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Earthquakes and Explorations

Earthquakes and Explorations: Language and Painting from Cubism to Concrete Poetry

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 249
  • Book Info
    Earthquakes and Explorations
    Book Description:

    A study of the interactions between poetry and painting in the 20th century, particularly the Cubist painters and the writers who were associated with them, and the later movement of Concrete Poetry.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6486-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Supplement of Language
    (pp. 3-21)

    This book is about how language deals with the non-verbal; more specifically, it is about linguistic responses to painting. It is about how language supplements painting, frames it, conditions it, invests it, invades it, resists it, exploits it, distorts it, caresses it. It is about how language cannot leave painting alone.

    It might be argued, then, that this book is not about painting at all, but rather about what is saidaboutpainting: the languages – critical, social, aesthetic, discursive – that surround painting. To some extent, this is a fair comment (the book will certainly deal more with art...

  6. CHAPTER TWO ʹWe Are a Manʹ: The Narrativization of Painting
    (pp. 22-34)

    These lines by Bob Dylan come from his 1965 song ʹVisions of Johanna.ʹ¹ I quote them here as an example of one of the major ways in which painting may be appropriated by language: a rhetorical movement that I will call ʹnarrativization.ʹ Such appropriations are, I argued in chapter 1, inevitable; indeed, the space for them is built into the structure of every visual image. But this is not to say that every linguistic supplement is equally useful – indeed, what I want to point out here are aspects of critical commentary on paintings that I find distinctlynotuseful....

  7. CHAPTER THREE Apollinaire and the Naming of Cubism
    (pp. 35-56)

    The most important single way in which language frames and supplements painting is through the discourse of criticism. Criticism enters the field of painting as a narrative, most often as a retrospective narrative: it tells people not so much what they are seeing as what they have seen. It constructs lines of influence and successions of groupings; in the museums, it leads you from the room marked Impressionism to the one marked Post-Impressionism. It loves the linearity of cause and effect; it demands that both painters and styles be consistent. Above all, it exercises its power through the process of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Gospel According to Kahnweiler
    (pp. 57-78)

    A new style in painting, I argued in the previous chapter, needs a name. As language moves to supplement the gaps created and prepared for it by painting, one of the first tactics is to name, to categorize, to frame the original work within a group identity. Another primary tactic is to explain: to expound, to defend, to write manifestos. A style like Cubism, which so explicitly engages questions of representation, creates within itself the space for the supplement of writing, the frame of definition. Both these tactics are clearly visible in Apollinaireʹs writings. But among the immediate Cubist circle...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Semiotics of Cubism
    (pp. 79-103)

    Cubist guitars always have five strings.¹ Maybe thatʹs because they have to play sheet music in which the staff only has four lines.

    This systematic reduction in number (six strings to five; five staff lines to four) is one of the simplest indications that Cubist painters were not concerned with giving exact, realistic images of the external world. The five-stringed guitar declares its independence from photographic reproduction – declares itself, that is, as a paintedsignof reality, never to be confused with reality itself. The reduction by one echoes the nature of painting as a two-dimensional medium representing a...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Metaphor and Metonymy in Cubism and Gertrude Stein
    (pp. 104-123)

    In dealing with the verbal elements of papiers collés in the previous chapter, I went so far as to refer to ʹBraqueʹs poetry.ʹ In doing so, I was practising one of the oldest forms of supplementarity: describing one art form in terms drawn from another. From at least the time of Horace (ʹut pictura poesisʹ), critics have attempted to set up comparisons or analogies between different arts. The structure of the supplement, I have argued, necessarily produces such attempts. The lack within one art form calls out to the discourse (or non-discourse) of the other. But while inter-artistic analogies are,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Window Frame: Delaunay and Apollinaire
    (pp. 124-144)

    There is no such thing as an unframed picture. As I argued at the outset of chapter 1, a painting is, by definition, a visual image set apart from the totality of the visual surround. ʹIn a sense,ʹ writes Norman Bryson, ʹwe can dispense with frames and regard them as extrinsic to painting; yet even without its actual frame Western painting is a structure of framingʹ (1988, 184). That is, the ʹactual frameʹ – the rectangular piece of wood, or whatever other material, that surrounds the painted surface – may take many forms, including the apparent ʹabsenceʹ of any frame...

  12. ENTRʹACTE Signs of the Times
    (pp. 145-152)

    Up to this point, this book has concentrated on the early years of the twentieth century, the ʹheroic periodʹ of Cubism. For the last two chapters, I wish to shift focus, and to look at more recent developments of the continuing relationship between poetry and painting. Specifically, I want to examine some aspects of the international movement known as Concrete Poetry, in its two major branches of visual and sound poetry. But before I do so, I would like to place Concrete Poetry itself within a wider speculative framework.

    In November 1983, I attended a reading given at the University...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Gadji Beri Bimba: Abstraction in Poetry
    (pp. 153-168)

    The action of the supplement, as I outlined it in chapter 1, is to supply something that is both needed and not needed; to fill a gap that both is and is not apparent; to move towards a lack in the ʹotherʹ that reflects a lack in the ʹself.ʹ In earlier chapters, I have described how various verbal techniques – naming, narrativization, theory, commentary – provide a linguistic supplement that the visual arts both resist and invite. My emphasis has been on the linguistic element in painting, though I have also touched on the ways in which the writings of...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Models of Order: Ian Hamilton Finlay
    (pp. 169-194)

    Nineteen eighty-nine was the two hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. For visitors to Paris that year, the iconography of the celebration afforded an interesting study. Images of the Bastille were everywhere; the tricolour abounded; and postcards offered endless risqué variations on the theme of ʹsans-culottes.ʹ Conspicuously absent, however, was any evidence of what is, arguably, the Revolutionʹs most potent visual symbol: the guillotine.

    The guillotine is the dark shadow of the Revolution. Itʹs fine to proclaim Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, but no one in Paris in 1989 wanted to celebrate the Terror. In the orthodox historical interpretation, the French...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 195-218)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 219-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-235)