From its beginnings in the 1950s, concrete poetry found different channels of discursive and formal development and shone a light on numerous groups and poetic movements around the world. In the mid-1960s, poetry flowed beyond and transcended space on the page, configuring actions, choreographies and objects. In some cases, it turned the reader/spectator into creator and participant in the works, while also drawing from street signs and occupying urban space, passing through borders and making possible the creation of exchange networks between Latin America and Spain.
One of the salient movements was Poema/Processo, created in 1967 by Wlademir Dias-Pino, Neide and Álvaro de Sá, and Moacy Cirne, among others. At its peak, more than 70 artists and poets were involved throughout Brazil, along with other international members, for instance Clemente Padín from Uruguay and Edgardo Antonio Vigo from Argentina. The movement came into being not just in response to a dissatisfaction with Paulist concrete poetry, represented by Grupo Noigandres — with the brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos — but also as a reaction to Brazil’s political and social reality after the military coup of 1964. Poema/Processo challenged the semantic limitations of written and spoken language, replacing words with images and visual signs. The notion of the “poem” was widened, arriving at the designation of a poem-object, a poem-procedure, a film-poem and even an action-poem, and it possessed material and tactile aspects and could undergo alterations, ruptures and transformations. The spectator, now creator/participant, added other materials, their body and their own language, to the work.
Concrete poet Augusto de Campos collaborated in scores of projects with Spanish artist Julio Plaza — who travelled to Brazil in 1967 to participate in the 9th International São Paulo Biennial — such as the books-object Poemobiles (1974) and Caixa Preta (1975). In Spain, Plaza had been part of the Cooperative of Artistic and Artisan Production, founded by poet Ignacio Gómez de Liaño and other visual artists, which set out to make a field of experimentation from poetry, putting on exhibitions and activities. Inside this environment, Plaza met Ángel Crespo, a poet and art critic who would later invite him to Universidad de Mayagüez in Puerto Rico, where an encounter with another Spanish artist, Tomás García Asensio, also invited by Crespo, would materialise. Crespo was drawn to García Asensio’s investigations around constructive art and the automatic generation of geometric forms in the University of Madrid’s Calculus Centre.
Plaza travelled with Brazilian artist Regina Silveira, his wife at the time, and lived in Mayagüez from 1969 to 1973, a period in which they would explore new silkscreen printing technology, for example in Silveira’s Middle Class & Co (1971). One of Plaza’s most prominent roles was his activity as a promoter and driving force behind new artistic experiences, his efforts also enabling the Universidad de Mayagüez’s Sala de Arte, or Art Room, to constitute a unique space of experimentation, where artists, mostly from Latin America, the USA and Eastern Europe, would convene. This extensive network moved to Brazil in 1973, where Plaza and Silveira settled for good. By that time they had already embarked on a path of transformation that moved ever further from geometric normativism, leaning instead towards conceptual work based on research into the media and semiotic critique.