The source illuminates
For the Voice is a cult book, an object-book, a masterpiece of graphic design, a milestone, the voice of the revolution rising from almost 100 years ago, from 1923, an attempt at concrete poetry, in which poems written by Mayakovsky, that “huge, broad-shouldered man, his head shaven with a razor” as Nazım Hikmet described him, in his magnificent joins Lissitzky’s design. Lissitzky reproduced Mayakovsky’s printed words using geometric forms, converted them into typographical symbols, designed an introduction page for each poem, placed an index of headings on the margin of the pages with a special symbol assigned to each poem—virtually performed the text once again: He demolished what the poet built “for the voice”, and rebuilt it “for the eye.” In 1978, Sarkis placed the 13 poetry heading symbols found in the book on 13 lightbulbs. Mayakovsky-Lissitzky: The Source Illuminates is also Sarkis’s reply to How to Make Poetry, which defends “a cry rather than a lullaby, a drumbeat rather than a melody”: it is an attempt at quiet reading, some kind of transcription, a conveying of sounds; as if saying, one can also make poetry in this way, this is another way of reciting. It reminds one of Sarkis’s neons that lend voice to writing, to letters, to words: and here, Lissitzky’s hands pointing at the poems from between the pages, the reader’s thumbs leafing through the index, turn into Sarkis’s fingerprints. Sarkis illuminates each poem with his touch—sound flows into silence, pitch dark into light. Now, facing us, is a glistening book with its pages open: it is as if it just flew down from the shelf of “Library for Memory and Eternity”, and perched here silently.
Mayakovsky-Lissitsky: The source illuminates, 1978/2019
Installation, 13 lightbulbs
Illustrations applied by