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chapter 6 Object, Non-object, Trans-object, Relational Object From Concrete Poetry to A Nova Objetividade A half century after Brazil’s purported essence was deciphered on the rocks of Canudos, an advertisement in the magazine Manchete crowed that “modern man” no longer needed to “write on stones”: the “modern íssima” Lincoln pen was within everyone’s reach; literature’s “civilizing mission” was vested in products.1 These were years characterized by rapid modernization and industrial production that just preceded the 1964 right-wing military coup, which critics have variously granted the power of ending modernism, utopia, millenarianism, and twentieth -century poetry.2 While some saw the authoritarian regime as the culmination and extension of the modernization process, vanguard literature and art pulled away from any coincidence with its values. In the developmentalism of the 1950s, nineteenth-century millenarian battles over religion and alternative communities and teleologies were replaced by utopian visions of production and consumption. The art critic Ronaldo Brito called Brazil’s constructivist tendencies, too, “a project that was, to a certain degree, messianic, implying a sequence of attempts to overcome underdevelopment” (47). But the decade of the 1960s saw grand narratives of development and messianic teleologies cede to an embrace of process over products. The constructivism of concretude that peaks as object-oriented production dissolves by the late 1960s into a more virtual and postmessianic art and literature of the immanent and the body, and a time of the act, not the future. Object, Non-object, Trans-object, Relational Object ❘ 165 In this chapter I delineate the move from an art of the object to an art of the non-object, from concrete poetry to the late 1960s poema/processo . I do this through readings of theoretical and aesthetic works by concrete poets, process/poets, and “tropicalist” artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. Through these readings I map a transition from developmentalism to postmessianism and from national populism to other politics and poetics. Gonzalo Aguilar has convincingly suggested that between 1967 and 1969 mass media helped destabilize concretism’s modernism (149). The importance of media for emerging art is emphasized , too, in Oscar Masotta’s 1968 Conciencia y estructura, which self-consciously periodizes Argentine art’s transformation toward the more virtual and less “thingly” in cultural production. But in fact the line linking various concrete movements with subsequent ones from the later 1960s and 1970s, such as the neoconcretes and process/poets, was more continuous than discontinuous, and I see electronic media as having always been central to the concretes. Rather than describe a mathematical, overly rational concretism giving way to a soft, organic neoconcretism, as some period documents assert, I want to argue that at the heart of both concrete and neoconcrete poetics lies a void. That voids are central to neoconcrete art, where boxes, folds, and environments were preferred forms, is not surprising: the neoconcrete artist Lygia Clark developed a practice that, over more than three decades, moved from 1950s geometric painting through objects fashioned around what she called a “full void” and to an anti-art practice that used “relational objects” to treat psychiatric problems by the 1980s. But the idea that voids—or an interest in negativity, absence, and an internal space for an Other—are a central concern for concrete poetry may be less obvious. After all, concrete poetry had declared its interest in making poems that were things and with responding to a tangible world of advertising and products. But I argue that even as concrete poetry coincided with a postwar explosion of consumer culture , it demonstrated a simultaneous interest in non-objects, reflecting the split nature of concretude that earlier vanguards had observed. I do, however, see post-concrete celebrations of virtuality and nonobjectivity as ushering in a renewed interest in subjectivity. To better understand these processes this chapter makes use of the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and of his students or peers such as Pierre Fédida, Nicolas Abraham, and Maria Torok, all of whom influenced Clark’s work, with which I conclude this chapter.3 Indeed we might even think of Lacan’s psychoanalytic theories, developed at the 166 ❘ Object, Non-object, Trans-object, Relational Object same time as concrete poetry, as not only an attempt to understand subjectivity and objectivity in philosophical and psychical terms but as themselves a response to contemporary debates about desire amid increasing consumer culture. To this end, for example, I read Lacan’s Seminar “La relation d’objet et les...


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