Bruno Neiva’s most recent text work, HOMMAGE A GUY, is a book encapsulating images of the homonymous art installation created by Neiva as an homage to Guy Debord. The book, and the installation, become a poetic meditation on Debord’s words, layered in fragments which in turn compose a kind of open (w)hole. Arranged within the pages of the book, each piece’s title comprises precisely all the words it contains as a textual whole; while the combined titles occupy the verso page of every spread as though a single poem. In a kind of metonymic abyss, there is no clear distinction between what constitutes the part and what the whole in Neiva’s project – with the relationships between poem and title, page and book, book and installation, source text and generated text in a constantly reflexive flux.
The reading here is open to interpretation – and much more so because of the language. Neiva presents Debord’s words in their original French without concession to the potentially monolinguistic English-speaking reader, intensifying the opportunity for one to experience alienation as a result of this challenging encounter. This is a work which, in homage to Debord, resists and defies ‘passive identification with the spectacle’ demanding instead ‘genuine activity’ in an attempt to (re?)-construct meaning (or a semblance of meaning) from its pages.
Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) ‘is a polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture. The book examines the “Spectacle,” Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity’. Debord explores the reduction of lived experience into commodified images which become increasingly consumed and substituted for the reality of life. He famously states, ‘The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images’ (4). Neiva works hard to resist the commodifiable and consumable image in these text works. Each page details fragments of text: words without anchor or context, written, painted, printed, stencilled onto surfaces formed from bits of everyday detritus. A strip of gaffer tape, a torn envelope, an empty plastic bag, discarded bottle tops, each stuck onto a dark grey background/wall as installed at the Torrente Ballester Centre in Ferrol, Spain for the 24th Máximo Ramos International Award for Graphic Arts, 2016. The images could hardly be less commodifiable, and yet they do suggest something about our relationship with the consumable – and its perpetual obverse, waste.
Neiva’s HOMMAGE enters into a relationship with its subject/object – Debord – both aesthetically and technically. Paradoxically, however, in the creation of this book from the original installation, the lived experience of visiting the installation at the gallery – in order to be made accessible to a wider audience after the exhibition has closed – must necessarily be reduced to a series of images representing the work itself. Yet these images don’t just represent, they also comprise the work in its new form as a book. What remains, then, is resistance to the passive identification and consumption that defines ‘the spectacle’, demanding instead an active effort from the reader that perhaps, in some ways, might mark a return to a lived experience of the work.
About the Publisher:
Knives Forks and Spoons Press is a prolific publisher of avant-garde poetry by internationally acclaimed poets and emerging young writers. ‘KFS is a forum for an extraordinary range of diversity and risk-taking artistic experiment.’
Review by Sally-Shakti Willow
Sally-Shakti Willow researches and writes utopian poetics at the University of Westminster. She is Research Assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.