POETRY FACTORY - Guillermo Deisler


Guillermo Deisler. “Poetry Factory”


All is poetry. Everybody has a diferent definiton of what poetry is.

Guillermo Deisler, 1989

The artistic production of Guillermo Deisler (Santiago, Chile, 1940; Halle/Salle, Germany, 1995) falls within a series of artists’ collaborative initiatives centered on the release, circulation, and exchange of experimental publications. These various publications, originating in coincidental fashion at various states in Latin America and Europe throughout the 1960s, wove a powerful web of communication and creative cooperation, broadly extending over subsequent years into the practice of postal art, from a network of circulation that proclaimed itself “decentered” and alternative to the positions and paths governed by artistic institutions.

Set designer, visual poet, wood engraver, graphic designer, instructor and postal artist, editor of artists’ books and other publications, Deisler was an active instigator of collective projects, through which he ventured to construct other circuits for art outside of its established channels. In 1963 he launched the project Mimbre Editions. The same year, and until, 1964 he was part of the graphics workshop of the Communist Party. In parallel with the work as a set designer begun in 1960, he published under the imprint Mimbre (osier, or wickerwork) – first in Santiago, Chile and later in Antofagasta, until it was permanently closed after the country’s 1973 coup d’état – over 50 books and folios of poetry and narrative, illustrated with woodcuts, together with artists’ books and editions of visual and experimental poetry, in handcrafted limited editions. Many Latin American artists and poets, such as Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Clemente Padín, Wlademir Dias-Pino, Álvaro and Neide de Sá, Paulo Bruscky and Dámaso Ogaz – figures with whom Deisler carried on a sustained exchange – launched similar projects in these years. Deisler likewise collaborated with various publications, such as Diagonal Cero (Diagonal Zero) and Hexágono ’71, published by Vigo in the city of La Plata (Argentina), or the Uruguayan OVUM 10, published by Padín in Montevideo. In 1966 Vigo began to publish a series of folios with wood engravings under the imprint “Diagonal Cero,” the first of which was by Deisler.

The practices of experimental poetry (or “new poetry,” as it was then called) achieved a remarkable circulation in these various publishing ventures. In 1972 Deisler published the book Poesía visiva en el mundo (Visual Poetry Around the World), the first anthology of experimental poetry to appear in Latin America. The same year he edited his Poemas visivos y proposiciones a realizar (Visual Poems and Proposals to Carry Out), in which the poem was displaced by a set of instructions or “proposals” for the reader “to carry out.” Thus Deisler explored the integrity of the “work,” at the same time that he called for a redefinition of the traditional places of the artist and the public, through a sort of direct address or appeal that constituted, more than a mere poetic transgression, an activating device that would demand the active involvement of readers, with the aim of mobilizing a potential transformation beyond the artist’s dominion. Deisler laid out “propositions” that came close to ideas for a “”poetry for and/or to be made” or “non-object poetry” that in these same years Vigo and Padín were advocating. In 1971 Deisler had participated in the Expo/Internacional de proposiciones a realizar (Expo/International of Proposals to Be Carried Out), which Vigo organized at the Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAYC) in Buenos Aires.

In 1973, Deisler published Proyecto para hacer un libro (Project for Making a Book), radicalizing this critical wager through a series of interventions in the book medium that would end with its destruction. So he made clear in a short text found at the beginning of the publication: “The ‘book’ should be destined to be made by the reader in a succession of breaks with the system (the book), until its thorough destruction at the end of the ‘reading.’ (…) The reader will have performed his ‘reading’ when he has carried out all the operations, and all that will remain will be a perfectly disposable book, ultimately indicating to him its destruction.”

The same year, after the military coup that toppled the government of Salvador Allende, Deisler was arrested along with other professors from the Antofagasta campus of the University of Chile (an institution at which he had worked as a graphics instructor since 1967) and expelled. He went into exile, first in Paris, then in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Halle/Salle (in the former German Democratic Republic), a city in which he settled in 1986.

From exile, Deisler continued a permanent exchange with Latin American artists, as well as the rest of the world, and promoted new publishing projects through postal art. In 1975 the French poet Julien Blaine published his book Le Cerveau (Brain) in Marseilles, under the imprint of Nouvelles Editions Polaires. Le Cerveau came out again the following year in the first issue of the review DOC(K)S, which Blaine also edited, dedicated in its entirety to the poetic avant-garde of Latin America. In 1977 Deisler published Packaging Poetry. Having settled in Halle, he worked as a set designer at the Landes Theater and published the box of visual poems Make-up (1988) and the book Unlesbar und Sprachlos (Illegible and Speechless) (1989). He also then launched publication of the portfolio of visual and experimental poetry UNI/vers(;), self-defined as “Peacedream – Project,” its 35 issues came out between 1987 and 1995, gathering together, in the form of a cooperative review, contributions by artists from the former German Democratic Republic and other countries of socialist Eastern Europe and those of artists from the rest of the world.

“Poetry Factory,” the name Deisler coined for his workshops and library and one that multiplied with its postal dispatches, likewise focused its political wager for an art beyond the distinctions between producers and consumers, mobilizing its critical tenor to demand that such art have an impact on the collective transformation of the ways we live.


Fernando Davis