On Visual Poetry with Nico Vassilakis

Türkçe okumak için: https://www.buzdokuz.com/2021/12/nico-vassilakis-ile-gorsel-siir-uzerine/

Interview by Hasan Bozdaş

Do you describe yourself as a poet or a visual poet? If we talk in the context of both concepts, what you have done and achieved with visual poetry, what prevents this in poetry?     

Well, Hasan, for me, one comes out of the other. Visual poetry evolved naturally from my involvement with poetry. I watched/read the words closely till the letters started to move away from the word. This encouraged me to document that activity. Now I find I am still both a poet AND a visual poet. I write more and more about my experience with vispo while creating vispoems. I get the sense that the two have finally merged into one. 

I must state that I am really impressed by some of your visual works. At this point I have a question. Why is visual poetry not included in the painting / graphic discipline, but in the poetry discipline? I want to ask the same question in terms of video poetry. What is the aesthetic understanding that includes a work with a dominant cinematic aspect in the discipline of poetry and where is it based? Can we read this in the context of Bakhtin’s “carnivalization of the species”? I want to know what makes all this poetic.

This question arises every so often about visual poetry being the forgotten stepchild in both the art and the literary world. It’s never given a place at the table. Why is that? Could it be because it straddles both these worlds and does not commit to either? Or perhaps because there is not much gallery hi$tory with vispo. Text in painting has been around for years, but you ask what makes it poetic? There’s a fascination with language material, with alphabet, that always remains bright. The phenomena of fidgeting with language remains a common experience people engage in.

Is the prominence of visual poetry a contradiction in an age where visuality is at the forefront? What kind of a relationship do you establish between visual poetry and reality in a simulative environment? Is this relationship schizophrenic, in Barthes’ phrase?

We are, of course, surrounded and suffocated by text and its assault is palpable. Vispo offers a means by which we can alter the message and invent a future language event. Perhaps the acceleration in hand-held tech has made vispo a quaint archaic step in the lineage of visual writing. Any schizophrenia that exists exists in the artist/citizen segueing into the future language event. 

Art turns into a speculative value, everyone can join the game with their own version, therefore, diversity is formed in the way of poetry being expressed. Do you think that the poem negatively affects the aura with Walter Benjamin’s Dada criticism?          

If you follow visual poetry closely, you will notice certain repeated motifs. There is no available history of vispo, so new practitioners often unknowingly step on their ancestor’s efforts. That’s fine, but it can create an avoidable staleness. Certainly there is a glut of images out there. How do we approach this? Is there more to choose from or are we drowning in these images? Time will tell.

Your visual poems are an experimental area created by utilizing the possibilities of typography. In this sense, I assume your original experiment is with words and alphabets. From the close-remote use of words and letters, I feel that you are trying to reach the first point that the symbols come out. I think that your studies have created a kind of visual language and style when viewed in an integrity manner. Can you talk about the background of your understanding in this sense?

My metamorphosis creeped in through long sessions of staring my way into a word till the letters began to dance on their own. Once the letters were freed, it became apparent that they existed individually as well. Whole histories are encased in the invention of letters. Sound, image, symbol, signage, etc. And so, I decided to capture or document this staring and find out what the letters were doing before and after they arranged themselves into words.

The poetry is interacting with both the auditory sense and the visual senses, the visual poetry transforms only the sense of sight to an advantage. I believe this opinion because Geof Huth says “visual poetry is written to the eye”. In this sense, do you think art restricts the interaction area?

Though Geof is write, there are ample circumstances where the vispoem is to be considered a aural score as well. Thus the term verbo-visual.

Which are the letters you find the most functional? I ask you to tell you about the anatomy of these letters. For example, how do you define the letter “N”?

I am more prone to use a sequence or a pairing of letters. For instance, K and X together still arouses my interest. If I see a K and X next to each other on a license plate I tend to stare at them until someone honks at me to move. This happens to me often, the letters morph and I have to watch them attempt to evolve into a new form. Stable results are imminent, I believe.

Do you think the studies in the visual poetry and video poetry are feeling in need of explanation?

I think visual writing needs more critical overview. It is woefully unattended. More books of the sort require in-depth reviewing and to be placed in cultural hubs for the people to experience.

We see that many styles like collage, asemic, xerographic are tested in the visual poetry form. Do you have prominent lines in your own visual poetry understanding?

No, visual poetry exists in two categories. The first is the category that encompasses all results dealing with visual writing from cave drawings to hieroglyphs to patterned texts to concrete poetry to asemic writing. The second is a place on the timeline where visual poetry arrives just after the concrete poetry movement. This is when language material became so spare and minimalist it inched its way into visual creation with alphabet.

I want to come to intertextuality. Can it be included in the installation as an intermediate uniform element, cento poetry, brichology such as parodic styles? How is this in visual poetry and video poetry?

I understand intertextuality as the relationship between all intended and accidental ways of experiencing. Vispo can be located within that through the reading, seeing, writing and drawing of text. Intake affects output.

Disinteres can be defined as poetry thinking of itself and not having a purpose other than truth. I am curious about your opinion on poetry and disinterest.

The rule for me is always – poetry should do nothing.