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Adamčiak - Interview (2)

written by Slávka Kittová 2013-01-22

 

Adamčiak - Interview (2)
Milan Adamčiak Familiar and Unknown (Part 2)
 
From the interview with Milan Adamčiak 
about his experimental poetry and other literary and dramatic texts
What about linguistics and esthetics? Verse, rhyme, and the disruption of traditional forms of poetry?
I can recall that following the release of a selection of France Prešeren’s poetry, I was fascinated by his constructive ambitions in his Sonnets cycle, where individual words, lines of verse, and stanzas were used to build larger structures. I got interested in the theory of verse and literature as such, including its legacy forms, but I was intimidated by the vast variety of approaches to poetry, and my effort was to avoid everything that had to do with interpretations. Of course, for my own needs I kept dissecting all sorts of inspiring texts and poets whose influence on my later work can’t be denied (Khlebnikov, Kamensky, Morgenstern, Stramm, Apollinaire). My effort, though, was to be searching for, discovering, or creating new, perhaps unknown forms of poetry and approaches to it. I’ve already talked about decomposition and destruction. In this context, perhaps it’s also appropriate to mention my Polopatistické básne (Lowbrow Poems) that consisted of nothing but ordinary statements.
 
You used your texts to create potential (self-published) books that would present you as an author. Tell us more about them.
My first few texts were created more or less in isolation, and I did not expect a long-term interest on my part to develop the principles employed in them. What eventually happened, though, is that after getting feedback from randomly selected recipients (schoolmates, colleagues, but also poets such as Jiøí Valoch, Ladislav Novák and Josef Hiršal), I expanded some of the texts into cycles and later collected them in manually produced brochures and booklets (sized A5 to A7) under titles such as Konštelácie I. (Constellations I), Texty I. (Texts I), Texty II. (Texts II), Numerické texty I. (Numeric Texts I), Preparované texty I. (Dissected Texts I), Bipoemy (Bipoems), and Zpìvy Lautréamontovy (preparované texty) / Lautréamont’s Chants (Dissected Texts). I had previously used some of the texts as Christmas presents and New Year greeting cards, which gave me the idea to expand them into the scope of book objects. I devoted considerable time to this, and it led to a whole cycle of concepts I titled Alibri, some of which I was able to execute. Alibri were various types of books or volumes of various formats that combined the use of miscellaneous materials (such as paper, textile, leather, and iron-sheet pages) with variously tailored bindings or bindings from traditional books to create new books – containers, objects. For example, Èierna kniha pre Júliusa Kollera (Black Book for Július Koller) consisted of a little black box enclosed in black book binding, and inside were a few vials filled with black India ink. Inside another book were installed a set of metal pins and a pendulum that emitted ringing sounds when you took the book in your hand. I created all sorts of other rattling or rustling books or books intentionally made so that they completely fell apart after you tried opening them. A larger cycle featured kinetic Alibri – volumes meant for quickly flipping through them, because individual pages were printed in variously structured typesetting or displayed variously arranged typographic elements.
 
You were also writing theoretical texts and preparing the pilot issue of a new art magazine titled Experiment, whose intention was to focus on quality content. Did you succeed in having these writings published in the context of their own era?
Besides Ensemble Comp.’s “manifesto” PAN included in the October 1970 issue of the Mladá tvorba magazine and accompanied by samples from my own and Cyprich’s works, I also published a theoretical text in the same year, Fonická poézia a hudba (Phonic Poetry and Music), in the highly official monthly magazine of the Slovak Composers Association, Slovenská hudba. I wasn’t creating phonic poetry myself, but Ladislav Novák donated his phonic poem Moje chvála èeské øeèi (My Praise of the Czech Tongue) to Ensemble Comp., and with Róbert Cyprich, we recorded and listened to it on two double-track tape recorders. On a Slovak stage, though, phonic poetry was for the first time introduced only decades later – at alternative art festivals in Nové Zámky (starting from 1988) and, at my invitation and in Ladislav Novák’s own delivery, at the Slovak National Gallery as part of the Festival intermediálnej tvorby – FIT (Intermedia Art Festival – FIT, 1991). 
In 1969, we were preparing a new magazine titled Experiment 0; Vincent Šabík was supposed to be the editor-in-chief, and the pilot issue included original texts by authors such as Max Bense, Milan Knížák, Ladislav Kupkoviè, Ladislav Novák, Jiøí Valoch, and Ponto – a Brazilian group of experimental artists. I was just carrying a special supplement of the magazine (an experimental poem by Josef Honys who had tragically died a few days earlier) to the printing press when I learned the news that the magazine would not be published at all.
 
From the subjects of your interest, it’s obvious you were influenced by events in culture and art of the 1960s, but did your experimental poetry also reflect or comment on the social and political situation of that time?
Naturally. First, though, I can’t avoid mentioning a fact that had a profound impact on my life and creativity. Between the years 1964 and 1970/71, I was subscribing to, or was regularly buying, following, searching for and obtaining, information sources and materials of the most diverse type. I should start by listing Czech and Slovak magazines covering all domains of art – Mladá tvorba, Mladý svìt, My 64, Blok, Host do domu, Kultúrny život, Kulturní tvorba, Literární noviny, Impulz, Knižní kultura, Orientace, Tvar, Svìtová literatura, Revue svetovej literatúry, Divadlo, Acta scaenographica, Scenografie, Slovenské divadlo, Taneèní listy, Projekt (architecture), Dialog (a cultural monthly from Northern Bohemia), Výtvarné umìní, Výtvarný život, Výtvarní práce, Hudební rozhledy, Hudební vìda, Slovenská hudba, and Opus musicum; and from among the dailies, Smena, Lidové noviny and Uèite¾ské noviny. The publication of most of them was discontinued after 1970/71. From among foreign periodicals, I was a subscriber to Literaturnaya Gazeta, Muzykalnaya Zhizn, Sovetskaya Muzyka, Ruch Muzyczny, ¯ycie Literackie, Les Lettres françaises, Dialog (Polish theatre magazine), Projekt (Polish art monthly), Interpress (international art magazine), Delo (Yugoslav literary magazine), Melos and NZfM (contemporary music monthlies), and Irasm (international magazine of esthetics and sociology). None of these periodicals shied away from commenting on the artistic, cultural, social, and political issues of the day – and all of us probably felt some involvement in them. I can’t imagine literature, theatre, or graphic art in those days that would ignore contemporary events. In fact, for some artists (such as Václav Havel, Milan and Ladislav Kundera), current events were their primary subject matter. In our country’s experimental poetry, nearly every artist reacted – in one way or another – to the 1968 military invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. As to me, I just couldn’t understand how only a year after everyone was celebrating the 50th anniversary of what was termed the “Great October Socialist Revolution” (and those festivities in 1967 introduced us to almost the entire range of the Russian avant-garde), there were suddenly Soviet tanks rolling through the streets of Czechoslovakia, and their consequence was the destruction of everything positive, preventing growth for the following two decades. I couldn’t help reacting to that – both in some of my works, and through my attitude as a citizen, expressed by my joining the hunger-strike commemorating Jan Palach (at Comenius University in Bratislava in 1969). After the glorious period of the late 60s, when Czechoslovakia opened itself towards world literature, when contemporary developments and those of the recent past gave me the opportunity and honour to visit and experience exhibitions such as DADA, Vznik a zánik obrazu – Americké maliarstvo 20. storoèia (The Rise and Decline of Painting – 20th Century American Painting), Danubius, Socha v piešanských parkoch (Statues in Parks of Piešany), stand-alone exhibitions by artists such as Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí, Hans Hartung, and so on – there suddenly came this abrupt STOP. I must also mention the editorial policy of that period that kept us up to date with recent developments in world art and their theoretical examinations – a few examples from among the latter are the Czech volume Umìní dnes (Art Today) by Jiøí Chalupecký; the Slovak volume Umenie dnes (Art Today) by Tomáš Štrauss; Slovo, písmo, akce, hlas (Word, Letter, Action, Voice – an anthology of manifests of experimental art); Zborník medzinárodnej experimentálnej poézie (Anthology of International Experimental Poetry) compiled by Josef Hiršal and Bohumila Grögerová; Experimentálne divadlo (Experimental Theatre) by Paul Poertner; and Umelecké avantgardy 20. storoèia (20th Century Avant-Garde in Art) by Paolo Michelli – along with many monographs on trends and personalities of 20th century world culture and art.
 
So far, our interview has focused mainly on the 60s, which were your earliest beginnings, and despite your youth, they were highly productive. In the 70s, you paid increased attention to your scientific work of a musicologist. In the mid-80s, though, you appeared at an exhibition of amateur graphic artists where you were active in a group led by your friend Július Koller. In 1989, you were invited to the – considered legendary today – exhibition Suterén (Basement) in Bratislava, which, for the very first time, presented the art of objects and installations in a Slovak context. Finally, you were very busy in the late 80s and early 90s – one might say you were at the centre of Slovakia’s artistic scene in those years. Were the early 70s that point in time when you stopped creating experimental literature?
It’s not so much that I chose to stop, but it was no longer desirable officially. Life in Slovakia got a lot more passive than in the previous era, and that’s why art was created more to satisfy an artist’s inner need than to be presented in a broader context. I’ve already mentioned that magazines covering experimental art went out of print, but those of us interested in it continued meeting in smaller groups. It was still during my university studies that I received the invitation to work at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, where I got the opportunity to devote myself to the research of semiotics and its relationship to graphic art. Naturally, I first needed to find my bearings in this area, which took some time and effort. It’s not that I was no longer interested in experiments – on the contrary. At that time, I began cooperating with the Experimental Studio (later renamed to Electroacoustic Studio) of the Slovak Radio. I was still finishing some cycles of experimental poetry, and collecting material for other cycles, but with far less vigour than at the turn of the 60s and 70s. Under the hardline Communist rule in Czechoslovakia of the 1970s, censorship reared its ugly head even in ordinary correspondence. Some of my works I had sent abroad to various artists for exchange in the late 60s were published in foreign magazines, anthologies and catalogues, but I only learned about those releases accidentally, often with several years’ delay. My poem Egotext was published in the West German magazine Neue Texte. It consisted of a single permutated sentence, “I am” – but in various European languages except for Russian, because in Russian you can only say “I,” but it’s impossible to say, “I am.” 
That era is also characterized by one of the events I initiated, Gaudium et Pax, which followed on the I. Otvorený ateliér (1st Open Studio) exhibition in Rudolf Sikora’s house. It was a pastiche of a John XXIII encyclical, intended as a spiritual retrospective of myself – reflecting my joy over all I had managed to accomplish until then, and my peace regarding all that might follow in future. I tried not to get too nervous on account of what I saw happening in society around me. In this period, I therefore chose to deal with pataphysics: as my escape space, I founded a fictitious country named Panfília, and on Panfília’s behalf, I was handing out titles and coats of arms, and creating pataphysical phonograph records to serve as New Year greeting cards, but also pataphysical books and other conceptual works. The entire 70s were revolving around conceptual art. After Július Koller saw a larger collection of my graphic scores, he invited me to join a circle of amateur graphic artists he mentored at the cultural center in Vajnorská Street in Bratislava, and under Koller’s patronage I attended his symposia and entered a few contests. I even had an exhibition, and to top it all, at an exchange exhibition of amateur art in East Germany, I was awarded a diploma for a “remarkable drawing” that was praised for “enriching ordinary notation”. I focused on certain types of scores that were more visual in nature. Afterwards, along with other friends and out of Koller’s initiative, we founded the fictitious Ganek Gallery. In those years, there appeared many projects, concepts, and instructions – also in the areas of text and music – that were only intended for fictitious implementations. My own Panfilian Philharmonic Orchestra was fictitious, too, and instructions I issued for it had the character of post-Fluxus little cards bearing textual instructions.
 
In the late 80s, you’re once again in the midst of cultural events, you’re part of the public scene, and you open yourself up for cooperation with a younger generation.
Starting from about the mid-80s, the political situation in Czechoslovakia was beginning to relax. Exhibitions were taking place where several of us met for the first time after many years. That’s when Radislav Matuštík took notice of me and invited me to the Suterén (Basement) exhibition in May 1989, for which I created acoustic objects.
But my first more public appearance only came at a festival in Nové Zámky in 1988, where I was the presenter of works created at the Electroacoustic Studio of the Slovak Radio. Samuel Ivaška was making a film about me for Slovak Television, and to join me in recording a piece in the cellar of a pharmacy close to Bratislava’s University Library, I invited the young generation from the art academy, but also autodidacts – Machajdík and you. It was the prototype of a Transmusic Comp. concert, and after another concert with Peter Machajdík in Prague, all of this resulted in my proposal to found the Gerulata association in Bratislava-Rusovce, where the first official concert by Transmusic Comp. took place on 15th October 1989. With Transmusic Comp., we were perceived as a representative part of Slovakia’s art scene, and thanks to our presence at key cultural events after the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, we were frequently asked to perform in what might almost be called the government’s interest. Let’s only mention the Východ Západ (East West) conference in Bardejovské Kúpele; the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce; the Etika a politika (Ethics and Politics) conference at the Bratislava Castle; the festivals Totalitná zóna (Totalitarian Zone) and People to People along with Všeobecná èeskoslovenská výstava (General Czechoslovak Exhibition) in Prague; the Berlin – Prague festival (to date the largest ever presentation of Czechoslovak art in Germany); the Querdurch exhibition (the first exhibition of Austrian art in Slovakia); and an exhibition of unofficial Soviet graphic artists titled V komnatách (In Chambers), which was soon hailed as the first exhibition of a free Russia abroad.
 
Due to the current rising interest in the 1960s and 1970s in Slovak, but also in Eastern European art history, you’re now constantly being reminded of your beginnings. The questions that the curators and art historians keep asking you must make your past seem alive again. How do you feel about it?
Because the 60s and 70s are coming up for discussion again, the same also applies to the issue of intermediality. In terms of graphic art, I started receiving invitations to exhibitions because visual aspects of my works can’t be denied, and they’re accepted by graphic artists. The same goes for curators and art historians, and so it happened that the Šesdesiate (Sixties) exhibition at the Slovak National Gallery also showcased my experimental poetry, along with events and graphic scores – specifically, excerpts from my experimental poetry, the Konštelácie (Constellations) cycle, Sizyfovské roboty (Sisyphus Labours), graphic scores, but also events and music happenings. However, the exhibition Slovenské vizuálne umenie 1970 – 1985 (Slovak Visual Art 1970 – 1985) only presented my graphic scores, and just a small selection of them, too. Finally, at the Osemdesiate (Eighties) exhibition, I’m only mentioned in film documents from the Suterén (Basement) exhibition, and portrayed in a film by Samuel Ivaška. This means I’m probably just a 60s guy who happens to be still alive.
 
The current volume the readers are holding in their hands presents – for the first time in book form – a selection from your extensive literary experimental work. Similarly to the catalogue for your exhibition at Galéria Linea in Bratislava, we decided to prepare an “open work” for the reader’s intervention. Can you now give us a few instructions for executing it?
Sure. Back when I was beginning and showing my experiments around, I frequently got to hear reactions of the type, “Anyone could do that.” I’d be very happy if this actually occurred, in the spirit of Apollinaire’s statement, “Everyone is a poet,” and for this purpose, one page is reserved at the end of the book. 
Additional instructions for reading this book:
Dip and dive in the book wherever you like. 
You can tear out the pages you don’t like.
Read the whole book aloud.
In a low voice. Don’t read it. Lend it. Give it away. Throw the book far away from you.

Michal Murin
translation: Alexander Avenarius
copyright: DIVE BUKI publishers, 2011-2012

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