Concrete poetry (fishing lines), Elżbieta Łubowicz

The 2002 work by Stanisław Dróżdż displayed in the Gallery ‘Foksal’ is a white cuboid in the exhibition hall filled to capacity with transparent fishing lines stretched straight between the walls, the floor and the ceiling. This subtle, lit-up three-dimensional installation was entitled by its author Concrete Poetry, like many of his other exhibitions held in this gallery, which he had been cooperating with since 1971. While the language element had sometimes been reduced in his works, for example, to the letter ‘i’ or ‘w’, this time it was missing at all. What was the meaning of both the title and the whole work, then? Was the author right to define it as poetry even though it had definitely the features of the installation typical of fine arts?

        During the presentation of this work, the expositional part of the gallery was inaccessible to the viewers as the net of fishing lines had wrapped it so thickly that it was impossible to come inside. As a result, all the viewers were forced to stay in the corridor where they could watch the documentation of the well-known previous work in-between displayed in the Gallery ‘Foksal’ in 1977. All the walls, the ceiling and the floor of that room had been filled with the letters of the word ‘in-between’, but they never appeared one next to another, in the right order and position. To read the word, the viewers’ gaze had to jump from one place to another like a flying fly. Throughout the process of assembling the word out of single letters, the rules of the language system were automatically revealed as if they were present ‘in-between’ the letters and based on the linear sequence of time. These were we, the viewers, who were being ‘read’ by the text (as it was precisely defined Tadeusz Sławek). Faced with the project in-between, we became aware of the linguistic rules embedded in our brains.

        The new work alluded to the aforementioned one, created twenty-five years before. However, it seemed to have recreated it in the form of a ‘negative’ by exposing what had been concealed and appeared only to the viewers’ eye. The situation was reversed: this time there were no letters but only those ‘routes of the fly’s flight’ materialized in the form of fishing lines, symbolizing the relations between the letters.

        The installation made of fishing lines could be understood as the metaphor of concrete poetry, which is an operation on language based on constructing poetic meanings of a pure language system, on what happens ‘in-between’ the letters. Through extracting several language elements and rejecting its structure, it visibly indicates that there is no structure and by its negation, paradoxically, it exposes its existence. In the work composed of the network of light lines which were hardly visible in the white space, Stanisław Dróżdż managed to present ‘the invisible as the invisible’ in a nearly literal form.

Wrocław, 2002 / 2009

Reedited fragment of the review The Poetry of Pure System, „Exit: Nowa Sztuka w Polsce” no 2(50), 2002.