the dark, while groping for some possibility of meaning in the preconscious or subconscious pulsions. Such is her pictography, an alphabet of private signs, having but an allusive relationship with the codified one.  (Table 36)



Emilio Villa

(Affori, Milan, 1914 - 2003)

In the years 1980-84 Emilio Villa created a series of poetic texts dedicated to the various Sibyls, where side by side with  easy to read works of linear development others live together, consisting in intricate overlaps, sibylline, in fact. Villa has deliberately left in the state of draft, corrected and corrected over again, a poem in the course of being created.

The quality of being indecipherable has been for Villa the ultimate degree of experience, to manifest something that only in the unfathomable mystery of linguistic polysemic clots, can be caught in a glimpse, while he’s compelled by such clots to dismantle the referential functions of discourse, fully accepting the risk of the dispersion  of meaning: “let meaning never be abandoned, nor dropped, but let it be entrusted to the event of the wonderful work of the Verb, of the interjections and of the discarded terms” (from “Eructavit cor verbum”, in “Heurarium”, Rome, 1961. (Tables 37 and 38).



William Xerra

(Florence, 1937)

Xerra establishes a conceptual  relationship  between word and image. As in Magritte’s painting “Cela n’est pas une pipe”, to say that the image is not the object, Xerra writes across an image or a text the word “vive” (lives), used by proof correctors to indicate that the correction is wrong and so cancel it. In this way Xerra throws into relief the evidence of the image itself and stresses it. Recently Xerra has gone over to a further operation, bringing up again the ancient paradox of the liar, that can be ascribed to Eubulides of Miletus: “All the Cretans lie, I am a Cretan”; or if I say “I am lying”, what I state is true if and only if it is false. (Tables 39 and 40).  


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