Sculptural Poetry

Printed texts may contain many levels of depth and meaning from a semantic point of view, but they are generally – from a material perspective – flatly two-dimensional. Even though a book, of course, is a three-dimensional object, the letters and texts in it are inscribed on paper.

This publication, however, focusses on a tradition in experimental poetry and the visual arts that has so far received very little attention: texts appearing as three-dimensional (art) works. The objects are either literally inscribed with texts or the letters themselves become sculptural forms. Some of these sculptural texts are kinetic, e.g. driven by motors, or they contain an interactive dimension in the sense that they can be manipulated by the viewers.

The fruitful relationship between art and literature, and the role of language or the written word in the arts has, over the past years, become a field of research which includes different points of view. So far,the dialogue between literature and sculpture suggested here has been widely neglected.

Experimental literature of the 1960s and 70s, especially visual and concrete poetry, is the  point of departure for looking at a development which continues up until the present day. Many of its renowned representatives have also experimented with dimensional texts and spatial representations of texts. Some works were created by artists that are primarily known as writers – and some were conceived by visual artists that have moved from the arts into experimental, concrete and/or visual poetry. Quite a few of these artists have been forgotten and their work can finally be appreciated again in an international context

Presented in this book is an overview from the postwar avant-garde up to text-based sculptures in contemporary visual art. Art historical works will also be referred to, for example, the three-dimensional figure alphabets of the Baroque period as well as pre-modern and antique objects of everyday use that are decorated with texts: Crockery and vessels; pieces of jewelry such as amulets and rings; weapons such as swords, shields and armor; as well as ritual and religious objects, coins and fans.

The leading question is how the connection between text and the resulting object is solved artistically and what the sculptural realization actually communicates: As in figural poems of visual poetry, the semantic relationship between text and its sculptural form is of central importance.

Germany / Austria / Switzerland

Josef Bauer, Konrad Bayer, Claus Bremer, Ernst Buchwalder, Heinz Gappmayer, Jochen Gerz, Eugen Gomringer, Dietrich Helmes, Ferdinand Kriwet, Bernd Lohaus, Hansjörg Mayer, Franz Mon, Dieter Rot, Gerhard Rühm, Konrad Balder Schäuffelen, Tomas Schmit, Herbert Schuldt, André Thomkins, Timm Ulrichs, Franz Erhard Walther, Peter Weibel


Ken Cox, Tom Edmonds, Ian Hamiltorn Finlay, John Furnival, Dom Sylvester Houedard, Liliane Lijn, Tom Philips


Vincenzo Agnetti, Giovanni Anselmo, Carlo Bellolo, Mirella Bentivoglio, Ugo Carrega, Mario Ceroli, Fortunato Depero, Arrigo Lora-Totino, Mario Merz, Bruno Munari, Maurizio Nannucci, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Sarenco

Spain / Portugal / Belgium / France / Greece

Alain Arias-Misson, Jean-Francois Bory, Marcel Broodthaers, Chryssa, EM de Melo e Castro, Arman Fernandez, Paul-Armand Gette, Pieter Laurens Mol, Salette Tavares, Francesc Torres, Ben Vautier

Eastern Europe

Attila  Csernik, Rimma Gerlinova, Miroslav Klivar, Jiri Kolar,  Slavko Matković , Raul Meel , Ewa Partum, Geza Perneczky, Bogdanka Poznanović, Miroljub Todorovic, Dezider Toth, Karel Trinkewitz, Jiri Valoch

South America

Augusto de Campos, Waldemar Cordeiro, Osmar Dillon, Pedro Escosteguy, Rubens Gerchmann, Carlos Ginzburg, Mattias Goeritz, Ferreira Gullar, Milton Machado, Gastão de Magalhães, Cildo Meireles, Lygia Pape, Octavio Paz, Neide Sà, Marcio Sampaio, Mira Schendel, Regina Silveira


Jean Michel Basquiat, John Cage, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, Keith Haring, Allan Kaprow, Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol


Ghada Amer, Nanni Balestrini, Fiona Banner, Robert Barry, Monica Bonvicini, Olaf Breuning, Tony Cragg, Martin Creed, Peter Downsbrough, Sam Durant, Fred Erdekens, Tim Etchels, Cerith Wyn Evans, Tom Friedman, Liam Gillik, Roni Horn, Jenny Holzer, Idris Khan, Harald Klingelhöller, Thomas Locher, Jack Pierson, Jaume Plensa, Markus Raetz, David Shrigley, Mark Wallinger

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