by Lucas de Lima on Aug.15, 2013
One of my living heroes is the Brazilian surrealist Claudio Willer, a poet, scholar, and translator of Artaud, Lautreamont, and Ginsberg. In 1995 Willer offered the following thoughts for the magazine Azogue. Check out how, in contrast with the anti-romanticism of U.S. experimental poetry, Willer prophesizes a way of steering our digitized lives toward insanity and immersion rather than rationality and restraint:
As for new paths, I think we’re still left with romantic rebellion. And a possible rebellion is the transformation of language. Socialism, I think, won’t be possible for a long time. Just the way counterculture was the end of a cycle. It had its importance as a break from values and customs, but 1968 was its peak and its end. In the 70’s there were still echoes, but [counterculture] was no longer a movement. And what came after—punk, goth, etc—are urban tribes, important as a way of conquering a cultural identity but not as a permeable and collective movement. I think metropolises are inevitable, and what we need to do is learn to work on them in a poetic mode, create a poetic relationship with them. We must transform language, and in this sense I think technological advancement is interesting. […] It’s necessary to find a new language that is autonomous and doesn’t originate in drugs, as was the case with psychedelics. I think this language can come from an absorption in the madness and poetry of our lives, in a liberated manner, and I think data is one way, among others, of doing this. Technological advancement has two sides. One is democratizing and the other—which I find weaker—is massifying. But Burroughs’ response to massification is the fragmentation of language. It’s necessary to learn how to deal with data the way Buñuel dealt with cinema. Buñuel’s great merit was to make films only with poetic language, without narrative structure. I think romantic rebellion is the only form of rebellion possible.
If our culture today seems to favor a kind of urban, Internet-savvy depletion of poetry’s powers (“I killed poetry”/“Is poetry dead?”), Willer provides an alternative vision. He exalts precisely a ‘poetic relationship’ with the city, technology, and modernity—a perceptual proximity whose effect might very well be the sliced eye of Buñuel and Dalí’s Un chien andalous. Or, incidentally, the guerrilla journalism of the collective Mídia Ninja. Because the group’s livestream of the protests in Brazil requires their full participation, often leading to members’ arrests, it also uncannily turns the eyewitness into an immersed eye ready to discharge.