Very early on, Ewa Partum developed a taste for visual poetry as well as a concern for public space. In Poland, during the 1960s and 1970s, it was possible to buy ready-made letters and use them to compose different texts, including political ones. Ewa Partum used these to make art and scattered them in different places, in town and in the country. Trampled, picked up by local people or carried away by the wind, the letters contributed to the creation of new poems, a new language that gradually disappeared through the power of nature. This artistic gesture brought about a deconstruction of language but above all a liberation from authoritarian discourse under the former Polish People's Republic.
Active Poetry. Poem by Ewa, 1971
Very early in her career, Ewa Partum developed both a taste for visual poetry and attention to public space. The white letters which she scattered in Active Poetry used an official propaganda tool of the 1970s: ready-mades available in all school supplies stores, often used to compose communist banners. By scattering these white letters first around the city, then in the countryside, she opted for a continuous redistribution of meaning. Passers’-by footsteps, rolling waves, or the wind would carry on the dispersal. In 1971, the artist took passages from Goethe, Proust, Joyce, and Kafka, and mixed up the order of typographic characters (An Excerpt from Faust by Goethe, An Excerpt from A la recherche du temps perdu by Proust, etc.). This dislocation resembles Dadaist practices, such as randomly drawing words cut out from a newspaper, as described by Tristan Tzara. However, Partum doesn’t use chance as the organizing principle since the letters never produce any stable composition. The scattering of Active Poetry, realized between 1971 and 1973, generated a wind-blown flux of letters, fated to lose unity and meaning. Literally and figuratively, the artist accomplished the dissemination of logocentrism and its hierarchies, for the sake of the incommunicable and the imagination. (Hélène Meisel)
© Courtesy of the artist