Mercedes Azpilicueta: From a site of resistance to a gesture of banality

 Advisor/tutor: Doreen Mende

Independent reviewer: Helmut Draxler

Arnhem, June 2013


My research question considers a shift of the notion of poetry as a site of resistance to one that encourages an understanding of it as a gesture of banality.
As an initial part of the research process, I will focus on the act of writing itself and how it differs from the notion of poetry. It seems to me that poetry has gone through a transformational process, from a site to a gesture. Understanding a site as a spatial notion that can be measured, and a gesture as a process that involves the body and where the body itself becomes a space.
The gesture is defined as a writing body, as a space where I move around whilst writing. Therefore, a gesture that writes is not attached to a site anymore; rather it is a mobile condition that displaces itself all the time. Once poetry has been detached from a site of resistance and has become a gesture, I would like to research the idea of why and how writing becomes a gesture of banality.
I will develop this idea in reference to the work of French writer Marguerite Duras, and her book: Écrire. I will focus specifically on the first two chapters of her book Écrire "Writing" and "The Death of the Young English Aviator," as well as on her banal way of treating death and her uses of the literary technique of parataxis.
I will continue developing the idea of the gesture, what is a gesture and how it is connected to poetry. I will work in reference to Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, who seems to connect writing and gesture by translating intuitions and senses into words. Following Lispector´ book Revelation of One World I will introduce some thoughts from Hélène Cixous, where she describes through Lispector how a text becomes a living text.
Last but not least, I will include part of my own writings to better follow the process that understands poetry from a site of resistance to a gesture of banality.


In her Master Thesis Mercedes Azpilicueta describes her experience of moving from Buenos Aires to the Netherlands in terms of a symbolic displacement. The territorial move from one place to another becomes affected with layers of meaning on social and psychological levels, but especially in regard to the act of writing itself. The decision to make writing her favorite kind of artistic practice is reflected as a shift from a given social situation with different options – in her words: "poetry as a site of resistance" – towards a way more isolated constellation, within which the act of writing has turned inwards, experiencing the own body as a place to be inhabited, and to develop from here onwards a process-oriented and "gestural" understanding of poetry. Thus, related more to the existential experiences of being exposed to other bodies, to social functioning and to death, writing becomes a "gesture of banality".

In following the examples of Marguerite Duras, Clarice Lispector und Hélène Cixous Mercedes Azpilicueta envisions a poetological manifesto based on a "dislocation of meaning" as the precondition for turning the act of writing into a "solitary way of existing" or into a "life form". On the methodological level Parataxis is named as a way of writing in short sentences, in strictly horizontal dimensions, focusing on the juxtaposition of words and investigating their relations. In becoming widely meaningless, as an embodied act of gestural banality, writing turns into a "constant flux that has no purpose and no end". As such, it creates an "awaiting moment" as the "moment of poetry" per se in which all potentialities are contained and thus revealing itself more in an act of performance than of possible readings.

To me, this Thesis seems to be a very good example for the mutual inspiration of theory and practice, for a truly artistic research in a very specific sense. From a purely theoretical point of view however the terminology is not elaborated in a particular rich way. Key terms like resistance or banality are hardly defined, and the whole argument remains within a structure of opposing terms, indicating a transformation from one pole to the other. Instead a more dialectical relationality between the terms: e.g., between the resistance of the body and the banality of resistance could help to develop the argument further. The main difficulty stems from an ontological move towards the process-oriented understand of writing and its poetological consequences in grasping the essence of poetry in that kind of process-oriented becoming: of becoming body, gesture and pure means. As a subjective poetological claim this seems absolutely convincing to me; philosophically it is not.

The structural conditions of language, the social conditions of writing, the functions of ideas of the work, the mediality of the printing, the rhetorics of fiction etc. all of those features constitute the process of becoming poetry. And poetry in the end is not a flux only, it is also a work, a site, a symbolic claim, a social privilege. To reflect those issues, the post-structuralist approach towards writing seems to be not enough. H.D.