The Biennials of Visual and Experimental Poetry in Mexico

by César Espinosa

All these efforts to fashion a mature visual thought speak of the possibility of concretizing and underscoring a complex system by means of which we will be able to confront the world of the next millennium, full of changes and uncertainties. We are speaking of a visual intelligence, alternative to the traditional, without which we already see that it would be very difficult to confront the new conditions of life. Now and looking forward, we have the task of being more creative than ever.

Words of Maris Bustamante, forger of images and precursor of performance art in Mexico, for the newspaper-catalogue of the "IV international biennial of visual/experimental poetry" (Mexico City, October, 1994); they relate the concern with and the efforts of a sector of Mexican artists against institutionalization and the ample popularization of some artistic genres, of new specializations, which 15 years ago hardly anyone in this country knew about.

Moreover, she indicates that these efforts "we have been realizing, especially the artists ourselves; we haven't wanted to waste time convincing the critics and theorists, who have taken no interest in these new proposals." 1 Let these judgements, then, serve as an introduction to the following account.

The Case of Mexico: The Shock of the Avant-Gardes

The indigenous pre- and post-Columbian codes register poetic versions and descriptions that should form part of the legacy of a Mexican iconographic poetry. Similarly, in the Vice-Regency there were a certain number of examples of ludic and experimental investigations that formed images and figures in the page space, but that have gone uninvestigated.

There still remain to be explored and classified in the sources of the poetic baroque of New Spain existing examples of visual poetry-emblems, labyrinths, calligrams, and so on-local rivals of the rich vein that at the time were being exploited in Spain, Italy, Portugal, or Brazil, with names like Juan del Vado, Ramón Llul, Caramuel y Battista della Porta.2

As has also happened in our century, the Renaissance-Baroque stands out in the Western world as one of the great moments in visual writing, of the ideographic and of the unfolding of indices and icons in lay and religious communication; in large part the Copernican revolution obeyed the change of episteme that affected all spheres of life and the known universe, which in turn influenced the intellectuals and artists of New Spain. Nevertheless, until now indigenous poetic investigation has ignored the undeniable existence of these marriages of meaning and the perceptible.

At the time, iconographic literature followed the standard dictates of the Counter-Reformation with the goal of conversion and catechizing of the indigenous masses that survived the massacre of the conquest, and of 16%of the Counter-Reformation with the goal of conversion and catechizing of the indigenous masses that survived the massacre of the conquest, and of the innumerable breeds that racial mixing brought with it. This was captured in the altar pieces, catechisms, and syllabary books of the first stage of colonization and in pamphlets, broadsides, and other popular graphic icons of the following centuries.

In our century, it will be José Juan Tablada who alone will introduce ideographic writing into Mexican poetry. According to Alfredo Roggiano, commenting on the poem "Chinese Venus," Tablada's poetics is oriented around a graphic-spatial structure in which Physical presence, its graphic, almost expressionist visuality is what stands out here, in spite of the poetic inefficiency of his decadent language. From this to the poem "Moon," where the graphic dispositon is predominant, there is only one step, and it will be [Tablada] who will move to the modernity of the avant-gardes, to a predominant aspect of vanguardism, that of spatiality, a true, new era in the poetry of Tablada . . . This comprises the years 1919 to 1924, which coincide with the development of Huidobro's creationism and Borges's expressionism (and, in a 19%. . This comprises the years 1919 to 1924, which coincide with the development of Huidobro's creationism and Borges's expressionism (and, in a certain way, also with that of Vallejo). 3

In turn, Klaus Meyer-Minnemann, professor at the University of Hamburg, in a speech given in Mexico in 1988, notices that Tablada's figure poems, especially in the Libro de Li Po, indicate a greater condensation of the lyric poem, adding a new level of meaning: the visual ideographic, which must function in parallel with the linguistic level, thereby contributing to "de-rhetoricize" the poem.

In a letter to López Velarde, Tablada declares that his first contact with ideographic poetry was a poem in the form of an altar and another in the form of a wing, found in Book XV of the Greek Anthology (examples of the carmen figurata, which date from the third century A.D.). Also, he indicates Chinese poetry and graphs as origins, which suggested to him the possibility of a simultaneous and visual reproduction of some meaning enunciated phonetically. 4

The stridentist movement (1922-26) is a subsequent element in the process by which the proposals of the historical avant-gardes took root in Mexico, at least on the programmatic level. These proposals would come to be the focus that roused artistic-political passions, and the ideas were still angrily rejected by the practitioners of creole aestheticism. This had to do with a movement synthesizing the European currents-although denouncing them decisively-against the reigning poetic traditionalism and in favor of "imposing a new aesthetic that reflects to contemporary man his preoccupations and his desperation." 5

Stridentist poetry, observes Luis Mario Schneider, is inscribed in an authentic avant-garde linguistic system. "It fixes the poem by ladders of images and metaphors, usually cubist in origin, juxtaposed but all motivated by one single idea . . . New syntactic forms, incessant search for a musicality, and a spiritual vertigo that is produced by the excessive cultivation of the senses complete the technical process of the stridentist image." 6

At the same time, much of its repercussion is found in the agitated surroundings and the prediction of the renovation of languages it brought with it, in its quality of a movement lead by poets that brought about the shaky collaboration of visual artists like Ramón Alva de la Canal, Leopoldo Méndez, Fermín Revueltas, Diego Rivera, Germán Cueto, Jean Charlot, Roberto Montenegro, Guillermo Ruiz, and Javier Guerrero, as well as musicians like Manuel M. Ponce and Silvestre Revueltas.

As its seat, the movement chose the city of Jalapa, capital of the state of Veracruz-Stridentopolis, they baptized it-under the auspices of the government of the radical revolutionary general Heriberto Jara. The political avatars of the era brought about the disappearance of the group, and the crowning blow came to be the anthology-manifesto of the "groupless group" the contemporaries, in 1928 (which "erased" the stridentists by omitting them). The new group, in turn, would develop an important thread of conceptual-intimist poetry, close to Anglo-Saxon "modernism." The contemporaries tended towards theatrical and musical experimentation.

As a balance to that shock of the poetic avant-gardes, the way remained closed towards experiments with visuality and other resources foreign to linear writing in the poetry of the following decades. That is, with stridentism the implantation in the Mexican artistic media of the radical proposals of the historical avant-gardes was not achieved, blocked in part by the rhetoric of the mural movement and the reactionary instrospection of the other artistic groups. But the project remained "frozen," in the deep-freeze, like a fuse waiting to ignite at a more propitious time.

Thus, it wasn't until the decade of the 1960s-perhaps as a sequel to the international success of Brazilian concrete poetry-that the exploration of the interrelation of languages was resumed. One of its introducers, Octavio Paz-great friend of the members of the São Paulo Noigandres group-in iconographic poems like "Blanco" and "Topoemas," exercised his knowledge of Hindu thought and mandala structures, according to the idea of "signs in rotation." In this connection, concerning the long poem "Blanco," Professor Armando Zárate offers the opinion that it has to do with a "peculiar return to the cubist multiplanar quality of the distant vanguardist Nicolás Beauduin." 7

Other pioneering practitioners of verbal-visual writing in the 1960s would be Matías Goeritz, a German artist living in Mexico who was author of Mensajes del oro and who sponsored an exhibition of international concrete poetry in the House of the Lake in 1965. During these years Alexander Jodorowski's happenings were staged and the screening of his films, as well as J. J. Gurrola's dramatic-musical experimentations.

At the end of the 60s, José Luis Cuevas scandalized the culture-mongers with his temporary mural in the Zona Rosa and then would launch his campaign as independent deputy. Jack Seligson's texts and visual poems appeared (in the magazine Punto de Partida, 18, Mar., 1970), as well as the conceptualist works of Felipe Ehrenberg, the only Mexican published in the 1975 Spanish anthology La Escritura en Libertad. Ulises Carrión would undertake a renowned career as experimentalist and publisher in Europe.

In 1972, in issue 5 of the magazine Plural, a "Special Section: Visual Writing" appeared, with works by Marco Antonio Montes de Oca and his introductory text, which among other points established:

I would only like to insist on the increasingly less discursive meaning of the visual poem, whose value does not appear to be grasped by the majority of current Spanish American poets . . . Loaded with explicative ballast, our poetry is urging a synthesis and a criticism constructed from the most profound levels of language. . . 8

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, a few poets and artists worked for the renovation of languages in an isolated and sporadic fashion. Among the writers, Enrique González Rojo, Jesús Arellano, Roberto López Moreno, and Ricardo Yáñez are some of these names; in more recent times the intent of women writers has predominated, like Perla Schwartz, Lourdes Sánchez Duarte, Carmen Boullosa, Norma Lorena Wanless, and Elizabeth Cazessús.

During those years there proliferated what the artist and researcher Maris Bustamante has called "PIAS Forms" (Performance-Installation-Environment), as well as varied practices such as book-objects, neographics, mail art, psycho-music, visual music, multimedia events, "más acá," video, and computer art, if in fact the concept, the production, and distribution of visual/experimental poetry no longer assumed the exploration of signifieds.

There were groups like Peyote & Company or the No-Group, which put on installations and performances, or Visual-Março Narrative, which staged urban, topographical poems, and so on; different collectives appeared that took part in the Movement of the Groups (1976-1979), with proposals for public art, conceptualism, and the above-mentioned neographics. The cultural bureaucracy supported salons like the "annuals" of Experimentation (1979) mentioned above, or various versions of Alternative Spaces, even if the results were valued as somewhat weak.

In other contexts, Guillermo Villegas and Consuelo Deschamps put into practice "body music," exhibited the Cosáfono, and staged their visual score "Andante" in 1973; Laura Elenes launched her project Atelén for sculpture, sound, and later computer; in 1978 the book and exhibition of semiotic poetry The Semiograph appeared, by Pablo Espinosa "Gargaleón." In 1980, the exhibition "The Main Road of Writing" was presented, although still foreign to the conceptualization of visual poetry.

In the 1990s we see an enlivening in our medium of the intermedia arts, also called trans-genre arts, whose principal radiating foci are the Chopo Museum and the Carrillo Gil Museum, sometimes the Museum of Modern Art, most recently the National Center of the Arts, among others, including some important regional museums, where the work of installations, environments, and performance-Maris Bustamante's PIAS forms-is spreading with increasing force.

Some memorable currents that have fed this unfolding would be the exhibitions and events in the now disappeared Santo Domingo cultural center, with Guillermo Santamarina and Armando Sarignana; the always memorable occupation of the Balmori building in a traditional neighborhood for a day; Yani Pecanins and Gabriel Macotela's bookstore and exhibitions of book-objects The Archivist; the groups and exhibitions of mail art of the CRAG, Collective-3, and Solidarte; groups and publishers in Monterrey, Jalapa, Mexicali, and Tijuana; teams dedicated to performance like SEMEFO and the Syndicate of Terror or 19 Concrete, as well as other that have sprung up in recent years.

A relevant place is the space that Eloy Tarciso and other artists (Felipe Ehrenberg, Marcos Kurticz (+ 1995), Maris Bustamante, and Víctor Muñoz) will inaugurate, called X'Theresa Center of Alternative Art, created so that Tarcisio would be able to launch the "Performance month" festival in 1991, initially celebrated in the Chopo University Museum. Nevertheless, in this panorama first-rank exhibitions of a trans-genre character have been scarce. But the biennials of visual and experimental poetry have occupied spaces in an independent fashion and "por la libre." Biography in Five Acts . . . Biennials of Visual/Experimental Poetry in Mexico

Post-earthquake, initiated towards the end of 1985 and the beginning of 1986, the biennials of visual and experimental poetry, on the one hand, have wanted to implant and spread in the Mexican artistic media the tradition and practice of the visual poetic text/act-with millennarian antecedents and expressions in all the avant-garde movements of this century. A broadened unfolding was sought, therefore, with their insertion in the different fields of exploration, self-analysis, deconstruction, and experimentation of the artistic poetics and languages that are being practiced in Mexico during the current end of the century and millennium. One should mention that we are speaking here of those practices that emerge as alternatives to what the dictatorship of the marketplace or academicizing sclerosis imposes.

In 1985, when the first biennial was convoked and realized, in fact no one in Mexico spoke about these concepts. In turn, in 1990 a chapter dedicated to visual poetry appeared, on celebrating the III biennial, including the anthology exhibition of Octavio Paz put on that year.

In the 1980s, the Mexican biennial came to revitalize the practices of visual poetic experimentation in Latin America. The Brazilians themselves, who carried the advance at the end of the 1950s and 1960s, with concrete poetry and process/poem, tried for a kind of synthesis and were seen as introverted, while in Europe and the United States poetic experimentation leapt up off the page into physical action (performance and polypoetry), video, and the resources of high technology: multimedia, laser (hologram), the computer, and virtual art.

Thus, as focus of attention and diffusion, with a well-nourished international participation-each exhibition having between 150 and 300 artists-and a growing presence of local artists, the Mexican biennial was constituted as the most important in Latin America, comparable only to the São Paulo exhibition in 1988, in spite of not being competitive or offering prizes, distinctions, or prestigious recognition.

Artists who are constantly active in different countries of Europe and North America, like Enzo Minarelli and Fernando Aguiar, have emphasized the importance of the Mexican biennial, observing that while the European festivals are more restricted and are limited to one or two aspects, here room has been made to unfold the broad spread of experimental poetry comprising performance and sound poetry, videopoetry, street actions with the public, exhibitions of graphic/visual and concrete poetry, theoretical/documentary colloquia, and sessions of dance and musical experimentation.

Thus, over its decade of activities and around twenty some-odd exhibitions put on, with ten catalogues and posters published, as well as two documentary proceedings, the biennials of visual poetry have become a reality of the Mexican arts, although against the grain of the bureaucratic cultural programs and the circuits of artistic speculation. It is appropriate to present here a summary review of each of the five biennials.

Beforehand, one should mention that the realization of the first biennials had antecedents. First, there was the presentation of the "Collective poem revolution," convoked in 1981 by the collective-3 mail-art group. This work was exhibited in the Pinacoteca of the Autonomous University of Puebla (1982) and in the Xochimilco gardens of the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City. It was made up of around 500 works stemming from 40 countries, which offered variations on the polemical theme dedicated especially to the triumph of the Sandanista revolution in the first years of the 1980s.

The other line leading up to the biennials was the edition, since 1982, by the same group, of the letter-anthology "Poetry in circulation" and of the letter-magazine of alternative poetry Postextual (1986), which published works of visual poets from twenty some-odd countries-including East Germany, Chechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, under socialist rule, and Brazil and Chile, under their respective dictatorships-as well as historical and theoretical texts.

First and Second Biennials

From such a launch basis, the Núcleo Post-Arte group was founded in 1985-César Espinosa, Araceli Zúñiga, Leticia Ocharán, Cosme Ornelas, María Eugenia Guerra, and Jorge Rosano-to put together the "First international biennial of visual and alternative poetry." The show was to have been exhibited in October and November of that year, but owing to the earthquakes of September the Portuguese section was inaugurated in a gallery of the National Cinetheque in December, and the exhibition as a whole was opened in January, 1986, in the "Jaime Torres Bodet" Cultural Center of the National Polytechnical Institute. The "Italian Report" section was presented in the gallery of the Gandhi bookstore in February of that year.

Then a travelling show took place at the Autonomous University of Puebla and in the "Ramón Alva de la Canal" Gallery of the University of Veracruz, in Jalapa. The tour culminated at the end of 1986 in the "José Martí" Cultural Center of the municipality of Mexico City, next to the extremely popular Central Alameda. There was a broad program of actions parallel to workshops and performances under the guidance of the Psychomusic Workshop of the National Conservatory, directed by Guillermo Villegas and Consuelo Deschamps.

In turn, the Second biennial was inaugurated in the Pinacoteca of the University of Puebla, and from there it moved to the gallery of the University of Veracruz in May through July of 1987, in both venues with interventions by the Psychomusic Workshop. Afterwards, the work was exhibited in the library of the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, in Monterrey, and then in the Municipal Gallery of the City of Mexicali, Baja California, as well as at the Calexico campus of San Diego State University, California, in the U.S. There were sessions of sound poetry and videopoetry as well as the radio art of the Chicano Guillermo Gómez Peña.

To conclude its activities, the II biennial was brought to Mexico City to be exhibited simultaneously in the Gallery of the International Metropolitan Airport, in the Quinta Colorado of the capital park of Chapultepec, and in the entranceway of the National Conservatory of Music. Here artists participated such as the Portuguese E. M. de Melo e Castro the Italian Enzo Minarelli, the Cuban Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, and the Pole Andrzej Dudek-Dürer, as well as the Psychomusic Workshop.

As "bridge" between the first and second biennials, the "Poemex" exhibition was put on in April, 1987. This was the first show of Mexican visual and experimental poetry, with works by 20 artists mounted in the old Academy of San Carlos (UNAM). There were computer works by Laura Elenes and workshop-type actions and performances with participation of the public coordinated by the above-mentioned Psychomusic Workshop.

Then in October, 1988, the II Mexican section was exhibited at the Ollín Yoliztli Room of the capital government. Various of the participants did poetic actions, such as Leticia Ocharán, Lourdes Sánchez, Roberto López Moreno, Laura Elenes, and Norma Lorena Wanless.

Lucky Three . . .

A growth in complexity came with the III biennial. It was made up of six simultaneous exhibitions in Mexico City, corresponding to national or regional sections, such as: Southern Cone of Latin America-Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, curated by Clemente Padín and Jorge Echenique-exhibited previously in Montevideo, Uruguay; the United States section, curated by Harry Polkinhorn, exhibited the previous year (1989) at San Diego State University in San Diego, California; in Mexico, the show was mounted in the "Adolfo Best Maugard" Gallery of the Center for Education for Foreigners of UNAM, with coordination and museography by the teacher Graciela Kartofel.

The Portuguese section, curated by Fernando Aguiar, was exhibited in the building of the University Television Studios (UNAM), under the guidance of Araceli Zúñiga and Antonio del Rivero. At this venue the "Pola Weis" video studio was inaugurated-pioneer of Mexican videoart-with works by artists from Italy, Portugal, Mexico, and the U.S., as well as the showing of the television program "Visual Poetry: Visual Poetic Experimentation in Mexico," done by TV-UNAM.

Another section was from Brazilia, with Paulo Bruscky as curator, with a historical exhibition of 100 experimental poets from Oswald de Andrade, in 1918; it was installed in the gallery of the National Lottery in the Historic Center of the city.

In the gallery of the Sor Juana Cloister-seventeenth-century New Spain convent of San Jerónico, where the muse-nun was shut away-the international collective exhibition was put up, with works by 250 artists from 32 countries. Enzo Minarelli brought together the "Italian poetry of the image." The Czech Petr Sevcik sent a show, and another, of the graphic poetry of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, arrived from Cuba.

The Mexican section-Poemex 3-was in the same venue with participation of 40 artists of different parts of the country.

In parallel, the "I Festival of Action Art (Performance) and other Poetries" took place, within which there were 10 public sessions in spaces of the National University-held for students of communication and university television personnel-as well as for the general public in the Santo Domingo Plaza and the cultural center of the same name and at the Sor Juana Cloister.

Foreign artists who travelled to Mexico and participated in the actions were: Enzo Minarelli, Carla Bertola, Alberto Vitacchio, and Giovanni Fontana, all from Italy; the Portuguese Fernando Aguiar and Antonio Aragoa; J. M. Calleja, from Spain; the Cuban experimental dance group "Así Somos," directed by Lorna Burdsall; Harry Polkinhorn, from the United States, as well as the Chicana artists Yolanda M. López and Guadalupe García, from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Julia López of the Puerto Rican Workshop of Philadephia.

There were poetic events of the following Mexican artists: Laura Elenes, Felipe Ehrenberg, Leticia Ocharán, Enrique Salazar, César Martínez, Gloria García, Daniel Rivera, and Dulce María López. A public action, entitled "Writing, the city," was developed in Santo Domingo Plaza, with participation by Armando Sarignana, Jorge Pérez Vega, José López, Melquiades Herrera, Mauricio López, Miguel Angel Corona, COTAVLE (Committee of Workers of the Visual Arts in Defense of Freedom of Expression), with Mónica Mayer and Víctor Lerma, the Union of Typists and Typographers of Mexico City, a day that was coordinated by Dulce M. López Vega ("Society of Spectacles").

During the opening of the Mexican section, an homage was offered to the Mexican experimentalist Hugo Carrión, who died in 1989. Similarly, there were sad homages in memory of the conceptualist Rubén Valencia and the video artist Pola Weiss. On the international level, a memorial exhibition was presented in memory of the Chilean artist (who grew up in Venezuela) Dámaso Ogaz, and a commemorative act of Adriano Spatola with intervention by G. Fontana and a performance by Fernando Aguair: "Homage to Adriano Spatola in the Form of a Sonnet."

Fourth Biennial: South-Here (Sud-Acá)

The fourth edition of the biennial took place under the title "Sud-Acá"-a movement of Latin artists who gathered at Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania, in 1989-in the framework of the fifth century of the European invasion of the continent that would be America, in 1992. Thus, the invitation read: Excentric Globalization; Interface/ De-colonization. Metropolis-periphery-ghetto. Multiethnic culture jumps the borders at the end of the millennium. (Already then the Berlin Wall had fallen and real socialism had dissolved; ecolsion of buried nationalisms, fundamentalisms, and belligerent ethnic groups, in conjunction with neo-Nazis and skinheads in the wealthy countries.)

In the above-mentioned IV biennial, works were admitted and exhibited that alluded to the theme "The south in the north/borderization, shock/cultural hybridization and multilingualism in art and society," with preference given to works that salvaged, incorporated, and emphasized writerly graphs stemming from the indigenous cultures of the respective countries.

A special call was put out to the Spanish- and Brazilian Portuguese-speaking artists, those who spoke Portuñol, Spanglish, and Nuyorrican (and their artistic trends: picuismo, rascuachismo), or other transterritorial hybridizations/parasitations/regurgitations of languages and forms, to document the strategies of resistence-survival-new cycle in the excentric globalism of this end and imminent beginning of century.

With a quality of proposition not meant to be competitive, the IV biennial established two seats: initially in Spain (curated by Angel Cosmos, + Spain 1994), where the term sudaca returned transmuted into "Sud-Acá" to contrast with the Hispanic-Eurocentric triumphalism that circulated around the Quincentenary. Continuation was planned for Mexico City (curated by César Espinosa), original seat of the previous biennials of visual-experimental poetry (with sub-seats, in different locales, in Calexico, San Diego, and Oakland, in the United States; Milan, Italy; and Montevideo, Uruguay).

Thus, there disembarked in Puerto de Palos, a stone's throw from the Columbian monastery of La Rábida, engaged in counter-discovering Spain, two original members of "Sud-Aca:" Guillermo Gómez-Peña, coming from Mexa-York, and César Espinosa, from Mexico City ("the most air-polluted city in the world"), in the company of the co-organizers of the IV biennial, Araceli Zúñiga, visual researcher, and Leticia Ocharán, visual artist and perfomance artist. Also Harry Polkinhorn arrived, U.S. canochi, that is, upside-down Chicano.

Motive: invitation from Angel Cosmos to participate in the course "Of Art and Other Indifferences/ Vrossroads of Aesthetic Thought at the Rnd of the Millennium." In passing, and smuggling it in, to officially open the IV biennial in Spain-500 years later. There, in effect, the counter-discovery was a kind of dis-encounter. Gómez-Peña wrote:

Dis-encounter of 3 worl-2

Mexico in Aztlán
Califas in Spa-ña
Ex-paña in Me-xico
Triangles of the Ver-mutes triangle
Palos buenos for the bad guys
Cathologically speaking I say
The Old World
is imagined pus-modern
The New World is reinvented
in the contiguity
I continue si-tinuo without you no
touches you
tenepantla tinei tajoditzin
untranslatable bro
against the
New World Order
The Great Atlantic border
border frontierboard and disembark
ass I was saying last night
from Palo in Palo to the Caribbean
taino non plus ultra fornicare
from Veracruz to Tenochtitlán
from Mexico Cida to Tijuana-Nirvana
from Lost Angeles to San Antonio
and güey beyond
from Manhattan to Madrid
& then to Sevilla & back/again
to Palos
two ice creams can make one child
or one poem in its defect
if you are not careful pirat

(performance visual poem to be typeset in a real bitchin corporate font for an inter-con-ti-mental tourist poster; no, better for the rabid dudes of La Rábida, to see if they'll videorecord it in memory)

With love from the good
Guillermo Gómez-Peña
August, 1992

(enchilado from the other side)

And one month later, in the poster-catalogue of the IV biennial in Madrid, Angel Cosmos would respond:

The South here, there, let's go! every where

The IV biennial of these urgent and daily matters, like poetry, experimentation, and sight, broadens its horizons and enters into a function of redemption: The south here, there, let's go! every where. A group of visual artists and performers from Hispanic America gathered some months back to create a movement that called itself south-here, making reference to the generalized and policed insult that the so-called Spaniards levy against those born in that north-south of America, because they speak Castilian.

      Synonym and antonym, South-Here quita hierro here and sets a fire, heats up. It's now South-Here, not a group, but an open invitation. Round trip: go-here/return-here.

      Of undefinable borders, nonsense art, magic couplings.

      Of norths and souths.

      Of all the maps, of all the possibilities of navigating.

      Of that small group of artists and more than 300 works that responded to an invitation in Mexico and Spain.

      Of a long hundred of poets of all stripes.

      In a year like any other, but that they insist is the Quincentenary. In a symbol like that of Palos de la Frontera-in the La Rábida monastery, August, 1992-this Biennial began. And in another European symbol of culture, like this larlarchoteado Madrid, in autumn of the Quincentenary, not only are the works received exhibited, but a group of new works done on envelopes and wrappings. (Since the postal calendar goes on with its commemoration, a collection of stamps is sent out with the value of 92. Only. Let's go.)

      The South.

Angel Cosmos Díaz de Rada

In this 500th year, in the La Rábida cloister, Mexicans, Chicanos, and Spaniards with good and bad vibes had tense and extensive discussions. South-Here-sudacas: Gómez-Peña, with his Chicano-uncorked-skinned: "Please, don't discover me any more," and Leticia Ocharán had no room for her performance. They performed where they could, 200 meters from the convent where Columbus pledged to his son and ten kilometers from the mentioned door of Palos and not palitos (ice-creams). During a heated discussion of the musical avant-gardes, a Spanish artist (to remain nameless), said,

"Fortunately, we don't have the problem of the Indians. Spain, unlike Mexico, is not immersed in the nostalgia for a past that no longer exists. We are a postmodern nation." (Oh, paradox! Mister X had Moorish features.) About this buried south-hearing, Araceli Zúñiga would write:

Already later, during the activities, we would realize that Spaniards still existed-Europeans?-who have not accepted the theory that the earth is round . . . They still believe-inquisitionally-that culture and civilization-life itself-stop at the Rock of Gibraltar, and after that, the abyss. For these people, the earth consequently continues to be square. All other forms of thought, of dress, of loving, of living, do not exist. And in case they do exist, they aren't understood, nor accepted . . . Their loss!

In any case, in this 500th year, the south-here biennial was inaugurated September 15-certainly the anniversary of the beginning of independence in Mexico-in the "Justina Corbacho" (Gorbachov?) Gallery of Modern Art in Madrid, because of the efforts of Angel Cosmos and Cinabrio Quijano, a very south-here gallery owner/publisher, a very Chicano ex-paniard.

Returning to Mexico owing to financial reasons and because of personal impediments, it was necessary to postpone the IV biennial by two years. The theme initially proposed would be taken up again in terms of "Quincentenary hangover-obsequy," to recuperate the sensible dates, heartfelt execrations, the praise and recuperation that the calendar called for.

Thus, assuming a basically pioneering, socio-urban, stridentist focus in connection with the seventieth anniversary of the circulation of the first group manifesto of this movement in 1923 although Maples Arce's Actual manifesto appeared in 1921), the IV biennial took place in the exhibition spaces of the capital city's subway system, which transports more than four million persons-metronauts-daily. The newspaper-catalogue of the exhibition was published under the rubric of the "Fifth Stridentist Manifesto."

The collective international exhibition featured works by more than 100 artists from different countries, as well as the Mexican section, which comprised works from 30 to 40 artists and installations that were located in ad-hoc spaces in 15 subway stations. There was also a video festival in various venues and video projection sites. In this framework, an homage to Angel Cosmos was offered, who tragically died in Spain in September of this same year.

It is important to mention that this IV biennial was developed in close collaboration with a research project on the "PIAS Forms in Mexico (From Stridentism to the Present)," launched and coordinated by Maris Bustamante. Similarly, the "II Performance Month" was organized by the artist Eloy Tarcisio, with the presentation of a performance by Guillermo Gómez-Peña.

With the objective of institutionalizing and assuring the continuity of the biennials of visual/experimental poetry in Mexico, in the context of the IV biennial it was decided to constitute a company named "Vixual Poetry-Mexico/International." This organism has as its charge to engage in activities of organization, promotion, distribution, and instruction of visual/experimental poetry and has been the sponsor of the subsequent biennials.

The Fifth Isn't Bad

In effect, the V biennial was important in its objectivs. In principle, it also had the title "SOUTH-HERE = Chiapas = The South in the North," calling for a political, not a military, solution to the indigenous-guerrilla conflict staged in the state of Chiapas next to Guatemala.

The activities took place in the months of January and February, 1996, consisting of four exhibitions; an international group show, a retrospective of 10 years of visual poetry in Mexico, a Mexican section, and a show of alternative books. An homage was celebrated to the Latin American pioneers of visual poetry and great friends of the Mexican biennial: Clemente Padín from Uruguay; and Guillermo Deisler, from Chile, then recently deceased and in exile. The biennial carried Deisler's name. There was also a posthumous homage to the Portuguese visual poet Abilio-José Santos.

Invited artists attended from Europe, South America, the United States, and the Caribbean, among them Dick Higgins from the United States, Klaus Groh from Germany, Enzo Minarelli and Arrigo Lora Totino from Italy, as well as the Italians Giovanni Strata Da and Emilio Morandi (with their wives and colleagues Renata and Franca), Clemente Padín from Uruguay, Silvana Dabat from Argentina, the Cuban Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, and the Puerto Ricans Ivette Román and Frida Medín, who put on performance sessions and exhibitions of video art and videopoetry. A theory cycle of dissertations and panels took place, as well as a street action in the historic center of the city with recitals of poetry and activities with the public.

In a second phase, at the end of September and beginning of October of the same year, the international section and the show of videopoetry of the V biennial were presented in the main entranceway of the Chamber of Deputies.

As corollary to the activities of the V biennial, an "international declaration" was signed. The document is sets out the organizational bases for future actions of experimental poets, such as the creation of a center of operations that would permit compiling, selecting, distributing, and circulating all kinds of information about its doings. It also suggests a poll on "The future possibilities of experimental poetry in light of the technological media advances of the end of the century" (see following).

The Sixth (Projected): Fractal/Global

To close and by way of corollary, we include a note of introduction from the invitation for the VI biennial-called "Fractal-Global-Fractart-98." This has as a goal the linking of various simultaneous venues through electronic communications networks: Internet/e-mail, teleconference, fax, including answering machines, as well as the traditional forms of visual/experimental poetry. The VI biennial will also be dedicated to commemorating the centenary of "Un Coup de Dés . . ." (1897) and the death of Stéphane Mallarmé (1898).

At the symbiotic edges of the new century, as oblique and convergent vision, the poetic gesture-outline is:

navigation-cybersexual conversation,
hypertextual writings,
digital-virtual body-world;
on arriving at the new millennium,
crossroads, critical-creative bifurcation,
arrow of time,
non-linear hue-thought,
post-individual, holistic subtle complexity
chaos, turbulence, change.

For the populace of Latin America-Latindian America-the urgent need of justice-peace-liberty, now more dissatisfied than ever and demanding of committed work, together with our insertion-anthropophagy-regurgitation in/of the cognitive info-communications revolution that already is defining the next century.

It's still: South-here = Chiapas = the south in the north, in rejection of social, economic, and cultural discrimination, of racism against the people of the Third World, and of ethnic-ecological genocide, in the advanced countries as much as in the underdeveloped ones.

Poetry is the possibility that all women, all men, all children and youth can express themselves within the infinite and everyday perspective of re/creation and preservation of our global environment, convinced that genuine communication and peace flourish through unrestricted, inclusive dialogue.

* * *

"El Chopo" Declaration, 1996
V International Biennial of
Visual/Experimental Poetry (PEA Forms)
"Guillermo Deisler" (Chile, 1940-1995).

The participants in the V International Biennial of Visual/Rxperimental Poetry (PIAS Forms) consider that visual and experimental poetry is periodically renovated to reflect the sensibility of its era and, in relation to the future and a necessary organizational broadening that obliges us to a permanent renovation of media, above all, all those generated in the communications industry:

Declare their desire to see a base of operations concretized that assures all the practitioners of experimental poetry the storage, distribution, selection, and circulation of as much information on matters of concern to them. In this sense, they suggest to the Vixual-Mexico/Experimental Poetry Assocation that it take charge of the task of instituting an electronic database that gathers this information, selects it, and distributes it to its members by means of the Internet and other media.

They also suggest that the Association propose names of experimental poets for the constitution of an international organizing committee for future biennials, who will propose its attributes and duties.*

They cordially salute the Uruguayan and Argentine poets, wish them well for the initiative of installing an international conference of experimental poetry, and suggest to them that they conduct a poll, previous to the conference, on the theme "The future possibilities of experimental poetry in light of the technological media advances of the end of the century," not only for purposes of pure knowledge but also with the goal of opening to all the option of utilizing these media and knowing the situation in which such investigations are encountered.

They also declare, finally, their desire that all the community of experimental poets of the world go on generating, from our proximity with the word in its multiple dimensions, the possibility that all women, all men, all children, all youth can express themselves within the infinite and everyday perspective of the re/creation and preservation of our global environment, convinced that genuine communication and peace flourish through unrestricted, inclusive dialogue.

Mexico City January 20, 1996


Dick Higgins, U.S.A.
César Espinosa, Mexico
Bryan McHugh, U.S.A.
Arrigo Lora Totino, Italy
Emilio Morandi, Italy
Giovanni Strada Da, Italy
Adriana Espinosa, Mexico
Renata Strada Da, Italy
Dr. Klaus Groh, Germany
Clemente Padín, Uruguay
Lilia Morales y Mori, Mexico
Enzo Minarelli, Italy
Araceli Zúñiga, Mexico
Ivette Román, Puerto Rico
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Cuba
Frida Medín, Puerto Rico
Franca Monzani Morandi, Italy
Miguel Angel Corona, Mexico
Silvana Dabat, Argentina
Aurora Berlanga, Mexico

_____ * The first names proposed as member of the Organizing Committees of the global Biennials of experimental poetry: Dick Higgins and Harry Polkinhorn, United States; Enzo Minarelli, Italy; Clemente Padín, Uruguay and the southern cone; Philadelpho Menezes, Brazil; Fernando Aguair, Portugal; Dr. Klaus Groh, Germany; Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Cuba. Coordinator, César Espinosa, Mexico.


1 Article in the newspaper-catalogue of the IV international biennial of visual/experimental poetry, Crónica/Catálogo de la Verdadera Historia de lo que Aconteció en la Cuarta Bienal. Recordatorio/Homenaje al Movimiento Estridentista Mexicano, November, 1993, Mexico.

2 Cf. Xavier Canals, "Música-Poesía Visual, ¿Intersección o Intercommunicación?" in Memoria Documental, Mexico, 1987, pp. 27-28.

3 Amalio Pinheiro, "Invetigações a Partir dos Elementos Visuais na Poética Hispanoamericana de Vanguarda," São Paulo, 1988, 31.

4 Cf. Noé Cárdenas, "José Juan Tablada, Adelanatado de la Poesía Mexicana," Gaceta UNAM, Nov. 23, 1987, 27.

5 Luis Mario Schneider, "El estridentismo a Vuelo de Pájaro," in El Estridentismo, Cuadernos de Humanidades anthology No. 23, Mexico: UNAM, 1983, p. 5.

6 Luis Mario Schneider, Introduction to El Estridentismo México 1921-1927, Mexico: UNAM, 1985, p. 35.

7 Armando Zárate, Antes de la Vanguardia, Historia y Morfología de la Rxperimentación Visual: De Teócrito a la Poesía Concreta. Buenos Aires: Rodolfo Alonso, 1976, p. 103.

8 "Lugares Donde el Espacio Cicatriza," in Special Section: "Escritura Visual," Plural, No. 5, Mexico, Feb., 1972, 9.

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