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A Scream is Named: Excursions in Artaudian Culture

When my mind was opened to contemporary theater in 1970, the figure and writings of Antonin Artaud was one of the biggest keys on the ring. He was a mythic and mysterious figure, whose perceptive analyses and flaming rhetoric opened visions of possibility far beyond college revival stages and the placid fields of libraries of scripts and commentaries.

The texts in “The Theater and Its Double,” in which Artaud famously wrote of the actor “signaling through the flames,” came from a man who'd played the priest in a biopic on Joan of Arc, an expelled Surrealist, an imprisoned madman.

The Vietnam War horror of those times called for screams, and Artaud was a virtuoso. Major Anglophone artists working with his thought were Peter Brook, staging an imagining of the Marquis de Sade's play in an asylum, Richard Schechner’s Performance Group smearing themselves with blood for Dionysus, and most famously, Judith Malina and Julian Beck's Living Theatre, closing their “Paradise Now” with a revolutionary march into the streets.

Now the “Specters of Artaud” rise again in a show of the same name at the Reina Sofia museum (MNCARS) in Madrid. But the flaming actors crying out against a war-making American empire are nowhere to be seen. In this tracing of his legacy, Artaud inspired a movement of artists working beyond language. Those haunted by his “specter” are painters, poets, and filmmakers, abstractionists and therapists – from Yves Klein to John Cage, Isidore Isou to Lygia Clark – and all of them unexpected.

This text is a review of the exhibition “Specters of Artaud. Language and the Arts in the 1950s,” Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, September 19 - December 17, 2012; and the catalogue of the same name, edited by Kaira Cabañas with the collaboration of Frédéric Acquaviva, MNCARS, 2012.

This ambitious show is a joint effort by the art historian Kaira M. Cabañas and the artist Frédéric Acquaviva. Cabañas has written a book on Nouveau Réalisme. Acquaviva has worked closely with Lettrist artists to revive and restage some of their most important works.

The breadth of this exhibition is daring. Most of the material is fresh and intriguing. The show also raises interesting questions about museal techniques.

A good deal of this exhibition, and maybe its most important contribution, is a wide-ranging exposure of artists from the Lettrist movement to an international audience. It's a long overdue beginning.

The first thing that leaps to my mind when I hear “Letterism” in art is Rammellzee, the late hip hop Afro-futurist, who theorized the armored letter and “iconoclast panzerism.” Lettrism proper is the movement started in the 1940s in Paris by Isidore Isou, an admirer of fellow Rumanian and Dada Tristan Tzara. Isou felt that Surrealism was exhausted after World War II, and a new movement was required.

The Lettrists worked in every mode of art. While the artists courted publicity and shocked their publics, Lettrism was a close-drill avant-garde highly resistant to public understanding. As its leader, Isou was uncompromising, conceited and dictatorial. (He put out a journal in '46 called “Lettrist Dictatorship.”) But, just as Andre Breton supplanted Tzara in leadership of the Dada group, so Guy Debord usurped Isou with his Letterist International in the early '50s. Although the movement continued, it was effectively eclipsed. It is best known today as a kind of artistic prequel to the Situationists.

The original Lettrists faded in avant-garde legend. Their wonkiness couldn't compete with the LI's “motley assortment of novelists, sound poets, painters, film-makers, revolutionaries, bohemians, alcoholics, petty criminals, lunatics, under-age girls and self-proclaimed failures” (Wikipedia, “citation needed”!). Clearly, that was more dangerous fun than the rigorously theoretical artists of Lettrism with their pictograms, hieroglyphics and formulae. Debord, who would helm the Situationist International in Paris during later years, makes scant appearance in “Specters.” Gil Wolman, his steady cohort, is featured. (Wolman was also the subject of a retrospective in Barcelona in 2010.)

In the catalogue of the show, Cabañas explains that, while Dada poetry broke down language to the phoneme (the best known Dada poetry is Kurt Schwitters'), the Lettrists sought to take it further into the body – to the level of intonation. This is the root of their relation to Artaud, the poet of digestion and disease. Clicking, growling, panting, coughing, gagging – and screaming like Antonin pushed the “propositional content of language aside,” and favored pure human sound and its impacts. Even more than the anti-script cries of actors in theater that I recall – (“to the tumbril with the wordsmiths!”) – Lettrist François Dufrêne's epigraph, cribbed from Artaud, was “all writing is pig shit.”

The Lettrists achieved a strong popular impact in cinema. One of the most succesful aspects of this show is its presentation of a couple of Lettrist films in their context, using installation and vitrines of ephemera. Isou's “Venom and Eternity” (1951) is installed in the show (it's also in various sites online). Isou, as “Daniel,” leaves a debate at the Cinema Club to wander the streets, dressed in his lumberjack's shirt. The debate inside the club is heard, a rant as voiceover. It's the speech that inflamed the Cinema Club members, whose jeers can also be heard. “I like film when it is insolent.” This is a movie as manifesto, including a running straw-man critique. The speaker calls for a new kind of cinema – a “discrepant cinema,” made from images of decay. The cinema should be “living off the offal of its own photography,” like the Marquis de Sade swallowing the shit of his mistress. “Sound and image, the two wings of the Cinema, must be torn asunder.” Titles appearing in the middle of the film declare it to be a treatise, comparing Isou to Picasso, who destroyed the image to give a new purpose to painting.

Throughout there is a low background sound like a unison fever chant, repetitive and annoying. There follows a love(less) story and found footage of workers, as the film gradually turns into an animated collage painting. It's easy to see the roots of a lot of experimental film here. “Venom” was screened in San Francisco (the poster is in the show), and it seems like an outline for the work of Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage – reassembling existing footage, scratching and painting stock, etc., and documents of mundane life. Debord was working with Isou. Godard called his company Son et Image, and took this avant-garde ambition and angst back into genre films.

How did Artaud influence these avant-garde film shows? Denis Hollier's essay reminds us that Artaud's career unfolded at the cusp of sound in film. Even by 1952, sound film was only a quarter century old (“Jazz Singer,” 1927). Editing of picture and soundtrack required considerable artisanal skill. Artaud's thinking was dominated by the “competition between theater and cinema,” and the unwanted subsumption of cinema into the realm of literature. For Artaud, silence was the essence of cinema. If it was to include sound, it should not be speech. By now, of course we have totally succumbed to “the dictatorship of the human face,” lending ourselves our whole lives long to innumerable televised talking heads.

Even so, that is the television talking. And, like a film which can turn into a painting, the information sphere defined primarily by the mimesis of conversation and lecture is already behind us. The digital universe of moving images has so frantically expanded that it has become part of our cognitive metabolism. Like an android external memory, “cinema” is part already of our bodies, as is writing and music and – Artaud's metabolics – his raw digestions and terrible excretions – are powerfully suggestive for art in our android age.

Film in the Lettrist age was a physical fact, ready to be painted and projected from a booth behind the audience. Those artists took the opportunity to add to the movie-going experience with assaultive theatrics. One shook filthy rugs and sprinkled ice over his audience at a screening. Debord gave no image at all to his audience in “Hurlements en faveur de Sade” (Howls for de Sade, 1952), only voices and white light. The film concludes with 24 minutes of imageless silence. The screen is black; little wonder it is not in the show.

Renowned as they are for their aggressivity, these works are really only mildly annoying. (Although old rug dust in one's hair could be another matter!) In fact, at moments, they are quite touching, as these artists display their souls like the junked-up Calvin Klein models of their time. In his “Howls,” Debord continues the Cinema Club debate begun in “Venom” over many a bottle of wine... “Like lost children we live our unfinished adventures.”

The exploration of silence and body noise inspired by Artaud reverberated at Black Mountain College in the U.S. in the 1950s, as Lucy Bradnock's essay relates. In the gallery, I instinctively rebelled against this curation, this connection forged between the viscerally eloquent, tortured figure of Artaud writing his magic spells, and John Cage, the smiling, cryptical, grand heresiarch of U.S. postmodern art casting the I Ching. Bradnock's essay lays out the relations. The composer Cage's collaborator, musician David Tudor, taught himself French in order to read Artaud. Finally, Cage in his performance work dropped script, rehearsal, and narrative, broke the single focus of attention, and put the audience inside the action. The “cacophonous effect,” or “state of incoherence” accorded with Artaud's dictum that “in this spectacle the sonorisation is constant,” chosen not to represent, but for “vibratory quality.”

Bradnock relates Cage's dramatic presentation of silence as music in “4'33"” to Artaud's injunction that work in the theatre should be “stocked with silence and immobility” as well as sound. But, finally, the academic argument that Artaud's influence on Cage's development of compositional theory and method of indeterminacy is “underacknowledged” remains just that. We may as well add in the anarchist connections shared by Cage, Malina and Beck. All this is a matter for research, and close to unmusealizable – that is, tough to show in a museum.

So this part of the show flopped for me. The recreation of the mise-en-scène of the 1952 “Theater Piece #1,” often called the Ur-Happening – down to a reconstruction of Robert Rauschenberg's “white painting” set up to be used as a screen, and a Franz Kline that might have been part of the set – struck me as unrevealing. Bodies dancing, talking, playing piano and records – all were absent. Folding chairs are arranged that you know you can't sit down on. It seemed almost bureaucratic.

Still, Artaud's translator read her work aloud from atop a ladder during “Theater Piece #1.” And Cage deserves the shoutout in his centennial year. Exhibitions at MNCARS have never shied from the abstruse and difficult. “Specters” is a piece of cake compared to the hardtack radically obscure “Locus Solus: Impressions of Raymond Roussel.” Roussel's methods of literary composition inspired Marcel Duchamp, who in turn inspired Cage (and more publicly than Artaud), but even MNCARS did not try to draw those lines.

Where does poetry leave off and music begin? For the Lettrists, the two were melded.

The text by artist and composer Frédéric Acquaviva delves into the musical production of the Lettrist group, beginning with a photo recalling the unrealized 1933 collaboration between Artaud and avant-garde composer Edgar Varèse. Acquaviva helped to resurrect Isidore Isou's 1947 composition “La Guerre,” a Lettrist body symphony contemporary with Artaud's own banned radio broadcast – which plays in a room of its own in this show – “Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu” (To have done with the judgement of God).

(There is a wonderful room of Lettrist sounds to listen to in this show; as a homage, I have put a webliography at the end of this review which links to some of these online.)

In her essay on new writing systems Hannah Feldman points to the key artistic question of the day of the tension between writing and the real. The New Novel protagonists, authors like Robbe-Grillet are better known than the Lettrists. Their objectivism won out over the graphic and sonic literalists. Both, Feldman says, tried to escape the conventions of the realist novel, and the imagistic poem.

The Lettrists mined the “graphics of all peoples” for new characters, just as Artaud drew from other theatrical traditions like the Balinese. Feldman clearly feels some strain talking about the influence of Artaud. I wish she had considered his spells, one of which is in the show. They fascinated people in the 1996 Artaud show in New York – the same occasion at which Derrida questioned the musealization of “le Mômo” in his text, “Artaud le MoMA.” After Artaud was brought home from Ireland in a straitjacket in 1937, his doctors considered these spells symptoms of his mental illness.

While this is not a show about Artaud, there are points at which the unassimilable content of Artaud's work bulges out of the formal agenda of this exhibition like a bubble of sulfurous gas.

Gabriel Pomerand's graphic novel “Saint Ghetto des prêts, grimoire” (St. Ghetto of the loans, book of spells) treats of the Jewish enclaves of prewar and wartime Europe. Feldman speaks of this work, which is displayed in draft and published form here, as part of a broad postwar move to find a “universal language” to describe the indescribable events of the war. Formally, “metagraphic novels” like Pomerand's explore “disjunctions and points of slippage” between the page and the voice, reading alone and reading aloud.

In a charmingly delirious essay, Antonio Sergio Bessa relates early 1950s concrete poetry (particularly the Brazilian Noigandres group) to architecture, modern sanitation and the “buzz” of filth beloved of Rimbaud, the Paris Commune, rubble, Anarchitecture, and the ruins in Europe after WWII. He analyzes Öyvind Fahlström's poem “MOA (1)” (1954) – “highly opaque and utterly impenetrable” – as an example of, well, whatever you choose! Again, the strain to relate to Artaud is palpable. Finally, both set forth “a new relationship with the real in which the reader becomes an active participant in the poetic production.”

This is important, particularly in terms of contemporary artistic practice. But how to show it in the museum? How to charge empty galleries hung with dead texts in heavy metal frames? Perhaps hired reader/performers could animate the texts? Jobs for poets! Surely the challenge posed by such difficult work in so many media could be better addressed in the contemporary art museum. I hope some more useful techniques will be found to help spring these artists from the tombs of scholarly history.

In Bessa's reading, stacks of words stand for luxury towers in Augusto de Campos' poem-picture, as “Luxo” (luxury) bangs up pictorially onto “Lixo” (trash). The manipulation of text on the page relates to abstract painting. The formatting of text as a kind of code also led these poets into early engagements with computers. This poetic avant-garde was small but international. Its “play of intertexuality” was driven by technological innovation and the mechanization of writing, just as the recording of sound drove “concrete music.”

Even as I write on my laptop about so much unfamiliar material, opening windows onto the web for background facts, spellings, and interpretations, and plugging the “translate” function, I can only marvel at how far this has gone.

Ferreira Gullar's essay engages Artaud directly. For many, Artaud, with his abyssal disgust and limitless flailing in the cabinets of human psychic and expressive resources, opened the doors for a post-war Dada and Surrealism that was precisely not those earlier movements, but motion towards somethings new. As a participant in the Neoconcrete poetry scene, Gullar makes it clear how important the French writer was for him and other Brazilian artists. He tells how his very rare books by Artaud were stolen by others. Gullar still feels it necessary to explain: “artists are artists despite their madness.” “The question was not one of opting for madness but of going beyond the limits of the rationality,” on the path to “disintegration of verbal syntax [and] the implosion of language.”

Gullar, with Oiticica, is the author of “Poema enterrada” (buried poem), a 1960 work that makes it all very clear. A work of literary art that can't be said, can't be read, must be buried. But unlike a body, this is a treasure, which can be recovered. Content underground, secretly linked, although the passages appear to lead nowhere became the leitmotif of Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net, a multi-site allegory of the avant-garde.

The curator Cabañas frames this exhibition using the Derridean notion of a “hauntology,” a specter that keeps coming back. For her, “Artaud's howls and screeches haunt the spaces” of Lettrist cinema, while his influence in concrete poetry is “a whisper, rather than a cry.”

The concrete poetry section of both exhibition and catalogue are some of the most ferociously abstruse (e.g., the Portuguese manifesto “From the phenomenology of composition to the mathematics of composition”), but these investigations lead to some striking results – poster poems, and the buried poem sculpture.

The “Neoconcrete Manifesto” of '59 marked the Brazilian alchemical wedding of word, image and object, an alliance of concrete poets and abstract artists which led away from both the rational consciousness and the expressive subject, and towards the body experience of here and now.

For me, the moves from Bauhaus-derived geometric abstract art to the dynamic physical and social experience art of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica have always seemed mysterious. Finally, I think, what Cabañas calls the “key features of neoconcrete art: spectator participation, the fusion of art and life, and interaction among the different arts” has not been successfully musealized.

Lygia Clark moved her sensorial experimental art into the realm of physical psychological therapy. She did that because her techniques worked with people who could use the help. We may say museums are in some sense hospitals – (friends of mine are performing as “Dada art nurses”) – but that sense is very narrow and metaphorical: soothing the soul, repairing humdrum worn-out consciousness and so forth. That's okay, what Matisse called art as an armchair for the bourgeoisie. Actual psychologically directed physical therapy, with its unpredictable consequences, remains a red line for museums.

“Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture,” Carlos Basualdo's 2006 show, which I saw in the Bronx, came the closest to a full-out institutional engagement with this kind of work, with its rack of recreations of Oiticica's “parangole” festive clothing you could wear, a “Tropicália” installation you could enter, and Lygia Clark's “Sensorial Objects” on tables where people could use them. But “Specters,” while it does a good job of laying out cinema and sound work, doesn't try to go the extra mile and present the mechanisms of “body experience” many of these artists dedicated themselves to devising.

Cabañas' afterword in the catalogue describes the exhibition she did not make, the one which could include Patti Smith. Jacques Rancière observed that vanguard modern theater has oscillated between the twin poles of Brecht and Artaud, the “epic theater” with its “distanced investigation,” and the “theater of cruelty” committed to “vital participation.” After this citation, Cabañas briefly references the other part of the Artaud “hauntology,” the “Friday the 13th” part – Carolee Schneemann and Nancy Spero, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Hermann Nitsch and Otto Muehl – (the subject of work by her co-curator Frédéric Acquaviva) – and the broad theatrical legacy, Living Theatre, the Chilean Tentativa Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski's archetypes, etc., etc. But with that we walk out of the museum and into the theater...

...or only into another gallery? The show “Perder la forma humana” (Losing the human form) is open in this same museum. “Perder” is an epic survey of engaged Latin American art and activism during the 1980s age of dictators. So, only a few galleries away, are documents of the TIT, the Taller de Investigaciones Teatrales' Artaud-inspired performances of “The Plague” in Brazil in 1979, work for which the artists were arrested and deported.

As if in recompense, “Specters” highlights the “clinical reception” of Artaud – the way in which the medical treatment of madness was affected by the ordeals of the writer. Artaud was beloved
by the Argentinian psychiatrist Nise da Silveira, who built a remarkable clinic which mixed artists, critics, poets, doctors and patients in a continual tertulia (salon). Silveria was a doctor who rebelled against his profession's reliance on lobotomy and electroshock. Art therapy was pioneered in his clinic, and his patients' work was regularly exhibited. Silveira's supporters developed the concept of “arte virgem” (unschooled art), at the same time as Jean Dubuffet was consolidating the “art brut” (raw art) collection in Europe.

The last galleries of the exhibition contain the evidence of a striking historical coincidence. The same shrink who electroshocked Artaud in the '40s held Isidore Isou involuntarily for nearly a month during the May '68 uprisings in Paris. Isou stuck in the booby hatch during May '68 sounds like a play in itself. The chief Lettrist was so irritated at being cooped up while Situationists and Surrealists roamed free that he launched an essay and poster campaign against the villainous psychiatrist and his profession with the polemic, “Antonin Artaud Tortured by the Psychiatrists.”

A one-time aspiring poet himself, Dr. Gaston Ferdière's story is weirdly complex. Yale's Beinecke Library did a show on the doctor's “strange case” after they snagged the papers of Maurice Lemaître. We learn that, like Silveira, Dr. Ferdière was also a proponent of art therapy. He doubtless saved Artaud's life during the war. He encouraged him to draw and supplied him with books. He also treated him with a then-novel electroshock machine 58 times. Isou's campaign against the doctor went to court, and Ferdière wrote a book. From the library show object list: “Ferdière’s encounters with the avant-garde continued to haunt him for the rest of his life. The title of his memoirs—“Bad Company”—published as the Lettrist assaults in The Review of Psychokladology were still in full swing, reflects the bitterness of a psychiatrist who had started his career with the hope of reconciling modernism and the science of the soul.”

Today, when the Gugging artists are big business, and Yayoi Kusama lives a productive life inside a mental institution, this relation seems a little better adjusted. Still, I feel these stories. I wonder what some of my lost artist friends could have done had they been properly supported by mental health professionals.

The figure, thought and ravings of Antonin Artaud, which wend their twisted way through art, cinema, literature, music and psychiatric ministry, make up the “hauntology” of this exhibition. It is both with and against the normal lines of descent, the “artistic filiations” of cultural history. In relation to Artaud, artists experience not an anxiety of influence, but a kind of infection, the strange hand and breath of a phantom contagion.

Artaud has remained a romantic obsession for the French. The film “En compagnie d'Antonin Artaud” (dir. Gérard Mordillat, 1993, based on the novel and journals of Jacques Prevel) includes scenes of the Artaud character (Sami Frey) directing, which reminds us that he was an actor, and a creature of the theater. He was also a junkie and a witch.

Denis Hollier's essay concludes the catalogue. He details the brief last years of Artaud when he emerged from the asylum to roam Paris, as “Artaud le Mômo” – then Jacques Derrida's 1996 lecture at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Derrida questioned the very idea of musealizing Artaud – “Artaud le Moma.” Derrida imagines Artaud seated before him during the lecture: “He is screaming at me.”

The “slow but spectacular emergence” of Artaud on the art scene, into the museum is “a history of the editing decisions.” During and after his lifetime, critics continued his “second confinement” in the zone of outsider art. He was too crazy for art history. (For theater history he was a theorist, since his work was nearly un-produced and he left no scripts.)

Hollier contends that the museum has so changed since his death that there is now room for Artaud, and for “almost all” of his specters. Foucault's “Madness and Civilization” was the turning point, Hollier writes, when “the paralysis induced by the standoff between clinical and critical readings was overcome.”

Even so, online U.S. test prep notes for Foucault's book read that Artaud was “a drug addict and spent a large part of his life in a lunatic asylum.” Foucault's take is boiled down like thus: “Artaud's madness is exactly the absence of a work of art.” In the drug war era USA, it is clear that Artaud's confinement – like so very many others – has not ended.

The catalogue concludes with a chronology of French, Brazilian and U.S. events from 1946-1959 which attempts to situate the “post-Artaud context immediately after World War II until the 1950s before Living Theatre took hold of a then iconic Artaud.... Because the aim of the exhibition is to expand critical exploration of Artaud's specters, the chonology omits theatrical and art brut works in favor of new links.”

Artaud's was the life of a mythic mad genius, rich in passion, ambition, failure and disease. He is renowned as an expressive figure. This show hinges on artists' adaptation of aspects of Artaud's theory. This is a difficult matter for any general audience. We are deep in the weeds of key issues of aesthetics.

Finally, I think this exhibition falters generally, and succeeds specifically. For the general public, it can only be as baffling as the first Lettrist cinema and neo-concrete poems. For the student, it is a daring revision of received ideas, which builds on a generation of scholarly investigation. Through “Specters” we are led to discover a strain of Artaudian formalism which is somewhat alarming, although not so much as the artist himself.

The problem is to show intellectual history. “Specters” is rather like the amazing show MNCARS produced earlier this year, “Locus Solus: Impressions of Raymond Roussel.” Roussel (1877-1933) had a strong impact on Surrealists and other artists. Roussel's fiction was systematically constructed. His compositional methods were influential. He also described extraordinary devices, physical objects which inspired artists. That, and artifacts from the writer's nearly unknown life, production and lurid popular inspirations made a solid albeit extraordinarily weird exhibition.

This show excited me because it brought to light another side of an artist I once revered. But, unlike the Raymond Roussel show, I don't believe we were given enough information about Artaud – himself not exactly a household name – to know why or how he mattered so much. It's a story. He was a magnificent and terrible character. But how can a museum exhibition tell such a story? It can't. It can only animate and illuminated hidden aspects of one already known.

As time passes, creative strategies that once seemed opposed come to seem similar, since they are rooted in increasingly clear historical circumstances. They become representative responses of particular epochs and their quandaries.

After the war, the Lettrists worked for new bases in all the arts. They asked, How can we re-establish a world of culture and practice in the arts after the horrors we have witnessed, the wholesale exterminations which have redefined the world? The Lettrists, like the Dadas before them, clearly responded to the adult experience of the war that blinded both sense and sentiment.

Language, image, tonal music – all of it was inadequate to contain the experience. Experience was unrepresentable.

Now we hear a homonymic cry in the world of politics – “They do not represent us.” Yet in straining to figure a better world, another possible, language itself is not suspect. Instead, creativity is entrusted with the task of critique. Art will be the loyal servant of fact and reason. Distortions of language, countless turns and perversions, are enacted by those who make the wars and continue to ravage the earth. We speak reasonably and show truths.

Of course it isn't enough.


Isidore Isou, “Traité de Bave et d'Èternité” (Venom and Eternity, 1951), 1 hour 18 minutes

("J'interroge et j'invective", poéme de François Dufrene, is dedicated to Artaud...
curiously, it is subtitled -- cut out of "Venom" – )

Maurice Lemaitre, “Le film est déjà commencé?” (Has the Film Already Started?, 1951)

YouTube – "Orson Welles Interview - featuring Isidore Isou Lettrism" (1955; 2'25")
curious; with French subtitles; Orson Welles interviews the Romanian poet living in Paris featuring Isidore Isou Lettrism, important movement of sound poetry. Excerpt from the documentary film "Around the World with Orson Welles" St. Germain des Pres (1955). This features a short reading, and explanations.

Youtube, "Edgard Varese – Ionisation" (5:14)
Ionisation for 13 percussion players (1929–1931); written before his 1933 collaboration with Artaud; Artaud's libretto Il n’y a plus de firmament, but the work was never completed by Varese.

YouTube, "Edgard Varèse, Ecuatorial" (12'11")
Ecuatorial for bass voice (or unison male chorus), brass, organ, percussion and theremins
written after the period of collaboration (1932–1934)

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)
“Pour finir avec le jugement de dieu” (1947); the tapes of the banned radio broadcast (they are mounted in discrete segments, not continuous)

Isidore Isou: Symphonie n°1 : La Guerre (1947), 13:29
and at:,511.html

François Dufrêne: Crirythme pour Bob Cobbing (1958)
part of Concrete Poetry exhibition (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1970) at:

radio documentary: “Wolman, Lettrism, Sound Poetry and Beyond” (in English)
Radio Web MACBA podcast discussing the link between Lettrism, sound poetry, and the work of some isolated but fundamental figures; includes numerous excerpts of recorded 'readings'/performances. 45 minutes. (2005?)


Antonin Artaud
translation of the text: To Have Done with the Judgement of God, a radio play by Antonin Artaud
translated from the French, Oeuvres complètes, by Helen Weaver

Gil J. Wolman
the narration for “The Anticoncept: Cinematochronic Argument For A Physical Phase of the Arts” by Wolman. Translated from the French by Keith Sanborn. An imageless film, “The Anticoncept” was first screened on 11 February 1952 at the cinema club "Avant-Garde 52," where it was projected upon a large white weather balloon.
this text is helpful in trying to make sense of Brazilian concrete poetry...

“The Noigandres Poets and Concrete Art,” by Claus Clüver of Indiana University

The story of Dr. Ferdière; Yale University's Beinecke Library show list

“The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud,” by Jacques Derrida and Paule Thýývenin; translated by Mary Ann Caws PDF

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