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Milan Adamčiak

written by Slávka Kittová 2013-01-22


Milan Adamčiak

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 In the gradually more relaxed atmosphere in the communist Slovakia of the Sixties, the young artist Milan Adamčiak (Žilina, 1946) discovered the new international contemporary tendencies, as experimental poetry, happenings, the activities of Fluxus and the works on sound of John Cage. Since he was studying at the Conservatory, his interest developed in a restless research and experimentation, refusing to differentiate between art forms, in an intermedial approach. In this aspect, an important role was taken by contacts which he always had. He met a lot of people, whose interest was literature, poetry, painting, theatre, connecting his proper experience in the field of music with these other stimuli. Around 1964, several magazines about contemporary international art appeared in Slovakia, leading him to compare his work with what was going on abroad and finding similar developments: experimental poetry and New Music. An important role had John Cage, who also went in Bratislava. 

At the beginning of his career Adamčiak created mainly abstract drawings, as a form of a visualizing music. They could be performed, but the fact if it actually happened or it was just a possibility was not important: they represented a potential gesture, music. Later he realized also events, instructions, collages, visual poems, phonic poetry, conceptual texts, scores, acoustic books. His artistic experience is based on the intermedial relations music/sound and poetry or poetry and visual art. He started to collaborate with other Slovak experimental artists as Mlynárèik and later Koller and Murin. With Jozef Revall he founded the “Ensamble comp.”, concerning performances. Since he met Robert Cyprich, they started corresponding with all the world and by the late Sixties they already were part of the international scene.
In his poetry he often used letters and words as central elements, as provocative means; he analyzed words on their semantic, phonetic and graphic profile, finding in them that mix of visual art, poetry and music. Here the sense of rhythm is important: organization of the words in lines, columns, shapes, and their visual use. Remembering something from his childhood, Adamčiak created with them structured grids as a fabric or an embroidery. About the text chosen, he arranged them in different and new ways. He realized verbal texts, dissected texts (based on a coincidence principle), text collages, pseudo texts (in which the space was destructed), selective texts (using material from a database of randomly selected source text and focusing on one particular element: for example nouns, adjectives, verbs, punctuation...). He used mainly the typewriter to realize his works, as the Concrete Poetry was doing on the international scene, sometimes with coloured ink, but he did also handwritten interventions on them. His “Typogrids”, for example, are square structures of both typewritten and handwritten letters. 
Other interesting works of Adamčiak’s are the ALIBRI, miscellaneous visual, written, sound materials, often from traditional books composed in order to create new books. They were created not to be carefully read but just to be looked at or to quickly flip through them, accordingly to Adamčiak’s idea of the reader as someone with an active role in the artwork. In the field of the concrete poetry, he realized the “Constellations”, poems organized in column and lines, creating structures. In them, Adamčiak developed a study on the variable nature of the grids, he investigated the effects of lightness, saturation, density, transparency and homogeneousness. He used also different angles to explore the possibilities of the plane paper surface. The results of such a research are graphic works, monochrome or polychrome grids.
Adamčiak’s international contacts on experimental poetry concerned west Germany, Austria, Italy, Great Britain, south America, Spain and France. His strong interest on the Russian poetry remained limited by the impossibility to get in contact with Soviet artists at that time. Fruitful connections were, instead, the ones with Joseph Beuys and Dick Higgins, the Fluxus artist who as first called the new tendency “Intermedia”. Since 1964, the Warsaw Autumn Festival was organized, a progressive international New Music festival in the Eastern Europe. 
An accent has to be put on the relation of the artist with the contemporary social and political situation. As experimental artist, Adamčiak always suffered the communist limitations on art, and used his art as a stimulus and the word as a provocative tool. However, the releasing climate which has permitted a rich creative development in Czechoslovakia in the Sixties suddenly changed with the events of 1968. The Soviet invasion in August which followed the hopeful period of the Prague Spring brought a new repressive climate. During the so-called “Normalization”, in the Seventies and in the Eighties, the socialist realism was affirmed more strongly and the experimental activities had the possibility to go on just in a private, hidden form, that means no more public exhibitions. Adamčiak’s works reflected this changes: he interrupted the realisation of experimental literature dedicating himself to a scientific work of musicologist and of study on Kandinsky’s activity. 
A new atmosphere arrived again after the mid-Eighties, when the political situation began to relax and new exhibitions and fruitful contacts with a younger generation became possible.
Adamčiak’s work is of course connected with the concrete poetry, but he overcame it in some way, focusing not just on the visual aspect but on the acoustic potential of the words. It means an arrangement of the surfaces as rhythmical texture, as a result of a gestural process, a written record of an event that start in the mind of the artist to have a completion in the reader activity. 
Adamčiak’s work can be compared with the other activities in the international scene in this field. It belongs to a need of new artistic and expressive ways in the contemporary age. As Dick Higgins stated, the complexity of nowadays mass society brought people to a desire of a new way to look at things, not a comment on things that needs to be interpreted, but a simple ready message, able to interpret the current realm with an immediate impact. In his opinion this explains the rise-up of new media, of different forms of art like happenings, and of the intermedial approach. He commented: “A composer is a dead man unless he composes for all the media and for his world.”
In Italy intermedia art in visual and sound poetry developed after the second World War, with inheritors of the Futurists like Carlo Belloli and Arrigo Lora-Totino. The “concrete poetry” developed in the Fifties/Sixties as a strong emphasis on the typographical experimentation with influences from surrealism, dada and futurism, while the visual poetry in the narrow sense was developing an oneness between word and drawn image on the paper surface. 
Like Adamčiak, the Italian artist Lora-Totino (Turin, 1928) dedicates his intermedial activity to the fields visual art - poetry (by Concrete Poetry) and sound - poetry. In 1964, in fact, he founded, together with the painter Sandro de Alexandris and the musician Enore Zaffiri, the “Studio di Informazione Estetica” (Study of information aesthetics), with the aim of a research on the interrelations among poetry, art and electronic music. He realised concrete poetry since the beginning of the Sixties, when he had just started his artistic career, in the experimental and stimulating atmosphere of Turin of Arte Povera movement. Then he begin, around 1965, to work on the sound and he always considered these two activities as two sides of the same literary impulse of the experimental poetry. 
In his definition of the phenomenon of the Concrete Poetry, Lora-Totino underlined the autonomy of the single word, which has to be extracted and analyzed in itself. The semantic, visual and phonic elements of the word are used as raw materials. In an age of pulsing communication and information, of pressure of media and of empty verbal material in huge amount, the Concrete Poetry want to be, in Lora-Totino’s work, an alternative that offers a clear and more direct message. 
He coined for some of his works the term “verbotecture”, to indicate the constructive process of creation of a concrete poem, underlining the attempt to reach an essential structure similar to an architectural construction and so far from the current abundance of discursive forms. His provocative use of the word can be connected with Adamčiak’s. The Italian artist said that in his work the word is like a jester that, without taking himself too seriously, states naked truths.
The syntax is never casual but de-composed and re-composed, to isolate its inner essence. The arrangement of the words concerns size and position, differences of density and contrasts, angle, sometimes colour. The concrete poetry isn’t paraphrase, a form of discursive text; because of its specific essentiality it needs to be activate and complete by the reader, who plays an active role. 
The involvement of the spectator/viewer/reader/user in the artwork is a typical approach of the second half of the XX century. As such, we can find it both in the artists analyzed. 
Adamčiak’s fusion of poetry, music and events is characterized by the application of a “liberated consciousness, engaging all who are ready to participate in it” (Murin 2011). His events remove the barriers between artist and public, his music is not pre-determined but it’s just instruction for the performer autonomous work, his poetry is given to the reader for his individual use, assimilation and performative involvement, for his free movement in it. In a similar way as Lora-Totino’s concrete poetry, Adamčiak’s rhythmic arrangement of the surfaces is at the same time a record of a acoustic work and an instruction for its interpretation.
In 1959, Lora-Totino founded the magazine Antipergiù, focused on experimental poetry and especially on concrete poetry. In 1966 he founded the magazine Modulo and still in the Sixties he created with Carlo Belloli the Museum of Contemporary Poetry in Turin, while, in 1964, “The first International Exhibition of Concrete and Kinetic Poetry” was taking place in Cambridge. He also collaborates to the website of experimental poetry
In his experimental activities it is possible to find the symbolism of the poets Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, the spirit of Marinetti‘s “Parole in Libertà” (words in freedom), the concept of text as performance, in connection with the Futurists. Lora-Totino underlined himself the link between his work and the Futurism, as a movement that had developed in contrast with the art of Academies, criticizing the use to think about it just in relation with Fascism.
Lora-Totino worked on sound in different ways. His experience in sound poetry began in the Sixties with the series of “Phonemes”. The texts performed show words which are (mostly) recognizable but deprived of the strict lexical meanings. Sometimes he used just sounds, other times just a word, in other cases several phrases, which are, however, created by selected and re-collocated words. Has been argued that he made use of the specific phonetic phoneme of the Italian language, analyzing and transforming it into new texts, also with the help of electronic tools. In his activities, in fact, he also recorded electronically manipulated and distorted sounds. As Adamčiak realized his “home-made” (DIY- Do It Yourself) acoustic objects, Lora-Totino constructed a series of acoustical horn-like instruments for his performances (for ex. Liquid Poetry).
His sound poetry has the aim of a recuperation of the value of the spoken language, of the tone of the voice, lost with the development of the writing.
In his “Toccata in A” he performed a oration using the only letter “A”, modulated with different tones of voice, showing as the message can also not be in the semantic content but in the phonic and expressive elements. He also used the language to create words games, aphorisms, mottos, surreal pieces. An example is L’Estat c’est moi, a word game made using the famous sentence of the Sun King “I am the State”. The Italian translation of this phrase, “Lo Stato sono io”, is changed by Lora-Totino in “io…sono lo Stato” (I…am the State) and finally in “…sono stato io?” (…is it my fault?), commenting ironically the consistence of the power.
Laura Boggia

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