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Lettrism (also spelled Letterism) was an artistic style pursuing the hyper-minimalist refinement of art to its simplest and purest form. According to Jean-Paul Curtay in La Poesie Lettriste (Paris 1974), it was created in 1942 in Romania by Isidore Isou, when he was only sixteen years old. Lettrism was a response to what the Lettrists saw as André Breton's control of Surrealism, as well as an attempt to make poetry more popular. The Lettrists worked in a variety of forms including sound as well as graphic arts involving letters. Isou noted that Dada had chiseled art down to the word, while Lettrism was intended to refine it to the letter (hence its name). While Dada took art to a simple and implausible form, Lettrism aimed to refine it even more to its initial form. The stark simplicity of Lettrist art, while still very much abstract, stood in contrast to the sometimes meandering Surrealist movement; but both shared their roots in Dada.

The general ethic of Letterism was eventually applied to film, in Gil J. Wolman's piece "L’Anticoncept", which consisted of a fluctuating ball of light that was screened onto a large balloon. This was exhibited at the 1952 Cannes Festival along with Isou's own film, "The Slime and Eternity Treatise". Isou's film won the newly crafted award for Best Avant Garde. Summarizing Lettrism while describing modern cinema, Isou wrote in Treaty of dribble and eternity, in works of spectacles.

I believe firstly that the cinema is too rich. It is obese. It's reached its limits, its maximum. With the first movement of widening which it will outline, the cinema will burst! Under the blow of a congestion, this pig filled with grease will tear into a thousand pieces. I announce the destruction of the cinema, the first apocalyptic sign of disjunction, rupture, this corpulent and balloon organization which is called film.

In addition to arts, the Lettrists also would hold public displays or disruptions, that were to be know as "Lettrists Scandals". These Scandals included causing disorders at churches by disguising themselves as monks and reading Lettrist manifestos in place of the scripture, as well as causing chaos by sabotaging art and film openings, including their own.

A split in the movement lead to the formation of the Lettrist International, and to the movements of the Ultra-Lettrists and the Situationists.

Lettrist works include Lexique Des Lettres Nouvelles, a sonic alphabet consisting of about 130 sounds which the Lettrists used in their poetry.

The film Irma Vep contains a sequence that evokes the Lettrist aesthetic.

External links

eo:Literismo fr:Lettrisme


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