Documents 25. Picasso Poet
Fandango of Owls
The Documents programme explores the relationships between art and publishing, addressing subjects that include the effects of archive on narratives of art history, the artist’s book and publishing as an artistic practice. This edition surveys the lesser-examined side of Pablo Picasso: as a poet. The visual, sound and performance quality of his poetry is deepened in the dialogue between text, sound and image, elements that form the backbone of the activity, structured around a performance recital of a selection of poems — with a new Spanish translation by Jèssica Jaques Pi — followed by a conversation between Androula Michael, an editor and expert in Picasso’s literary work, and members of the gynocentric collective from the Picasso PhD at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
An exploration of Picasso’s poetry — and dramaturgy — can refashion common places in interpreting his visual work given that for him writing, drawing, painting and sculpting were hybrid activities and at times indiscernible, despite the first lacking the same recognition.
The creator of Guernica (1937) wrote some three hundred and fifty poems in Spanish and French, the earliest of which were penned in both languages and dated 1935, but were more than likely created even earlier, possibly during his youth in Spain. A large number of these poems were published in the artist’s lifetime, for instance: “Fandango de lechuzas” (Fandango of Owls), which appeared alongside the prints Sueño y mentira de Franco (The Dream and Lie of Franco, 1937), and the compendiums Scritti di Picasso (1935-1947) (1964), Poèmes et lithographies (Poems and Lithographs, 1954) and Trozo de piel (Hunk of Skin, 1960), in addition to the theatre works Le désir attrapé par la queue (Desire Caught by the Tail, 1945) and Les quatre petites filles (The Four Little Girls, 1949).
Another trait of Picassian poetry is its polyglotism. As an adult, the artist thought, felt, spoke and wrote in three languages: his native Spanish-Andalusian tongue, the Catalan of his youth during his time in Barcelona and, after settling in Paris, French — it was no accident that his closest friends were brilliant poets, the likes of Max Jacob, André Salmon, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein and Paul Éluard. This multilingualism was joined by iconoclasm, with Picasso mixing and resignifying languages, since poetry served to evoke that which painting could not represent, for instance a “mouth full of the cinch-bug jelly of his words”, a verse from “Fandango of Owls”. The variety of calligraphy and the amplitude of signs and geometric figures also take his writing to the threshold between image and word, a characteristic of boundless creativity.
Bárbara Bayarri Viñas is a writer, teacher and curator, and a member of the Philosophy Department at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She is also head of strategy in the Open Up project within Creative Europe. Her PhD thesis, currently in progress, is entitled Generating Knowledge in Art Museums. Picasso’s Meninas as a Device for the Emergence of Other Practices and Discourses.
Daniela Callejas Aristizabal is a designer, artist and researcher, and a member of the Philosophy Department at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her doctoral thesis, From Picasso to Contemporary Poetics. Light, Darkness and the Body as Devices of Memory and Imagination, looks to build channels of disruptive and undisciplined poetic readings on conventional art-making, developing a contemporary visual poetry through an art of light and experimentation.
Jèssica Jaques Pi is a professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and co-director of the Picasso PhD. She is also the author of Picasso en Gósol, 1906: un verano para la modernidad (Antonio Machado, 2007) and head researcher on the project Los escritos de Picasso: textos teatrales, 2016-2018 (Picasso’s Writings: Theatre Texts, 2016–2018) from Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Beatriz Martínez López is a hired pre-doctoral researcher on the FPU (University Teacher Training) programme in the Spanish National Research Council’s Art and Heritage Department. She has carried out research residences in Paris and Barcelona and received a grant in the Students’ Residency of Madrid 2020–2022. Some of her research has been published in national and international journals and explores issues related to her doctoral thesis, entitled Between Francoism and Spanish Republican Exile. An Analysis of the Political Utilisation of the Figure and Work of Pablo Picasso.
Androula Michael is head professor of Art History at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens, where she is also the director of the Centre de Recherche en Arts et en Esthétique and in charge of international relations at the Unités de Formations et de Recherche en Histoire de l’art et archéologie. Michael also co-directs the Picasso PhD. She has been part of curatorial teams on exhibitions such as Picasso’s Kitchen and Picasso Poet (both in Museu Picasso in 2018 and 2019, respectively), Picasso at the Cyprus Museum. Works in Clay (Cyprus Museum, 2019) and Return to Africa (Bandjoun Station, 2019).
Laura Vilar Dolç is a dancer, creator, teacher and researcher who centres her studies on artistic research through dance. She is a member of the teaching team on the MA in Research in Art and Design at the EINA Centro Universitario de Diseño y Arte de Barcelona and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and co-directs the artistic research centre NunArt, as well as being part of the Dance Pedagogy Department at Institut del Teatre in Barcelona. Her latest creation is Tentativas de (des)aparición (Attempts at (Dis)appearing, 2021–2022), a performance which is part of her PhD research.