Hello Valeri, I read somewhere that you grew up in exile in Kazakhstan, in what used to be called the Soviet Union.
Is this true? Oh, that’s not true! I was born in Kazakhstan, but I didn’t grow up there. After Stalin’s death, my mother received a passport and was free. Our family subsequently went to the south, in the current Russian Federation.
You seem to be an expert on Lautdichtung. I’m ignorant, tell me what it is about?
Oh, to be an expert, for me it is a rigorous, academic term! Sound poetry is a poetry at first, it ignores the rational understanding in favour of sounds and in favour of creating communications on an emotional level.
Why did you choose to study and perform it? Can sound poetry be studied?
I don’t know, I have not studied it. I finished my studies in 1976, in German language. Since childhood I like to read poems on stage. When I arrived in East Germany in 1979, I was looking for ways to express myself verbally. I was using purely phonetic terms, but the audience— who could not speak Russian—listened with interest! It has the inner word music, the rests in poetry.
Are you a man of tradition, performing old and futurist dada poems?
The poetic avant-garde of the 20th century in Europe is only the beginning. What will a 100 years be in the whole history of civilization? The traditions go deep into history, whether glossolalia or shamans’ incantations, The Birds of Aristophanes or Johann Matthäus Bechstein with his nightingale-poems... And what would our childhood be without tongue-twisters, word-games?
I’m ready every day to perform gadji beri bimba from Hugo Ball, and each time I discover something new in it. It is not old for me at all. The same goes for many poems of Khlebnikov, Majakovsky, Kruchenykh.
Is it not a paradox to archive pieces of art movements for Which the future what inherent in it’s ideology?
No, it belongs to the nature of man: archiving, collecting, researching, etc. How else can one study history? “The works of art are no instruments of power”, no political instruments of power... so spoke Ernst Jandl. In his onomatopoeic poem In the dugout one hears the war. Jandl showed how the language suffered. Marinetti’s Battaglia di Tripoli is also a literary document. It is possible that he was convinced of such a Parole in Libertà. Just as Majakovski was of his Lenin-Poem or his idea of creating a Komfut, a communist futurism-circle. The two poets have also done something good: Marinetti in the field of sound collages, for instance La costruzione di un silenzio Cinque sintesi radiofoniche from 1933. Mayakovsky was a great poet and a great lover. He experienced big disasters, both in his private life and in his communist faith. During his life he engaged young people in Russia to sing his poems and makes movies about his experiences. There are many words in the Russian language that have been invented by the Futurists, by the way.
How does the relationship between language, matter and music function? How does this constitute a part of your work?
It has a lot to do with thinking and with inspirations from which creative people are taken up. What is the (poetic) language in the preverbal stage? A question extensively employed by the Russian Futurists. Khlebnikov wrote:
“O zoo where the animals shine behind the grate, like the idea behind the tongue” (two meanings of lingua).
Carl friedrich Claus (1930–1998) was my great friend here in the East, one of the few sound poets, and also a sound artist. Incidentally, the matter of tradition was for him fresh and current! So I quote him:
“I can never [...] print as subjective as it is, what is going on in me in my mother tongue”.
He thought his Sound-Exercises (they are already no articulations) help him to experiment, to break through the natural language and eventually to discover the unconscious. It is another music, and to a high extent it is a verbal music.I follow these traditions and I am searching to create my own type of ‘music’ because I’m not a musician in the traditional sense. At this point I would like to mention Ossip Mandelstam, who was not a futurist:
“[...] return, Word, where music begins [...]”.
You are aware of the fascist side of some of the Futurists?
It’s bad enough when the artists are on the side of a certain ideology.
You created your own proper scribentic alphabet?
It was my 30-year experiment (1982– 2012), which moved between writing and drawing. It was also the theme of the Italians, Russians and the Surrealists (écriture automatique of André Breton). I like Henri Masson, Yves Tanguy or Christian Dotremont. After my 30 years of practice I reached my ‘empty hand’ (Karate). Of course of a totally different kind than Carlfriedrich Claus’ Karate. My alphabet is about spelling—against the socialist Russian spelling which I fight until this very day. Empty as free... I can now draw freely.
Do you see a connection between the vocal poetry of for instance Henri Chopin and the futurist / dada canon?
I personally know of no connection between the vocal poetry of Henri Chopin and the former avant-garde. Henri Chopin’s sound is the art of the second half of the century, it has much to do with the tape player, the Magnetophon. I must confess, I have not quite understood his performance, because I would have preferred it to be a bit more verbal.
On the other hand, I am of the opinion that there is no Futurist or Dadaist Canon. Maybe there are people who parrot the Marinetti... but they only harm themselves. Dada is no Ism, there is no Dadaism for me. In Dada there were no styles. Tristan Tzara was totally different from Raoul Hausmann, Hugo Ball totally different from George Grosz or Kurt Schwitters etc.