Engaged Visuality:

The Italian and Belgian Poesia Visiva Phenomenon in the 60s and 70s

Organized by Maria Elena Minuto (Université de Liège; KU Leuven) and Jan De Vree (M HKA Museum, Antwerp) fifty years after Lotta Poetica foundation.

Academia Belgica, Rome. July 7, 2022 

Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”. July 8, 2022​

“Mi preme sottolineare come uno dei trait-d’union tra queste composizioni concrete, e quelle di molta altra poesia visiva, stia nell’urgenza avvertita da tutti questi ricercatori di accostarsi ad un tipo di comunicazione attraverso la parola che sia quanto possibile diretta e visualmente immediata; che si accosti all’efficacia drammaticamente coercitiva dello slogan pubblicitario.” Gillo Dorfles, “Poesia concreta (poesia visuale, poesia trovata, poesia tecnologica, poesia sperimentale),” Modulo no. 1, 1966


In a historical and cultural moment, in which poetry could present itself as “phono-, ideo-, typo-, icono, photographical; mono-, stereo-, quadro-, ambiophonic; phonographic, bioscopic, kinetic; kinesic,eatable, odorous, tangible” (H. Damen, 1972), the international and countercultural experiences of Italian and Belgian visual poets drew a cutting-edge roadmap within the wider and multifaceted context of neo-avant-garde experimental poetry of the 1960s and 1970s by creating a unique model of interdisciplinary cooperation where verbivocovisual research, media discourses, and social criticism strongly converged. Combining insights from the fields of art history, literary criticism, and media studies, Engaged Visuality investigates the impact of new media, political imagery, and technologies on poesia visiva phenomenon by focusing on a bilateral case study rarely analyzed from a comparative and transcultural perspective: the foundation of the international poetry magazine Lotta Poetica (first series: 1971-75) by Sarenco and Paul De Vree, i.e., the aim of Italian and Belgian interartistic exchanges, co-authored initiatives, and cross-disciplinary inquiries. We welcome proposals from scholars, research fellows, artists, and poets of any discipline in order to prompt a cross-disciplinary, dynamic, and international debate on the issues, and to examine an outstanding and collaborative editorial project that reflects the scope and the importance of Italian and Belgian cultural transfers in the 1960s and 1970s, deepening the historical and critical understanding of its legacy in the history of neo-avant-garde visual poetics.

Topics may include, without being limited to:

1. Historical and cultural legacies: the reworking of the historic avant-gardes in Italian and Belgian Visual Poetry (e.g., Jozef Peeter’s constructivist compositions; Hugo Ball, Raul Hausmann, and Kurt Schwitters’ Lautgedicht; Paul van Ostaijen’s Pictograms; E. L. T. Mesens’ verbo-visual collages; Vladimir Khlebnikov’s Zaum; Futurist free-word poems; Dada and De Stijl’s appropriated texts/images).

2. Crossing borders: theoretical and aesthetic shifts in neo-avant-garde visual poetics (e.g., Visual Poetry; Visual Writing; Scrittura simbiotica (symbiotic writing); Nuova scrittura (new writing); Scrittura materica (materic writing); Verbal-Visual Poetry).

3. Transcultural exchanges and perspectives: the role of international networks in poesia visiva movement and their implications for poetic and artistic writing (reference to poetry anthologies, co-authored artists’ publications, experimental poetry magazines, and collaborative artists’ books collections).

4. Politics, Poetics: The counterculture of the Italian and Belgian poesia visiva phenomenon in face of political and media rhetoric of the 1960s and 1970s.

5. The Italian and Belgian neo-avant-garde artistic syncretism and co-authored artists’ publications: the case of Lotta Poetica.

6. Interdisciplinary and intermedia approaches as they emerge from artists’ books and periodicals, ἔξω-editorial projects, poetry festivals and exhibitions.

7. Mixed-media forms and inter-artistic practices including cut-ups and picture-poems, alphabetical writings, verbo-visual compositions, collage and photo-images in poetry.

8. Poetry and protest: the importance of the historic and neo-avant-garde’s poetic struggle for contemporary art and poetry today (e.g., slam poetry, public poems, poetry happenings and readings).

– Exhibition and Beinecke Library’s holdings projections on poesia visiva: Based on documentary archival materials from the Paul De Vree Archive, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and M HKA Collection, the showcase exhibition and holdings projections in the library of the Academia Belgica of Rome will provide a concise and refined overview of Lotta Poetica’s transnational network and counterculture activities during the early 1970s. In addition to the question of the impact of mass image circulation, political imagery, and technologies on poesia visiva phenomenon, the participating scholars, artists, and poets will deal with the representation and reception of neoavant- garde visual poetics in international cultural, theoretical and socio-critical production since the 1960s to the present.

Conference language: English, French, and Italian. Open to the public.

Scientific partnership: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Yale University); Université de Liège, Belgium – Department of Modern Languages and Department of Historical Sciences; KU Leuven, Belgium – Department of French, Italian and Spanish Literature; Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza” – Department of Art History and Performing Arts; Royal Holloway University of London – Department of Languages, Literatures and Culture; Università degli Studi di Milano – Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment. In collaboration with: M HKA Museum and Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp; the Society for Italian Studies (SIS); the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Poétique Appliquée (CIPA, ULiège); the Service d’histoire de l’art de l’époque contemporaine (SHAÉC, ULiège); the UR Traverses (ULiège); the Handling (UCLouvain); the Collection for Research on Artists’ Publications – CRAP, Ekeren.

Scientific Committee:

Jan BAETENS (KU Leuven), Julie BAWIN (Université de Liège), Laurence BROGNIEZ (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Michel DELVILLE (Université de Liège), Jan DE VREE (M HKA Museum, Antwerp), Elio GRAZIOLI (Università degli Studi di Bergamo), Maria Elena MINUTO (Université de Liège; KU Leuven), Johan PAS (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp), Giuliana PIERI (Royal Holloway University of London), Kevin REPP (Beinecke Library, Yale), Bart VAN DEN BOSCHE (KU Leuven).