Rebecca Kosick: "The Secret Art of Poetry: Hélio Oiticica"

Hélio Oiticica. B52 Bólide saco 4 “Teu amor eu guardo aqui” (B52 Fireball Sack 4 “I keep your love here”), 1966–67.
Hélio Oiticica. B52 Bólide saco 4 “Teu amor eu guardo aqui” (B52 Fireball Sack 4 “I keep your love here”), 1966–67.

Monday, January 22, 6PM
Logan Center for the Arts, Penthouse Room 901
"The Secret Art of Poetry: Hélio Oiticica"

In 1968, the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica wrote to fellow neoconcrete artist Lygia Clark about the "participatory relation" in his aesthetic practice. He describes it as a devouring, libidinal fury, where the spectator steps out of their role as passive observer, interacts with the work of art, and experiences sensations that can never be known to the artist. Here, Oiticica subtly references what is perhaps Brazil's most famous modernist metaphor—that of Oswald de Andrade's cannibal. For modernismo and later midcentury practices of art and poetry, this metaphor signalled a process of consumption and digestion of European cultural influences, in the service of creating new, non-derivative works of Brazilian art. While this metaphor has been exhaustively applied to Brazilian arts, Oiticica’s letter to Clark shifts its terms. Rather than working at the scale of the international, Oiticica works at the interpersonal, linking the interactive and the unknowable aspects of sensorial experience.

This talk will discuss the erotic fury of Oiticica's participatory relation, examining a set of intermedially-linked works produced by the artist around the period of 1964-68. It will draw, in particular, from Oiticica's little known Secret Poetics, a series of lyrical poems he wrote in the mid-1960s. It will examine the material relationships linking his works of "plastic" art and poetry, considering and how each medium fills the experiential gaps of the other. Where participatory art is actually touchable, lyric accounts of touch are not. But, as Oiticica's poetry shows us, the lyric can act as both archive of sensory experience and a holding place for the secret sensations any of us might bring to the experience of art.

Rebecca Kosick is a poet, translator, and Senior Lecturer in Comparative Poetry and Poetics at the University of Bristol (UK). There, she also co-directs the Bristol Poetry Institute. She is the author of Material Poetics in Hemispheric America (Edinburgh 2020) and the poetry collection Labor Day (Golias Books 2020), as well as editor/translator of Hélio Oiticica: Secret Poetics (Winter Editions and Soberscove Press 2023). Her next book, Detroit's Alternative Press: Dispatches from the Avant-Garage is forthcoming from Wayne State University Press in 2025 and she is currently at work on a monograph about poetic language. Kosick's poems and translations have appeared in literary venues including FenceThe Iowa Review, and The Recluse.

Presented by the Open Practice Committee in the Department of Visuals Arts alongside Translation Studies and the Department of Art History