Paul De Vree in Italy: Lotta Poetica and Factotum Art *

When some day someone will do the inventory of "Lotta Poetica"'s activity, it will be clear that the magazine, during its two first years of activity has elaborated the basic theory of Visual Poetry**

In the summer of 1969 Paul De Vree came to Italy to participate to the festival organized by Eugenio Miccini at "Le Cascine" in Florence. It was during that festival that De Vree met Sarenco.
Sarenco had already contributed to De Tafelronde, but he had never met personally the Belgian poet.
It was at that festival that the friendship between the two started. A friendship that will carry them to collaborate for various years founding and directing the most important and long-lived magazine of the international movement of Visual Poetry (the only real vantgarde movement born in Italy after the second world war): Lotta Poetica.
There is no doubt in fact that the quality jump of Visual Poetry has occurred thanks to the work of the international Group of Visual Poetry or International Group of Nine (the Italians Marcucci, Miccini, Ori, Perfetti, Sarenco; the Belgian Paul De Vree; the French J.F. Bory; the Dutch Damen and the American Arias Misson).
It was thanks to this group that Visual Poetry received deep creative sollicitations, was renewed and was developed to face the fundamental problem of a supranational communication.
The Lotta Poetica magazine was determining, because it assumed the function of information and documentation point, exchange and promotion point for all the activity of the Group.
Probably, everything began while the two poets were travelling in Europe to organize the first international collective exhibition of Visual Poetry at Studio Sant'Andrea in Milan.
During the journey the two poets created the necessary contacts for the magazine.
A magazine that had to be of break, of fight, as the times were, according to the Italian poet, mature. De Vree liked the idea. To finance the first numbers, as Sarenco declared explicitly in the first editorial of the new magazine, De Vree and Sarenco stipulated an agreement in order to connect the new Italian magazine to the belgian one and to access to the fundings destined to the belgian magazine De Tafelronde.
Moreover the poets decided to finance the enterprise by selling the works donated by the collaborators of the magazine. After several bureaucratic practices and the economic agreements for the prints, in june 1971 the first number of Lotta Poetica was published. Numerous European artists and poets, but also north and south Americans and Japanese participated as corresponding editors to the first number.
Many of them had already collaborated to Amodulo (magazine founded and directed by Sarenco from 1969 to 1970), or to De Taffelronde, or to the french poet Henri Chopin's magazine OU.
Lotta Poetica had Immediately an international distribution and was extremely open to the contributions of its collaborators: Eugenio Miccini, Michele Perfetti, Jochen Gerz, Ben Vautier, Jean François Bory, Nicholas Zurbrugg, Henri Chopin, Jiri Valoch, Eweredt Hilgeman, Herman Damen, Tim Hulrichs, Claus Groh, Takahashi Shoachiro, Clemente Padin, Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Alain Arias Misson.

The first year of Lotta poetica's activity was characterized by a continuous and systematic formulation of a basic theory of Visual Poetry and by the defense of other artistic expressions, first of all conceptual art.
But Lotta Poetica became mostly the official organ of the international movement of Visual Poetry, and that is Its historical importance.
From the first number, the photographic documentations of the works, of the exhibitions and of the first organized public poetical actions from the exponents of Visual Poetry were published. The attempt was that to give a clear, punctual and continuous statement of the establishing of Visual Poetry in Europe. The job done by the two directors, Paul De Vree and Sarenco, also supported by punctual theoretical participations of Miccini, is that of a continuous, an incessant and systematic theoretical and documentary job on Visual Poetry.
All the documents published in the pages of the magazine are very Important, starting from editorials signed by De Vree and Sarenco, passing through: Situazione della nuova poesia in Italia by Lucia Marcucci; Notes on Visual Poetry by Paul De Vree; Public poem by Alain Arias Misson; in order to arrive to the numerous writtings of Rossana Apicella like: La poesia visiva come fine di un equivoco and La poesia internazionale dalla monoglossia alla praxiglossia.
Obviously the engagement assumed by the two poets could not be exhausted in the single magazine. That Is why, beside it, exhibitions, a series of books and audio cassettes were born, and numerous judicial battles fomented by the controversies published in the pages of the same magazine. It was, in fact, from the so called section "Documents" that the three more famous querelles started.
The first, surely the most important in the history of Visual Poetry, had as a title: Visual poetry and Conceptual Art. a very organized plagiarism. The second one, which costed more processes to Eugenio Miccini (in quality of responsible director) was Enea Ferrari and Piero Manzoni (how to build and start a false cultural product one at the mafia level). The third one, perhaps the most ideological one, was for the Boycott of the Biennial art exhibition of Venice in 1972. And it was always in this section that all of Eugenio Miccini and Sarenco's court appearance or detached search warrants were published.
All these activities, and their documentation, are considered real "poetical actions". They are part of "the political" poetry or "public" poetry activity that characterized the production of the visual poets in those years.
The series Piano insurrezionale della citta' di Firenze by Miccini, or the series I pericoli e l'avventura di andare in questura and Poetical Licence by Sarenco, and numerous Political Poem by De Vree, are Inspired by the activity of denunciation and the political/poetical fight engaged by the group of the magazine against institutionalized art and the market operations masked as cultural operations. Poetical provocations are "actions", like Sarenco defined them in those years.
But after three years of incessant polemical activity, something happened inside the editorial balances, marking the publishing choices deeply. Starting from triple number 34/35/36 of March/April/May 1974, and until its last double number 49/50 of june/July 1975, the magazine changed tone radically, becoming monographic. Lotta Poetica opened itself to other areas of research, putting aside for the moment its polemical verve.
The level of the magazine remained however very high, dedicating to the monographic numbers to the most important European artists: Klaus Staeck, Bernard Aubertin, Aldo Mondino and Joseph Beuys.

But the experience and the Italian engagement of De Vree did not end with number 49/50 of the historical first series of Lotta Poetica (we must remember that >Lotta Poetica is now at the second number of Its fourth series).
Little more than two years after, in 1977, we find De Vree engaged in planning a new publishing adventure with his friend Sarenco: Factotum Art.
Factotum Art marks the passage from the historical first series of Lotta Poettica to the patinated second series; but Factotum Art also underlines the continuity with the former experience: the responsible directors are still Sarenco and Paul De Vree, and the edition is guaranteed by the Italian-Belgian fundings that had supported the first series of Lotta Poetica.
It is a magazine that remembers, also in its graphics, the former magazine, and tries to restore a continuity with the publishing layout of the first numbers of Lotta Poetica.
We must immediately underline that the effort did not succeed. And this explains the extraordinary difference between the first and the following six numbers of the new magazine.
This difference can be observed in the consistency of the published material (264 pages in the first number against the 16 pages of the following numbers) and is well expressed in the radical change of route between the first number and the last ones.
The difference is so obvious that, apart from the title, one seems to be dealing with two completely different magazines. The first number is historical-philological, the others are polemical-combative.
It seems that in Factotum Art the two spirits that had marked the first series of Lotta Poetica come out: a philological-historical spirit, constantly involved in the work of spreading the movement of Visual Poetry and the experimental poetry in general; a polemical and bellicose spirit involved in the hardest fights against the great Italian cultural institutions and against those who have always been the preferred targets of Sarenco: the critics.
The first number of Factotum Art was published in 1977 and is constituted by four dense sections, of which the first two are surely the most important. In the first section, called "Art history of the 20th century", there's a long and interesting in depth examination on DADA, and in particular on the first sonorous poetry experiments done by Raoul Hausmann. There is also the correspondence that Raoul Hausmann had with Paul De Vree between the 4th september 1966 and 1st june 1970, introduced by a short text by De Vree.
The second section, called texts of the artists, is made of the witnesses of two important visual poets: Alain Arias-Misson and Lamberto Pignotti. With the second number Factotum Art, published in May 1978, the drastic mutation occurs. First of all the number of the pages is reduced: from now on there will be only sixteen pages; secondly the magazine becomes the mean to spread the new movement invented and founded by Sarenco on the 25th of April 1978: the Futurgappismo.
De Vree seems to have abandoned the plan and does not take part directly in this phase of the magazine, entrusting it to the polemical verve of Sarenco.
In the following six numbers we must surely remember the attempt, done by Sarenco in the pages Factotum Art, of reconciliation of the various operating spirits of the experimental poetry on the national territory. In the n. 4 of December 1978, the four letters which constitute the epistolary exchange between Sarenco, Lora Totino and Spatola are published and these mark the end of an age.
Those letters represent the armistice between the several operating factions in those years in the experimental poetry, and the agreement, even though with some reserve, for an effective collaboration. Sarenco writes that, "aftermore or less fifteen years of operating (with the others) in the area of the New Poetry (either realistic, visual) we havne't realized yet that it would perhaps be important to make collective and organizational choices". The invitation was received, not certainly warmly, by both. Lora Totino, in her long letter full of clarifications, at the end declares: "the Idea Is interesting, as long as we stop with internal controversies" and closes the letter with of "suspicious salutes". On the other side Spatula declares that "there is nothing to complain about what happens between the poets. Its part of the poetry - visual? The techniques can coincide with the mind, and sometimes the mind cannot be so technically lucky to understand".
It is truly the end of an age. Many times I have heard other protagonists of the age (Sitta, Cowherds, Miccini, etc.) referring to the meeting in those years between Sarenco and Spatola, as a result of the epistolary exchange, like the moment of signature of a tacit treaty of armistice.There are some photos of that meeting. In one of these, Spatola and Sarenco are arm wrestling. It is an extremely meaningful photo (it is not a case that it was published on the cover of the magazine Doc(K)s) that emphasizes the passage of level in the fights between the poets.
Factotum Art therefore is the magazine which marks in a definitive way the end of an extremely productive period, loaded ideologically characterized by a polemical and/or theoretical exchange between all the international artists.
Factotum Art announces the arrival of the Eighties which open with the amazing rebirth of Lotta Poetica.

The first number of Lotta Peotica Nuova Serie is in fact of February 1982. Seven years after the last number the historical magazine is published again with completely different graphics and format. The paper is patinated, the cover is coloured, the format is the standard one followed by all the greater magazines of the field. To whom did not know the first series Lotta Poetica, it could appear as a very normal art magazine, like many newspapers of the eighties. Not only the aesthetic aspect has changed. Also the writing has changed a lot, and the other new element, that marks a radical change compared to the first series, is the appearance of the advertising insertions to support the magazine.
We must remember that the absence of advertisement in the first series was strongly supported by De Vree and Sarenco in order to emphasize the freedom and the autonomy of the magazine. In any case, Lotta Poetica, just at the beginning of the Eighties, in a moment in which the Visual Poetry seems to mark the steps,starts to use its annoying voice again. And, once again, to start controversies.
The packaging has changed, but the bellicose spirit and the will to be a proposal and reflection place has not changed. Actually in this series the attacks to the world art, and in particular to the transavanguardia and its critics, are even more sour and direct. De Vree, Sarenco and Miccini criticize the imbecility in the world of the art.
The direction of the fight is still solidly held by De Vree and Sarenco, helped by Eugenio Miccini, by Henri Martin (who already participated to the writings of the first series) and by Franco Verdi. In the international writings of the magazineother collaborators are: Jean François Bory, Alain Arias-Misson, Anna Guglielmi.
But Paul De Vree did not have enough time to participate to all the new controversies and battles. He died in fact in the first year of the publishing. A great part of number 17 of January 1984 was dedicated to the Flemish poet with articles and touched messages of Sarenco, Miccini, Chopin, Verdi and Arias-Misson.
After the disappearance of Paul De Vree the magazine lost the monthly routine respected until then. The last number which De Vree worked on in the writing was number 4 of May 1982, while the last number In which he collaborated was number 10 of November 1982. The successive number, n 11/12, was published six months later in May 1983.
Sarenco and Miccini, companions of adventures since the foundation of the first series of Lotta Poetica remember the disappeared friend, mentioning the combative spirit and the energy that Paul De Vree transmitted to his young companions of fight.

Long-life to the poet! (for Paul De Vree a year after)
This homage goes to the poet and the friend who betrayed me , leaving me alone after 13 years of affectionate collaboration. I prefer to let the other common friends (companions of cultural battles) praise and narrate.
Long-life to the poet, therefore, without misunderstandings neither meditations.


Letter by Eugenio Miccini to Sarenco of the 12 December 1982
Dear Sarenco,
in August 1982 in Forte dei Marmi, in the Gallery "La Vecchia Farmacia" of Paolo Marini, I made a show titled EROTIC that I dedicated to the poet Paul De Vree. To the evening, than will be replied in Florence at "L'Indiano" Gallery in the evening of February 22 1983 (as specified in the brochure that I enclose to you), collaborated Maria Pia Moschini and Paula Humeres, the Chilean artist who you can see in the photo.
I have dedicated the show to Paul De Vree, for whom I felt friendship and esteem, at a short distance from his dead, because the Flemish poet had inspired many of his works to the topic of the Eros.
Sarenco, you know what was for us and many of my generation, of yours and other generations the presence of Paul: the person and the work. I pray you to witness also my thought in the pages of the magazine "Lotta Poetica", that in old editions saw him as a collaborator and entertainer of our/his battles.
Best regards

Eugenio Miccini

* Lecture at Symposium over Paul de Vree (1909-1982) onder de titel PAUL DE VREE: POSITIES TUSSEN POËZIE, PLASTISCHE KUNST & PERFORMANCE c/o Letterenhuis di Antwerpen del 10.11.2012
** Paul De Vree - Editorial 2 in n. 25/26/27 del june/july/august 1973 of Lotta Poetica