La poética de Juan Calzadilla / Augusto Aristigueta

The Poetics of Juan Calzadilla

Reflections on art by the poet and painter

–How would you characterize the crisis of art in the world today?
–Generally, the crisis of art is part of or should be inscribed as part of the global crisis of capitalism in its perverse tendency of making everything susceptible to consumption, merchandise and spectacle. It’s a structural crisis that presents itself as being affected by the intervention of the market and the web of globalized distribution of its products, draining into an ostentatious, exquisite collectionism, that places commercial value before the aesthetic function that art once served, at the beginning of modernity.

–Do you think this crisis could be related to the abandonment of the practice of criticism?
–You could also say the opposite, that the abandonment of criticism has been a consequence of the banalization of art, and that it’s nothing more than, as it’s been said, consumerism and the conversion of the products of sensibility into merchandise. Because, really, criticism continues to exist, abundantly even, for that portion of the production of art governed by the laws of the market and the spectacle. What would be lacking is the stimulation of the serious and responsible aspect of the commitment to art, on the part of an illuminating criticism oriented toward facilitating the understanding of the aesthetic object and encouraging disinterested research and the satisfaction of aesthetic enjoyment through the social function that art should perform.

–What paths do you perceive poetry has taken in our time?
–Floriano Martins talks about a supersaturation of the poetic model inherited from the avant-gardes of the 20th century that has ended up emptying the forms of thought and reflexivity. The image has receded, he says. It’s no longer capable of convening, like a surrealist would say, any liberating magical power. I would add that the cultivation of an abstract or neo-romantic poetry has been generalized under the belief that the poem is an autonomous form for which words act as objects, in detriment of communication and to exalt not exactly form but rather the lack of meaning; a visual objectness constructed with intermovable words. This isn’t independent from what’s happening at the level of language, in a general sense; the media, for example (and even more so in countries like Venezuela, where an extremely primitive mimetic instinct has developed), exercise a fascinating and evil power and they have an influence not so much that people don’t write well but that they absolutely don’t write or read, allowing for whoever dares to do it to have no interest at all in his formation. Since, on the other hand, there are no high expectations among readers. This has affected poetry to the utmost degree.

–How do you perceive the contributions your book Libro de las poéticas could make to new poetry today?
–When I gathered the texts, in the manner of fragments, that make up this little manual (now revised and expanded), I didn’t have the slightest intention of elaborating a theoretical treatise on poetry. It emerged in a very casual way, I’d almost say at random, as the result of putting together with fragments a type of idea depository or puzzle, as I went about extracting those fragments from previously published books, from notebooks, notepads and agendas, where they were crouching, without any thematic or formal order, just as they appear published in this book. So the support I could provide for new poetry is very far from my first purpose which was to play.

Translator’s note: Juan Calzadilla’s Libro de las poéticas (Caracas: Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana, 2006) has just been published in a revised and expanded edition by Fondo Editorial Fundarte in Caracas.

{Augusto Aristigueta, Letras, Ciudad CCS, 13 November 2010}

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