The notion of visual poetry became part of the terminology of Hungarian neo-avant-garde in the 60’s while it made its way into the horizon of literary criticism in the 70’s. The practice of visual poetry however has been present since the schools of historical avant-garde are, though a unitary notion to describe these initiatives has not been created: the futuristic tavole parolibere, the dadaist poster poems, concrete poetry, the shape poems of Kassák are of the same approach, they all represent a variation of the visual extension of poetic language. In the Hungarian poetry and art scene visual poetry was formed into an independent branch of poetry and was made a general practice by the avant-garde poets of the sixties and seventies like Katalin Ladik, Tamás Szentjóby, Gábor Tóth and others, along with artists who can now truly represent the “visual literature”-concept of Magyar Műhely issued in Paris, Pál Nagy, Tibor Papp, Alpár Bujdosó and the younger generation related to them.
János Géczi was one of these youth, one who has been creating concrete poems, making visual poetry since the 70’s. I first came across his works while working at Mozgó Világ — though I do not remember if we published any of his works, because the journal refrained from publishing experimental literature. I know that it was almost impossible back then to publish such things in a “poetry volume”, the publisher would immediately throw them out. I managed to smuggle a visual cycle in my first volume Ismeretlen monológok (Unknown Monologues) by an unintentional trick, almost by mistake at Szépirodalmi Kiadó. In one of János Géczi’s first volume Gyónás (Confession) (Magvető, 1988) he managed to publish an excellent, humbly written concrete poem cycle at the end of his book with the title “A titkos értelmű rózsa” (Rose With A Secret Meaning). Géczi originally wanted to insert the pieces of this cycle among the other text poems, however this could not have been tolerated by the publisher, hence it became an ending cycle. Looking back it proved to be the right idea: the coherence of the poems talks for itself, the result shows a flat image about an explicit way of thinking in language. One can find beautiful, mature and, what’s more, colourful works both on the front and the back cover of Gyónás.
Géczi’s first par excellence visual poetry book concrete was published by Magyar Műhely Kiadó which was functioning in Paris and Vienna at that time and for some decades to come. This volume indicates the complexity of the poet’s visual way of thinking and his use of language resources: while in Gyónás we can find type-writer graphics made and organized in an almost ascetic way. In the new book besides these and beyond these he used the actual languages of contemporary visual art, like the well known photo and letraset-montage, black and white computer graphics, the use of photocopiers and in some of the works the method and genre called “décollage” appeared too, which is based on gluing together and tearing apart mostly poster surfaces. The following year, 1993 is when a new book of Géczi appears (publishing co. Vár ucca tizenhét) in which he creates a coherent composition of textual and visual poems, in other words the typographic approach and the graphic approach form an organic texture [fonalvers, figurával (thread verse with a figure)].
His readers and those who know him share the idea that Géczi’s intellectual character on one hand implies a wide range of research aspects on several levels and on the other hand an organized, complex and coherent way of literary approach to those. So here we only mention his linear poetry works, the latest representation of which was published not long ago in a collection of selected poems with the title Kiegészítések egy Vörösmarty-sorhoz (Amendments to a Vörösmarty-line). We are certainly not going to discuss details about the documents of his interest in sociography and research, or his works of criticism.
For the 10th anniversary of Spanyolnátha it organized a grand exhibition event in the building complex of Herman Ottó Múzeum — Miskolci Galéria where János Géczi puts an individual project on show with the title Plakát, roncs (Poster, wreck); it reveals the best opportunities and the opportunities which Gézci could use in the most conscious and most consistent way throughout his poetry. Coloured works are put on the walls more-or-less the same size under glass and in frames. The basic elements of each picture are the disciplined use of colours and shapes, a couple of typographic elements, sometimes verbal material and the texture-like surfaces which are formed in a coherent, however, diverse way.
With the method of décollage the artist collected actual posters in the area of Miskolc. He sometimes simply tore one or another off as much as the glue let him. Then he started modifying and reconstructing these advertisement graphics: washed them out, dried, scrubbed, crinkled, scratched, tore them — this is how the colours and shapes on the surface changed and transformed along with the texture. In the next phase he joined, mounted, glued these new surfaces by a partly conscious partly intuitive logic to tear them up again. As we can see his works achieved their final form through a very elaborate process where the characteristics of materials and shapes as objects and their “compliance”, surface and consistency features played an important role.
Looking at its extent, the result is certainly beyond the diverse shapes and colours of visual poetry — what we can see are pieces of fine art, paintings made in a unique way. Their set of colours and shapes, their composition undoubtedly work by the logic of visual art: text elements, language signs sublimate in a painted space. By this, Géczi stepped beyond the well known traditional frames of décollage: because by its original logic the artistic action opens time and space. Parts and fragments of the information conveyed by the posters bring different places, times and information into the complex space of communication i.e. they create a spontaneous culture-historical synthesis of past times, the changing space and these possible contexts. However, the creative action taken by Géczi re-organizes this complexity and stratification by the logic of painting (whether being close or rather open) into a coherent surface which bears the reminiscence of complexity.
The exhibition material out on show here — with its possible variants — must of course be published in a book or album first of all for the sake of relative perpetuance however, one can only experience it to its full dimension in this space.
(Speech given at the opening of János Géczi's exhibition „Plakát, roncs" in Herman Ottó Múzeum−Miskolci Galéria on 22nd January 2014.)