Vietnam Public Poem, Brussels, 1967

Alain Arias-Misson


Mixed Media, 36 x 70.5 x 2.5 cm.

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0445).

From 1965 the visual poetry of Alain Arias-Misson has distinctly evolved towards performance, particularly with his legendary *Public Poems*. He tries – on the street, or in some other public place – to sensitize people to both poetry and social involvement, and this by setting down or walking around with man-sized letters and other linguistic material. He performs these urban poetic interventions outside of any aesthetic or artistic context, and so must be distinguished from, for example, performance art. Arias-Misson’s *Public Poems* are at once subversive and liberating, challenging as well as playful. Alain Arias-Misson wrote about *Vietnam Public Poem*: *'The first "public poem" was more of a political manifestation than a poetic form. I had fled the Vietnam war draft when the FBI had come knocking at my door in Greenwich Village in '66. It was Christmas of '67 now in the downtown shopping center of Brussels and I just wanted to make the NAME concrete in the midst of the indifferent Xmas cheer: human-sized letters made of crushed newspaper wrapped in surgical tape splattered with blood-red liquid -- a menacing presence nobody could ignore. The letters swayed and shook in the wintry wind and the snow flurries. Look, someone said, it's V I E T N A M, that's good! No, said somebody else, it's a publicity stunt. About what? Said the first person. It's about the war! My heart swelled. The word had become present.'*

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