by Klaus Peter Dencker


Since the 1960s I have established myself in the middle ground between literature, visual art, and film, practically and theoretically; what has been especially exciting has been1investigating the origin and history of these border zones. Thus, a certain knowledge has become increasingly reinforced, which at the outset I would like to formulate as a thesis. [1] 2

If one considers the development of the levels of media, then it's striking that, around the turn of the century, the inroads made by the technical media (like records, photography, and film) radically changed [2] the self-understanding of the artwork and of the artist and that today with the penetration of the electronic media of communications systems this self-understanding has just as strongly changed as we approach another turn of the century.

What this means is that even with the influence of the technical media from the last turn of the century, artworks still came into being-no matter how far they may have distanced themselves from tradition and sealed themselves off from received aesthetic laws-and there were artists as well who still were artists, even when they would rather have seen themselves in the role of producers and engineers removed from a belief in inspiration handed down from on high.

In contrast to these, there now stands a vision that Florian Rötzer has formulated in a small3contribution, "Für eine Äesthetik der elektronischen und digitalen Medien" (For an Aesthetics of the Electronic and Digital Media) (1991). "Artworks of the media networks must, I imagine, be a kind of viruses that release themselves from their author and set loose unforeseeable effects: an art without artist and without artwork." [3] This question fulfills what Flaubert already prophetically foretold when he4wrote, "The art of tomorrow will be impersonal and scientific." In 1924 Karel Teige, a Czech avant-garde artist, cited this sentence of Flaubert's, in the form of a question: "Will there still be art?" [4]

Once this vision is understood as having become a reality, two clear lines of development emerge.

One line shows the development from original artwork through the loss of the original's aura to reproducible, copiable object; and from there from materially graspable to immaterially thinkable product, from closed artwork to an offer of open communications.

The other line shows the artist working out of himself, equipped with few technical means, who discovers and completes his work personally and without foreign materials; through the organizer, who with all imaginable means constructs objects; to the maker of active and interactive communications forms, from Happenings to the use of digitalized electronic communications systems.

In both5cases, artist and artwork seemingly disappear almost entirely. Their function and existence are hardly any longer recognizable. Into their place steps the activated recipient, in whose head the "artwork" first arises by virtue of his power of imagination. [5]

In this historical process of development, there is a whole series of thoroughgoing changes that affect the so-called purity of the genres (as in literature and the fine arts), their media (the book and the canvas), which push forward the mixing and breaking up. The general question is broached of what art can any longer be when the electronic media seem to push aside the print and technical media. 6

In the past we find increasingly almost prophetic prognoses of this development, especially in literature and its medium, the book. [6] In his 1912 work Ecce Poeta, in the chapter "Dichtkunst ist Atavismus" (Literature is Atavisism), Egon Friedell says:

there is no consensus that literature from now on and for always will remain the most important spiritual means of expression. . . . It is not at all decided that in a hundred years a kind of publicity effectiveness won't exist, that urgency, many-sidedness, and agility will not be just as important for writing as were the book and the newspaper for the platform speaker and wandering preacher. To this can also be added a much more important inner reason. We have said it before: Phantasy is a kind of atavism. Since literature, however, is mostly still a function of fantasy, so must literary art gradually disintegrate . . . . But as culture grows, fantasy recedes and with it literary art. In the Iliad there is already less fanstasy than in the Thousand and One Nights. It is possible that literary art in time will disappear altogether. This doesn't mean, however, that the writer will disappear.7On the contrary: when literary art stops, there will be more poets and greater ones. . . . Moreover, there is also no agreement that necessary "works" belong to the process of writing poetry . . . . [7] 8

Thus, in 1924 Walter Benjamin clealy states that "the book in its received form faces its end." [8]

In 1931, Bertolt Brecht said, "But from the beginning they take from us the apparatus we need for our production, because this way of producing will always be further detached from what preceded it; we will be forced to speak through increasingly denser media. .9. . The old forms of transmission are changed by the newly emerging ones; the old don't conquer the new . . . The technification of literary production is no longer to be undone." [9] 10

Then, in 1944 Raymond Queneau noted, "One is ill-served if one believes in the superiority of the book and rejects that connection with other means of expression that are being delivered by modern technology (movies, radios, television). One should not imagine that nothing acceptable is to be found outside the book." [10] 11

Finally, in 1963 Helmut Heissenbüttel writes, "Where this direction points can today hardly be more clearly stated. One can surmise a move towards the development of a new stage of human expression. In this stage a new canon of new art types will possibly be determined. For now, except for the direction, only the greater or lesser degree of detail of the criteria remains to be established." [11] 12

Also, El Lissitzky [12] places the previous form of the book in question, given, it is true, that the new work in the book's interior doesn't yet suffice for its traditional form to be entirely burst asunder, but still one must learn to see the tendency.

This tendency-the similarly anticipated overall development-outlines an answer to Lissitzky's claim: "the endlessness of books must be overcome." He does this in "Topography of Typography," beginning with the reference to a "new optics" and ending with the "electro-library" or, as we would now say, the electronic database as part of a complicated network.

With the promotion of the new book goes that of the new writer-in the double sense of the word, an author ("Schriftsteller") who lays aside inkpot and goose quill and follows other laws of form. Lissitzky refers to the notorious reciprocal conditions of content and form when he says, in "Typographical Facts," "You can see how right where new areas of intellectual and language creations open themselves up organically, new typographical forms arise-modern advertisements and modern poetry," and he gives as examples American magazines of dadaist publications.

A departure point for Lissitzky's media critique and the new task for writers is his well-known formulation of the domination of the visual, the symbiosis of literature and visual art, which, as he says, "visual poetry" will be.

Exactly this point is found as well in the above-mentioned Karel Teige. In 1923 in his manifesto "Painting and Poetry, " he writes, "We stand before a logical conclusion: a fusion of modern painting with modern poetry. Art is one thing, that is, poetry. You see PICTURE POEMS, which are a solution of the problem, which painting and poetry together are. It seems that sooner or later this fusion calls forth perhaps a gradual liquidation of the traditional painterly and poetic methods . . . .13The new art stops being art; new areas are born, and poetry expands its borders. . . ." [13] When Teige says, "One reads the poem like a modern picture-the modern picture one reads like a poem," this shows a tradition recognizable already in an early book title, Fritz Gansberg's Das kann ich auch: Eine Anleitung zum Bilderschreiben und Fibeldichten (I Can Do That Too: A Guide to Picture Writing and Primer Poetry; Leipzig, 1913). 14 15

The search for a poetic language that "sooner or later would involve all the senses together"-thus Rimbaud in 1873 [14]-must be considered against the background of an expansion of literary genre borders, the mixture of genres, as well as of the language skepticism and language crisis that arose around the turn of the century, whose existence can be seen in the drawings of the dadaists, perhaps in Hugo Ball's journal entry on March 5, 1917: "The decision of poetry . . . to dismiss language is imminent." [15] 16

An important moment that furthered this development was visualization, the meaning of seeing, to be found in programmatic writings like August Endell's 1905 "Vom Sehen" (On Seeing), or in Heinrich Wölfflin, whose 1908 essay says, "Visible things signify to the living generation more than to the past. One values the pleasures of sight the more, and what is mediated by the eye has an augmented worth as over against the merely mental." [16] 17

The influence of the technical media, above all, of film, is certainly responsible for this. Symptomatically, we read in the September 1916 issue of Lichtbild-Bühne, "I believe it is through the cinema that we have first learned to see. The joy at seeing is awakened. We no longer want to assemble sober letters into words which by spelling and fixing of meaning are a mental exertion, but lightly and fleetingly to enjoy the reading of images." [17] 18 19

The reaction to this is well-known. Various forms of the book as object will be tried out, to offer a more meaningful and more pleasing text to the eyes. Cobden-Sanderson's important treatment of the subject, The Ideal Book, [18] is published as early as October, 1900. Still, the question of form, which must be seen above all also in connection with the principle of the "total art work," is only an outer sign for a far-reaching mistrust of the book medium. [19] 20

In this briefly sketched overview, the forerunners of a literature now are developed that later lead to concrete and visual poetry and that themselves could reach back to historical starting points, such as those that jump genre borders and go all the way back to the controversial words of the lyric poet Simonides of Kos in the sixth century B.C., who said that "painting is mute poetry and poetry is speaking painting." [20] 21 22

This history of visual poetry, simultaneously also a history of a mixing of genres, first had to be written: from the position of Horace's "Ut pictura poesis" in the Ars poetica (verse 361); to Lessing's Laokoön; to the Berlin and Viennese lectures of Wilhelm Schlegel; to Schiller's research in "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry." The romantics could once again be read afresh, authors like Novalis, who in the Fragmenten says, "Nothing is more poetic than all changes and heterogeneous mixtures," [21] or temporally even further back into the seventeenth century to Baroque poets like Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, who in Frawen-Zimmer Gespräch-Spiel and in his Poetischen Trichter offers a plethora of examples of this thesis: "The painter should be a poet, or the poet a painter, not with the brush, but with the quill: both, however, stand together; this one helps that, that one this." [22] 23

It is really astounding, that in view of this received poetics and of the seemingly so well-circumscribed terminology of literature, the glance of the artist at the same time always already also reaches over its own genre borders, so that a special quality was seen in the proximity of literature to the visual arts since "pictures" also appeared in formal pictures and in metaphorical speech in the area of literature. [23] 24

Thus, beginning with the origins of writing, the picture alphabets, we have examples of the mixing of image and text from the Greek magical papyri to the early figure poems of the Greek bucolic poets, Porfiry's Latin grid poems, the variants of the successors to the Carolingean Renaissance, the Baroque text figures, the scrolls of the sixteenth century and their predecessors up to the free text-pictures of the turn of the century somewhat as in Mallarmé and Apollinaire, which the experiments of the futurists and dadaists followed, continued, and expanded, to entirely unique forms brought through by the artists of concrete and visual poetry of the second half of the twentieth century. [24]

Concrete poetry got its name at the beginning of the 1950s. It is a language art form that is closed, international, and non-mimetic, proceeding from the material qualities of language: from the verbal, sound, and visual materiality of words. The graphic forms of single letters, the white space of the book page, the constellation of letters vis-à-vis one another, the change of reading habits, the combinatory possibilities of letters and words on a surface, the ignoring of syntax and metaphor, the free play with language material that simultaneously goes against the literalness of language-this calls for a wholly new reception attitude on the reader's part. No customary left-right reading will work, no usual sentences, no given sequencing, not even words that had once been complete-the reader must himself become productive, discover constellations, determine double meanings of words, develop his own history with the language material being offered.

The term concrete poetry emerged in 1953 in a manifesto by the Swedish artist Övind Fahlström. In 1954 Eugen Gomringer defines and describes concrete poetry in his manifesto "Vom Vers zur Konstellationen" (From Verse to Constellation), without using the term. This he first uses in 1956, after which he met with representatives of the Brazilian25Noigandres group at the Ulm Hochschule (Ulm College). There Gomringer was secretary to the Swiss constructivist Max Bill; this line of connection shows the closeness of concrete art and concrete poetry. Gomringer prefers to refer to a much earlier essay of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa (1853-1908), "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry," published by Ezra Pound in The Little Review in 1919, in which "concrete poetry" [25] had already been mentioned.

Since 1954, Gomringer has referred in many publications to the communications posssibilities mediated by a changed notion of poetry, and, above all, he has supported and promoted "the idea of a universal common poetry," claiming that in a changed society the ongoing existence of an individualistic poetry would have to be scrutinized.

But the postulates of concrete poetry-to be simple, understandable, communicative, essential, and exact-were not satisfactorily achieved. It seems that the degree of reduction, the mass of abstraction, and the language-theoretical research necessary to guarantee a certain style caused the poets gradually to forget the environment. At its most extreme point, very few signs driving forward the process of abstraction over the specific alphabetical signs offered anything that would have made possible an identification of the public with the new poetry. Hermetics instead of communication was the result.

The term concrete poetry, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, was often used synonymously with visual poetry. But this description merely refers to the visual materiality/form of appearance of concrete poetry. This visual realization of concrete poetry texts must be strictly differentiated- based on different qualities, predominance, and functions of elements foreign to art-from works of international visual poetry that have been developing in parallel.

Put otherwise, only by force do the visual components of concrete poetry emerge from this poetry's already inevitable organization of text- and letter-material. Thus, the end product appears not as picture but as constellation, of whose necessary space and surfaces we become conscious.

Works of visual poetry are essentially more complex pictures and as such to be recognized. Next to the graphic qualities of letter materials, picture-like elements (color, forms, drawings, collages, and so on) serve as contrast, mirroring, or distortion of the semantics of words used. Therefore, here we have text-pictures-picture poetry, as Teige says.

Thus, in the area of visual poetry's aesthetic quality, there can be found always more levels. Picture- and text-information shrunken and mounted as fragments should provide room for poetic play. In this way, the recognition of material and its origin plays an important role. The montage piece cut out of an advertisement signifies not only what this piece says literally but also brings in the gathered semantical area of the ad. If more source areas are now related to one another, we can quickly see what multiplicty of possibilities for semantic and formal connections is offered. Thus, it is not requisite that all the varieties of poets be united with one another. As well, limiting the showing of possible correspondences once again allows the public free rein for its own creations.

With its fictional character, individualistic poetry produces personal worlds that the public might interpret on which it could build or from which it could recognizably benefit. However, these personal worlds don't respond to the public. Perhaps concrete poetry was nothing more than this. Moreover, in the last analysis visual poetry is fictional, because all poetry stands under the dictate of fictionality. But the difference from concrete poetry perhaps consists in the fact that this inclusion proceeds from the fact that in visual poetry there is more world in the art work itself, constantly leading the fight against fictionality. The internally orderly constellation of concrete poetry was in principle an artistic form that in the best of cases had a representational character. The words were investigated as words and were not seen with regard to their environmental function. Concrete poetry understood the word as material word, as sign.

Visual poetry can make use of the word always only in context, in connection with its source or origin, its environment (poster, advertisement, catalogue, letter, and so on). The source must be recognizable; only then is it worth it to place this word in its entirely special context function, so that aspects result that are critical, humorous, or even theoretically recognizable. In this way, several tasks come together-language criticism, social criticism, criticism of more complex or more primitive language communication, and so on.

If concrete poetry has concerned itself with language as material, then visual poetry tries to investigate context as material, and insofar as visual poetry generates other contexts from context fragments, the public will be sensitized with regard to new ways of seeing and thinking. The public will be shown that there are no good systems of reference, that there is always only just a given case, that the single observer is in a position to considerably augment his creative capabilities. At the same time, we note the request that the environment be seen as one in its constantly changing states. 26 27

If concrete poetry has sharpened language awareness, then visual poetry tries to develop-at the same time building up and perhaps going a step further-a language-context consciousness, an awareness of the environment of language. [26] Thus, one might bring together the following points for a terminology, although the maker of visual poetry need not be conscious of them: [27]

Visual poetry:

alters literary and art terminology
reacts to the development of the media
defines afresh the role of the producer
looks for the recipient as producer
draws up new models of communication, aesthetics, and contents
places in question received artistic rules
opens itself to all themes
works with invented and found materials
claims no eternal value.


It doesn't limit itself to a definite culture area or language condition: visual poetry is international, found on all continents, and has existed for centuries.

It is intermedial and interdisciplinary; that is, it is not limitable to a definite artistic discipline like literature, visual art, film, photography, computers, and so on: it is found among all the arts and therefore also among all the media.

It is not the object of science, yet at the same time is the object of many disciplines: literature, art, typography, advertising, media, and so on. It seemingly possesses no history, yet at the same time ties together many lines of development and influences, not the least being a paradigm shift from the culture marked as literary to that of the visual and of media of this century.

It seems to be absent from the awareness of publishers and gallery owners, or it is regarded as out of date, but at the same time it is present in many of the world's great collections and museums; it is regarded as not "marketable" by big presses or known galleries, but continues with an unbroken power of production to be exhibited in a plethora of subversive exhibition spaces and goes on being published by small presses. It possesses no single form of appearance and does not allow itself to be frozen on certain techniques, materials, formal or content programs: its versatility is its program.

And finally: visual poetry can be understood indeed as an art form, but it doesn't have to be. Hence, it can be ideas-and a delivery system for all the areas of the modern information and communications society. It can also be understood as so-called applied art, when its innovations in advertising, technology, and electronic media demand, without having to fear coming up against poetics or aesthetics.


Visual poetry is the changeable relationship of visual art and literature, of picture and text, of figurative and semantic elements, the connection of both art forms in an intermedial space, the sensory reaction to any kind of communications form coming from the environment, the reservoir for important recognitions from collage, concept art, concrete art, used by different imaginative varieties of realism, for the establishment of evidence and in all the conceivable ways that a logical language deploys.

Visual poetry introduces new processes of sensation through calculated play, experiment pitted against tradition, and its artistic project is developed through experience; it is also a reflection of and answer to the unfolding of the media landscape and to the especially strong reciprocal pollination and interpenetration of the arts we have witnessed in the twenthieth century.

Finally, visual poetry can be seen as a possible form of expression in the development of our information- and communications society. Visual poetry can react to the new forms of media (video, computer, holography, laser, and so on), is a form of expression independent of a certain medium, which can enter creatively and innovatively into interactive communications models.

Or plain and simple in a sentence:

If concrete poetry has been made to serve against the wearing out of language and for the discovery of a new literalness, a new material and language awareness, then the chief service of visual poetry lies in the discovery of a new context awareness and new language reference systems, whereby languge no longer means only alphabetic language.

And how can it continue?

In a lecture entitled "Hat Schreiben Zukunft?" (Does Writing Have a Future?), Vilém Flusser has shown a possible further way. He says,

Writing down is the expression of a false awareness. . . . From all sides there appear pictures (photographs, movies, television, videos, computer pictures), a universe of technical pictures, which break through the crazy stream of inscription. They are the new kind of pictures. They turn up not out of ancient history, myths, the preconscious, but out of a new way of writing. Not out of legends or inscriptions, but out of prescription, out of "programs." These programmed pictures, therefore, are not more or less a relapse into the inscriptions of illiterates, but, on the contrary, a push forward to the inscriptions of a prescriptive writing. We may expect a new literature: no longer notated, but prescriptive; no longer documents, but programs. . . .28Future literature will no longer be spoken language but will note down "ideas" (somewhat like the Chinese). [28] 29 30

Flusser could thereby have predicted the end of the book age, and the ongoing discussion would be simultaneously confirmed, for which Michael Wetzel's 1991 work stands: Die Enden des Buches oder die Wiederkehr der Schrift. Von den literarischen zu den technischen Medien (The Ends of the Book or the Return of Writing. From the Literary to the Technical Media), which tries to explain that the end of the book in no way includes the end of writing. [29] Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of what Marshall McLuhan wrote already in 1964 in Understanding Media : "Already our western scale of values, built on the written word, is faltering because of the electronic communications media-telephone, radio, and television." [30]

But what does "end" mean in this connection, or the "disappearance" of the art work and the artist mentioned at the beginning? Naturally, something else steps up to take its place, and this must not be something less, as the culture pessimists try to persuade us. Because we can learn from media history also that the anxieties and horror scenarios of the collapse of culture will always be newly formulated with a beautiful regularity, whether in the example of television as a drug, or the computer's omnipotence-a condition that holds true not only in the present (and not only in these two media), but is also recognizable in even more beautiful regularity right with the respective emergence of newer media. 31 32

The emergence of the technical media of photography and film threatened to dry up the creativity of the fine arts and literature, and the collapse of the theater was imminent. [31] The forest fire of television threatened film culture and reading behavior. Audio- and videocassettes now seem to be suppressing the book, and the computer similarly undermines all human abilities, after which not only will texts, colors, and tones be made tracing the artistic existence but also the makers have already themselves long since become nothing but pieces of artistic worlds, beyond real time and real space: virtual-real, and at the same time not real. [32]

In an essay that appeared already in 1988, "Das Verschwinden der Fiktion. Über das Altern der Literatur durch den Medienwechsel im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert" (The Disappearance of Fiction: On the Age of Literature through the Media Changes in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries), Klaus Bartels has brought to a point these worries-or better, this as yet unmastered defiance. He speaks of the "De-realization of the real through the electronic media, the becoming unreal of the real," by which we make it difficult for ourselves. Since the Enlightenment, the visual techniques of learning have been rejected. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a pictureless, rational reading was postulated. This was now thoroughly cancelled through the above-sketched development, and, as a result of care for "the continuation of literary culture," the understanding was denied that "visual fiction undoes33the monopoly over literary fiction" and "that this in no way means the collapse of culture, since the existence of the book, of literature, or even of culture is not at stake, but only the mastery of the literary function over the visual," says Bartels. [33]

But this innovative development with help from visualization can still lead to problems, which Paul Virilio addressed on the occasion of the publication of the Media-Art prizes in Karlsruhe in 1992. He began his talk, "Whereas earlier there was a craft of seeing, an 'art of seeing', we now face an 'undertaking of sensually perceptible appearances', that one could take as a malignant ulcer, the industrialization of seeing groping around itself throughout form."

Virilio speaks of a mechanization of seeing that could lead to the inflation and disturbance, but no longer to a further sensitization of, sensory allure. Thus, he asks:

Given this "disturbance of apprehension," which befalls each of us, it would perhaps be advisable to give earnest thought to the ethics of customary perception. Will we soon lose our position as eye tools of sensory-perceptible reality to technical, substitute media, to protheses of all kinds (video and camera surveillance), that make us rely upon them for assistance,34for the visually impaired-a paradoxical blindness thanks to the over-illumination of the visible and of the development of this sightless seeing machine, that is attached to this "indirect light" of the electro-optic, the future of the "direct optic" made from sunlight or electricity? [34]

Even clearer is the following by Fred Forest:

Driven from the currents of the time and fashion, must we now acknowledge the picture's zero point, after which we are shoved right up to literature's zero point? . . . With the spread of the media and the explosive unfolding of technologies, the picture does not stop proliferating around us and multiplying itself. And it is right here that doubt strikes us. Is this sea of pictures, which is flooding us to the point of saturation, perhaps nothing other than a last dispersal? . . . Have we already overstepped the culture of the picture that many still highly esteem? Will the picture kill the picture? . . . The background of the latent crisis of the picture is the crisis of reality, which unavoidably confronts us. It is directly bound up with a new form of relation, which has constituted itself over the mediation between the individual and the world of electronic techniques of all kinds. Pictures, so it appears, become intelligent. . . . Yesterday we still looked at them; today they already are observing us. In an interactive relation that remains unclear whether we still possess the privilege of the initiative and of creativity, they test our ability to give answers. . . .35Certainly it is true that we have become mistrustful faced with the mass-produced picture, in that we discover that it can deceive our senses and our judgment . . . [35] 36

When now applied to what Forest says, moving towards the turn of the century, must we reckon with a crisis in perception after the language crisis of the last turn of the century? At least in 1988 Virilio was already referring to the possibility of a crisis of perception in Die Seemaschine. [36]

Virilio establishes that after "synthetic" pictures now the time of "synthetic" seeing has dawned, which has been defined through phrases like "automating of sensory perception," "motorizing of the gaze," "ocular training," "prothesizing of the gaze," and "sightless seeing machines." "Which effect," Virilio asks, "which theoretical and practical consequences" follow "for our own view of the world?"

This questioning closely explores the value and definition of reception on the basis of possibilities of changes in perception and thereby at the same time the question of the future development of communications altogether. 37 38 39 40

Thus, three factors-once again brought together-play a considerable role. First is the resolution of the monopoly of literary fiction through the visual. [37] There is the "invasion of the visual" [38] in a culture still dominated by the literary until at least the last turn of the century. Second, we have the break-up of classical mass communications, which was able to develop with the coming in the twentieth century of the technical media-LPs, photo, film, and so on. Third, we see the "de-realization of the real through the electronic media," [39] among the results of which are to be considered the quality as well as the function of the communicator and the recipient against the background of a fully new Space-Time fabric. [40] 41

On the one hand, the break-up of literary fiction through the visual can now be clarified with the development of audiovisual media; on the other hand, this break-up is also a consequence of the language crisis of the turn of the century, next to which the visual media have also brought forward other "ersatz languages," such as, for example, expressive dance or the visual forms of poetry. [41]

One should question if this first language crisis follows the second language crisis with the influence of the electronic media in the second half of the twentieth century; if now in the audiovisual area something is also lacking of the linearity of a closed system, such as, for example, that of film language; if "language" underlies what the new (creative) electronic media offer in terms of changed forms of production and ways of perceiving.

In any case, one could also ask if, after the language crisis of the last turn of the century, there now follows a crisis of pictorial view, an aggravation of the picture, the loss of the picture's autonomy, thus a kind of perception crisis called forth through possibilities of simultaneous duplication and freeing of oneself from limits, above all, through the disappearance of reality in favor of a simulation of reality in which the real and artistic collapse together without distinction. These perceptions change that simultaneously reflect the mechanisms of sense perception, themselves to be co-determined not only through products but, above all, through these very producing media.

Paradigmatically, a genre like visual poetry itself could now innovatively embrace the audiovisual media and with them become interactively productive for recipients (and vice versa), to counter the danger of increasing reproductivity that is able-through a flood of pictures, the exhaustion of language, and word reduction-to work against the ominous levelling of reception ability being driven by the rapid development of technology.


Copyright © 2000, by Klaus Peter Dencker.


Notes for Klaus Peter Dencker's

[1]. Reworked and expanded version of a talk given on the occasion of the Ninth Bundestreffens des Forums Typographie (Ninth Federal Conference of the Typography Forum) in 1992 in the Fine Arts College in Hamburg, published in Sprache wird Bild (Language Becomes Picture), documentation published by Forum Typographie, AK Hamburg, Mainz o. J., pp.131 ff.

[2]. See Klaus Peter Dencker, Über die wechselseitige Befreiung der Künste. zum Medieneinfluss und zur Veränderung des Kunstbegriffs auf dem Weg ins 20. Jahrhundert" (On the Manifold Liberation of the Arts: On the Media Influence and on the Accompanying Change of Art Terminology in the Twentieth Century," in Sprache im technischen Zeitalter (Language in the Technical Age), 1989. H. 110, pp. 151-70.

[3]. Florian Rötzer, "Für eine Äesthetik der elektronischen und digitalen Medien" (For an Aesthetics of the Electronic and Digital Media), in Jahresbericht/Siemens Kulturprogramm (Annual Report/Siemens Cultural Program), Munich, 1991, p.41.

[4]. Karel Teige, "Poetismus" (Poetism), in Tschechische Avantgarde 1922-1940 (Czech Avant-Garde 1922-1940), catalogue, Kunstverein Hamburg, 1990, p. 174.

[5]. On the change of the communications systems, see the Afterwords of the publisher, Klaus Peter Dencker, in INTERFACE 1. Elektronische Medien und künstlerische Kreativität, Hamburg (INTERFACE 1: Electronic Media and Artistic Creativity), 1992, pp. 184 ff.; INTERFACE 2. Weltbilder/ Bildwelten. Computergestütze Visionen, (INTERFACE 2: Worldpicture/ Pictureworld: Computer-Supported Visions), Hamburg, 1995, pp. 39 ff.; and INTERFACE 3. Labile Ordnungen, (INTERFACE 3: Unstable Orders), Hamburg, 1997, pp. 316 ff.

[6]. Klaus Peter Dencker, "Ein Buch is ein Buch . . ." (A Book Is a Book . . .), in Wolfgang Nieblich, Buchskulpturen (Book Sculptures), Gütersloh, 1991, pp. 3 ff.

[7]. Egon Friedell, Ecca Poeta, Berlin, 1912, pp. 250 ff.; see also the futurist manifestoes in Umbro Apollonio, Der Futurismus (Futurism), Cologne, 1972, p. 128.

[8]. Walter Benjamin, "Vereidigter Bücherrevisor" (Dear Book Reviewer), in Gesammelte Schriften (Collected Works), Vol. IV/I, Frankfurt am Mainz: Tillman Rexroth, 1972, p. 102; see also Frank Schüre, "Am Ende der Bücherwelte" (At the End of the Book World), in Die Zeit, Jan. 8, 1993, 32; Theo Sommer, "Geht das Zeitalter Gutenbergs zu Ende?" (Is the Gutenberg Era Finishing?), in Medien und Kultur (Media and Culture), Göttingen: Werner Faulstich, 1991, pp. 95-100; Michael Zetzel, Die Enden des Buches oder die Wiederkehr der Schrift (The Ends of the Book or the Return of Writing), Wennheim, 1991, esp. pp. XI ff.

[9]. Bertolt Brecht, Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), Vol. 18. Schriften zur Literatur und Kunst I (Writings on Literature and Art I), Frankfurt am Mainz, 1967, p. 156.

[10]. Raymond Queneau, "Gelesen für eine Front" (Reading for a Front), in Striche, Zeichen und Buchstaben (Strokes, Signs, and Letters), Munich, 1990, p. 105.

[11]. Helmut Heissenbüttel, Über Literatur. Aufsätze (On Literature: Essays), Olten, 1966, p. 77.

[12]. In this series of proofs I would like to place the three contributions of El Lissitzky, "Topographie der Typographie" (Topography of Typography), from Merz Heft, No. 4, 1923; "Typographische Tatsachen" (Typographic Deeds), from the 1925 Gutenberg festschrift; and "Unser Buch" (Our Book), from the 1926/27 Gutenberg Annual, printed in Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, ed., El Lissitzky. Maler - Architekt - Typograf - Fotograf. Errinerungen - Briefe - Schriften (El Lissitzky: Painter, Architect, Typographer, Photographer: Memories, Letters, Writings), Dresden, 1976, pp. 360 ff.

[13]. Karel Teige, pp. 172 ff. On the term "picture poem," see also G. III, June, 1924, pp. 33, 38, rpt. Marion von Hofacker, ed., Munich, 1986.

[14]. Cited in Vom Klang der Bilder. Die Musik in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (On the Sound of Pictures: Music in Twentieth-Century Art), Karin von Maur, ed., Munich, 1985, p. 82.

[15]. Cited in Hans Richter, Dada-Kunst und Antikunst (Dada: Art and Antiart), Cologne: Publisher ?, 1964, p. 40.

[16]. Heinrich Wölfflin, Aufsätze. Das Erklären von Kunstwerken (Essays: Clarifying Artworks), Stuttgart: Publisher ?, 1961, p. 56. The increasing visualization is covered by Klaus Brepohl, Die Massenmedien (The Mass Meida), Munich: Publisher ?, 1974, pp. 58 ff.

[17]. Printed in Anton Kaes, ed., Kino-Debatte. Texte zum Verhältnis von Literature und Film 1909-1922 (Cinema Debate: Texts on the Relation of Literature and Film 1909-1922), Tübingen: Publisher ?, 1978, p. 41.

[18]. T. I. Cobden-Sanderson, Das Idealbuch oder Das schöne Buch. Eine Abhandlung über Kalligraphie, Druck and Illustration und über das Schöne Buch als ein Ganzes (The Ideal Book, or the Beautiful Book: A Treatment of Calligraphy, Printing, and Illustration, and on the Beautiful Book as a Whole), Berlin: Publisher ?, 1921.

[19]. S. Fischer, "Bemerkungen zur Bücherkrise" (Observations on the Book Crisis), in Die literarische Welt (Literary World), Oct. 22, 1926, 1 ff.; rpt. Die Kino-Debatte (Cinema Debate), p. 16.

[20]. Handed down through Plutarch, De gloria Ath. VIII, 15; reference to further examples in Alfred Liede, Dichtung als Spiel (Poetry as Game), Vol. I, Berlin: Publisher ?, 1963, as well as in Hugo Ball, Flucht der Zeit (Flight of Time), Munich: Publisher ?, 1927, p. 93: "Word and picture are one. Painter and poet belong together. Christ is picture and word. The word and the picture are crossed" (Liede, p. 270). A very interesting single representation is found in Felix von Ingold: "Bildkunst und Wortkunst bei Kazimir Malevic" (Picture Art and Word Art in Kasimir Malevic), in Delfin, H. 2, 988, pp. 50 ff.

[21]. Novalis, Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), Hildburg and Werner Kohlschmidt, eds., Gütersloh: Publisher ?, 1967, p. 459, Nr. 49.

[22]. Klaus Peter Dencker, Textbilder - Visuelle Poesie International von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Text Pictures: International Visual Poetry from Ancient Times to the Present), Cologne: Publisher ?, 1972, p. 41; see also Text und Bild. Aspekte des Zusammenwirkens zweier Künste im Mittelalter und früher Neuzeit (Text and Picture: Aspects of the Interrelations between Two Arts in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period), Christel Meier and Uwe Ruberg, eds., Wiesbaden: Publisher ?, 1980.

[23]. Klaus Peter Dencker, "Visuelle Poesie und Film" (Visual Poetry and Film), in Lund Art Press, Vol. 2, No. 3, Lund, 1992, 159 ff.

[24]. There are only a few good representations that deal with the history of picture texts. In many respects, the most interesting is still Massin, La Lettre et l'Image (The Letter and the Image), Paris: Publisher ?, 1993 (first ed. 1970, dt. Massin, Buchstabenbilder und Bildalphabete (Letter Pictures and Picture Alphabets), Ravensburg: Publisher ?, 1970). Then, for the area of figure poems, Jeremy Adler, Ulrich Ernst, Text als Figure. Visuelle Poesie von der Antike biz zur Moderne (Text as Figure: Visual Poetry from Ancient Times to the Modern Period), Wolfenbüttel: Publisher ?, 1987.

[25]. Ernest Fenollosa, "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry," in K. Shapiro, ed., Prose Keys to Modern Poetry, Evanston, New York: Publisher ?, 1962, pp. 136 ff.; see also Udo Kultermann, "Wo es weder Westen noch Osten gibt. Ernest Fenollosas Bedeutung für die Kulturentwicklung der Moderne" (Neither West nor East: Ernest Fenollosa's Meaning for the Cultural Development of the Modern), in Merkur, H. 12, 1993, 1101 ff.

[26]. This is no plea against concrete poetry. On the contrary, without concrete poetry the current forms of visual poetry would be unthinkable! It is the attempt to describe two different literary forms with different (and in few points similar) programs, as I have already attempted several times, in Mitteilungen des Instituts für moderne Kunst (Communications fromt he Institute of Modern Art), H. 5, Nurenberg: Publisher ?, 1975; Tecken. Austellungskatalog (Techen: Exhibition Catalogue), Konsthalle Malmö: Publisher ?, 1978; Sprachen jenseits von Dichtung. Ausstellungskatalog (Languages beyond Poetry: Exhibition Catalogue), Münster: Westfälischer Kunstverein, 1979; Am Anfang war das Wort (In the Beginning Was the Word), exhibition catalogue, Lüdenscheid: Städtische Galerie Lüdenscheid, 1984; Visuelle Poesie (Visual Poetry), catalogue book, Saarbrücken/ Dillingen: Saarländischer Runkfunk, 1984; and in the articles "Konkrete Poesie" (Concrete Poetry), in Walther Killy, ed., Literaturlexikon (Dictionary of Literature), Vol. 13, Munich, 1992; and Horst Brunner and Rainer Moritz, eds., Literaturwissenschaftliches Lexikon (Dictionary of Literary Science), Berlin: Publisher ?, 1997.

[27]. See Klaus Peter Dencker, "Zu den Wortköpfen" (On Word Heads), in Eugen Gomringer, ed., Visuelle Poesie (Visual Poetry), Stuttgard: Publisher ?, 1996, pp. 62 ff. and the introduction by Christina Weiss in Klaus Peter Dencker, Wortköpfe. Visuelle Poesie 1961-1991 (Word Heads: Visual Poetry 1961-1991), Siegen: Publisher ?, 1991, pp. 2 ff. (= experimental texts no. 26-28), as well as Klaus Peter Dencker, ed., Visuelle Poesie aus Japan (Japanese Visual Poetry), Hamburg: Publisher ?, 1997, pp. 123 ff.

[28]. Vilém Flusser, "Hat Schreiben Zukunft?" (Does Writing Have a Future?), in Spuren 10, (Mar.-Apr., 1985), 25, Hamburg HfbK.

[29]. Michael Wetzel, Die Ende des Buches oder die Wiederkehr der Schrift (The Ends of the Book or the Return of Writing), esp. pp. XI ff.

[30]. Herbert Marshall McLuhan, Die magischen Kanäle. Understanding Media, Düsseldorf: Publisher ?, 1992, pp. 100 ff.

[31]. Klaus Peter Dencker, "Der zweite Tod des Theaters? Mit der Elektronik zurück in die Zukunft" (The Second Death of the Theater? With Electronics Back to the Future), talk given May 9, 1989, at the New Year's conference of INTHEGA in Nienburg-Weser; rpt. in INTHEGA Kultur Journal, H. 2, 1989, pp. 12 ff.

[32]. See Klaus Peter Dencker, "Wider die Angst vor den Medien. Eine Entgegnung auf Jürgen Mittelstrass' Theses über Medien und Verantwortung" (Against Media Anxiety: An Encounter with Jürgen Mittestrass's Theses on the Media and Responsibility), Jürgen Mittelstrass, "Informationsriesen und Wissenszwerge zugleich. Über Medien und Verantwortung" (Information Giants and Yet Knowledge Dwarves: On the Media and Responsibility), in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Jan. 24, 1992, 71), in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, July 24, 1992, 47.

[33]. Klaus Bartels, "Das Verschwinden der Fiktion. Über das Altern der Literatur durch den Medienwechsel im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert" (The Disappearance of Fiction: On the Age of Literature through the Media Changes of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries), in Ansichten einer künftigen Medienwissenschaft (Views of a Future Science of the Media), Rainer Bohn, et al, eds., Berlin: Publisher ?, 1988, pp. 239-56.

[34]. Paul Virilio, "Achtung, Augen auf!" (Attention: Look Out!), in Medienkunstpreis 1992 ( ZKM Karlsruhe, ed., Karlsruhe: Publisher ?, 1992, pp. 44 ff.

[35]. Fred Forest, "Die Äesthetik der Kommunikation" (The Aesthetics of Communication), in Florian Rötzer, ed., Digitaler Schein (Digital Appearance), Frankfurt am Mainz: Publisher ?, 1991, pp. 325 ff.

[36]. Paul Virilio, Die Sehmaschine (The Seeing Machine), Berlin: Publisher ?, 1989. (= Merve Vol. 149).

[37]. See Klaus Bartels, p. 253.

[38]. Klaus Brepohl, p. 58, and Volker Panzer, "Ohne Worte is das Fernsehen nichts. Diesseits und jenseits der Literatur. Verdrängen andere Medien das Buch?" (Without Words Television Is Nothing: On This Side of Literature and Beyond: Are Other Media Pressuring the Book?) in Publizistik & Kunst (Publicity and Art), H.9, 1993, pp. 8-12.

[39]. Bartels, p. 253.

[40]. Dencker, "INTERFACE 3," pp. 316 ff.

[41]. Enno Kaufhold, Bilder des Übergangs zur Mediengeschichte von Fotographie und Malerei in Deutschland um 1900 (Pictures of the Transition from Photography and Painting to Media Narratives in Germany around 1900), Marburg: Publisher ?, 1986, p. 161; "The picture has become a shorthand for language. Where the word breaks down, the picture still makes possible an understanding."


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