PhD Project title: Bombing of Poems: Poetics of a Plural Event
Undergraduate degree and course: Licenciado in Psychology at Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Postgraduate degree and course: MA Interactive Media at Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Job: Member of the Casagrande art collective (www.loscasagrande.org)
“The Centre for Cultural Studies was an interesting place to develop my PhD. It gave me the opportunity to consider that it was possible to write a thesis about the Bombing of Poems in the first place. I found out, for example, how the Bombing of Poems can be thought of as a practice that deserves research because it can bring out ideas and relations between concepts and different fields. It made me think of it as the tip of an iceberg, with most of its structure hidden. My thesis perhaps illuminates a crack within this hidden geography.
The bombing of poems is a symbolic intervention, and as such makes references to other acts of air bombardment - indiscriminate death raining from the sky – and in this way confirms the brutality of total war. The use of such bombing oscillates between being proscribed by international treaty to being used for 'just war', as well as for pedagogical purposes in which the waging of war against civilians becomes legitimate. My thesis takes these air bombardments as critical background for the research, but also points to a different type of air bombing – that is to say, one realized using poems. The Bombing of Poems takes place in cities that have experienced aerial bombing during military confrontations and has so-far been carried out in Santiago de Chile, Gernika, Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Berlin and recently in London.
Following one of Umberto Eco's ideas, the Bombing of Poems, in my understanding, is an open act (Eco, 1989), and as such is located in an intermediary space that permits it to be studied from different perspectives. For example, the Bombing of Poems is situated within a tradition of practices that use the sky to form an image through movement from high places, without it mattering whether these projects are defined as artistic works, literary scenes, cinematographies, psychological warfare, political propaganda, or marketing strategy. In their own contexts these interventions are both inside and outside of art, politics and publicity. Obviously our work recognizes this ambivalence and plasticity, but it also tries to situate itself as a public intervention and a performance – which is to say in the terrain of the poetic.
The papers that are dropped from the helicopter are poems printed on bookmarks. The bookmarks are suspended in the air before they become gifts – that is, before they arrive to the streets, the people and the buildings. They are a reference to the pamphlets used as propaganda and in psychological warfare to demoralize the enemy. This image comprises the act of bombing and constructs the visual effect of rain or snow falling from the sky. The poems are written by authors who are younger than 42 years-old and who are from Chile and other countries where the event occurs. Poetry is important precisely because it speaks for itself. In this way, poetry is located in the Bombing of Poems as an instance of the poetic, and for this reason there is no specific theme to be found in the particular contents or messages of the poems.
The helicopter over the city poses a dichotomy to the public. On the one hand, it creates a sensation of fear due to the impossibility of escaping from the omnipresence of this machine of war. On the other hand, and in the opposite sense, it gives a sense of rescue and liberation that comes from the sky, partly due to the helicopter's ability to land in difficult terrain. In between the tension of fear and relief, the Bombing of Poems relocates not only the audience, but also urban space. It does this by means of a symbolic intervention that extends a violent event in order to change its meaning within a radical opening of the memory (Opazo-Ortiz, 1997).
CCS gave me the chance to outline a research project, not only as an academic question but also a biographical one related to the past thirteen years of working with poetry in public space as well as experimenting with publishing through different technologies. My classmates made the experience of the PhD much more real, productive and friendly.
I have had the chance to present the Bombing of Poems and share this research at cities in many countries. I did presentations at the New School in New York, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Prague, Wales, Dresden, Guernica, Belfast and Göteborg. In London I presented at Middlesex University, Central Saint Martins Design School, The London School of Communication and This is not a Gateway Festival (2009). This year I will present a paper at Yale University in the symposium Architecture and Performance and at the cultural week in the University of Bristol.”
For further information about the Bombing of Poems project you can e-mail Cristobal at email@example.com