Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roberto Altmann's Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6


"At one time Roberto Altmann was a famous artist. Who remembers Roberto Altmann now?" asks another Roberto (Bolaño) in the book Last Evenings on Earth (New Directions, 2006 [Anagrama: 1997, 2001]: 173; translation by Chris Andrews). If you thought, reading this post's title, that the name is a typo exclaiming something like: "-Hum, Robert Altman did comics?! Who knew?", I must inform you that Roberto Altmann is a Cuban artist who adhered to the Lettrist (or Letterist) aesthetic movement in Paris. (To muddy the waters a bit more "Roberto Altmann" is also an Italian painter.) Altmann did comics inspired by the Lettrist idea of hypergraphics.
Lettrism was created in Paris by Romanian émigré Isidore Goldstein (aka Isidore Isou) in 1946 (his Manifesto was published in 1942, when he was still in Romania though). "Lettrism" played an important role as one of the first neo avant-garde aesthetic movements. "Lettrisme" comes from the word "letter" (or "lettre" in French). Isou defended a poetry in which the visual aspect of signs and sounds were more important than conventional meaning. You may hear some of his poems, here: http://www.ubu.com/sound/isou.html. Lettrists wanted to create a revolution in all the arts, they didn't want to confine themselves to literature. Isidore Isou, for instance, did avant-garde films starting in 1951 with Traité de bave et d'eternité (Venom and Eternity).
As Craig J. Saper put it: "Maurice Lemaître coined the term hypergraphics to describe the puzzlelike works, including his "Memory aid" [his crib sheet] [...]. These works drew on comics and a pop art tradition in their effort to produce a new language system. They mark the emergence of a tradition of producing a language from signs without phonetic equivalent." (Networked Art, University of Minnesotta: 101). Stephen C. Foster defined hypergraphics as "communicating through the union of various forms of communication, as an "ensemble of signs capable of transmitting the reality served by the conscienceness more exactly than all the former fragmentary and partial practices (phonetic alphabets, algebra, geometry, painting, music, and so forth)." (Lettrism: Into the Present, Visible Language, 1983: 7).
This is, briefly, the creative context of Roberto Altmann's Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6.

Images and Sounds:
Self-portrait by Isidore Isou published in the original cover of Amos ou Introduction à la métagraphologie (Amos or introduction to the metagraphology - Arcanes, 1953 -, "métagraphology" is "hipergraphics"' first name); part of Isou's first film Venom and Eternity in which Daniel (Isou) discusses his ideas about cinema.

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