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What Will Lettrism Turn Out to Be?
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm
Beinecke Library, Room 39

Published in 1954, Maurice Lemaître’s What is Lettrism? sought to define a movement that had been making headlines in Paris for nearly a decade. No arena of avant-garde experimentation seemed beyond its reach. Poetry, music, literature, painting, sculpture, architecture—the Lettrists announced a new approach to all of them. And in fact the creative energy unleashed by the movement rippled across postwar Europe (and well beyond) for decades to come. Yet today Lettrism is virtually unknown. Beyond a small coterie of initiates, combatants, and connoisseurs, it is remembered at best as a "precursor" of Situationism, or perhaps an esoteric form of Concrete Poetry. Now finishing a two-month fellowship at Beinecke, Frédéric Acquaviva will reveal some of the discoveries from his first plunge into the massive archive of Maurice Lemaître, acquired by Beinecke in 2009, as he discusses his continuing struggle to define Lettrism’s legacy in the tweny-first century, a task that has kept him busy for more than fifteen years.

Frédéric Acquaviva is a French composer living in Berlin. Working with authors such as Pierre Guyotat and Jean-Luc Parant, Frédéric composes experimental music and sound installations that focus on the possibilities of the voice. He is a specialist in the history of Lettrism and sound poetry and has orchestrated and produced the symphonies of Isidore Isou, Gabriel Pomerand, and Maurice Lemaître. In the last two years, Frédéric curated a major exhibition on Gil J Wolman, I am Immortal and Alive, at Barcelona’s MACBA, the first Parisian retrospective on Lettrism, Bientôt les Lettristes (with Bernard Blistène) in the Passage de Retz, and Specters of Artaud: Language and the Arts in the 1950s (with Kaira Cabanas) at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. He has written monographs on Jacques Spacagna and Bernard Heidsieck, and produced Radio/Phonies, a show on various artists and poets, including Henri Chopin, Marcel Hanoun, Pierre Albert-Birot, and Otto Muehl, for France Culture.


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