Installation view of Garden – A World Model, 1973

Öyvind Fahlström
1928, São Paulo, Brazil – 1976, Stockholm, Sweden

Öyvind Fahlström was the first to write a defense of concrete poetry. His point of departure was Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète and he wrote poems meant to be heard as music and to make the Swedish language more complex. Den svåra resan [The Difficult Journey] 1954, was performed in 1972 by an 18-part voice choir, and is an example of concrete poetry taking language as its material and reducing it to syllables. Fahlström invented "variable painting" in 1962 shortly after moving to New York. Painted elements could be attached to a painted panel with magnets, string or inserted in slits in the panel. Theoretically these elements could be arranged in any configuration. By 1965 he had extended variability to a three-dimensional structure, Sitting…Blocks, 1965-66. The vocabulary of "character-signs" developed for and in the Sitting… series refers, among other sources, to Batman, the masked avenger fighting corruption in Gotham. For Fahlström, "character-forms" should stand for “something new and unknown, something that prompts a laborious search for words.” Packing the Hard Potatoes (Chile 1: Last Months of the Allende Regime. Words by Plath and Lorca), 1974, is a variable situated between the Surrealist and Concretist traditions. His tribute to Salvador Allende’s short-lived socialist government in Chile integrates images and poetry on shapes derived by automatic drawing.