Poets on the Walls


Pursuing the research started with its first event Street Art, Contours et Détours, the Nice Street Art Project is pleased to announce a second edition, Poets on the Walls. Street Art & Poetry, focusing on street art and poetry to be held September 22-24, 2016  in Nice.

Horace’s famous simile Ut Pictura Poesis introduced the idea that painting and poetry are two sister arts and as such, they have attracted the attention of researchers in the fields of literature and art. Although it is characterized by its poetic writing and includes many references to poets, street art has been paradoxically excluded from the scope of these investigations. One of the first questions to be addressed will concern the poetic impact of street art which is an art form often blending writing and drawing. If it is commonly said that street art brings poetry to public spaces, a more precise definition of the link between street art and an experience appealing to the senses must be found.

Street art can be considered as poetic in many different ways; for the aesthetic quality of the writing it often involves (Miss.Tic, Stephen Powers, Banksy…), for the new vision of the world it offers through the anamorphic quality of some pieces (JR, Odeith, Varini…) and for the transfiguration of urban architecture it achieves (Pao, OaKoAk, Clet Abraham…). All these practices share similar goals with poetic writing as they both alter the perceived reality and open up imagination ; as Cocteau put it, poetry aims at “unveiling, in the strict sense of the word. It lays bare, under a light which shakes off torpor, the surprising things which surround us and which our senses record mechanically” (Le secret professionnel, 1924). In this respect, famous or anonymous street artists do act poetically.

Be it verbal or aesthetic, poetry moves its readers/viewers and forces them to see the world differently. Hence, examining the link between street art and poetry necessarily implies to consider the artists’ political, philosophical or social commitment. If “poets have come down from the heights where they thought they were, they went into the streets, they insulted their masters, they have no more gods” (L’évidence poétique, 1937) as Paul Eluard said, their presence in the public space might serve as a reminder of their actions. Whitman, Pessoa, Neruda, Ginsberg, Rimbaud, Aragon and Angelou are among the most frequently painted poets. These pictorial tributes bring life to the urban space and bring their words back to life.

Ernest Pignon Ernest’s recent posters, designed for the 40th anniversary of Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini’s assassination, which represent the figure of Pasolini will be of particular interest. Seen as an urban art pioneer, the Nice-born artist started focusing on poets at an early stage in his career ; the posters he has pasted ever since make us think about how vulnerable works of art are and how easily they can be washed out, which is according to Pignon Ernest, what is most Rimbaldian about his pieces.(http://pignon-ernest.com/)

The site-specific quality of street art and its ephemeral nature might also be addressed since both elements contribute to the definition of the poetic and political impact. A whole range of site-specific works blurring the boundaries between street art and poetry can be examined: poetry in the form of advertising (Robert Montgomery), aerial messages (Saber), poems in bottles left in the street (Andy Knowlton’s Drunken Poets Project)… Each of these poetico-graphic experiences is meant for passers-by, thus turned into viewers/readers, and aims at offering a new understanding of both time and space.

The conference will focus on three main topics :

1. ‘Street poets’ dealing with the aesthetic and poetic quality of site-specific artworks.

2. ‘The poetic writing’ addressing the use of poetic writing to express social or political messages.

3. ‘Poets on the walls’ focusing on the links between street art and poetry through the figure of poets represented in the public space.


Submission Guidelines

Paper proposals must include:

- the main topic (see 1/2/3)

- the name of the author(s)

- a short biography (100 words max.)

- a title

- a 300-word abstract

- a list of key-words (5 max.)

- a short bibliography


Abstracts can be submitted in English or French and must be uploaded in pdf format on the conference website at http://poetsonthewalls.sciencesconf.org/submission/submit. The deadline for submissions is May 22nd 2016.

The 50€ registration fees cover the participation in the conference, entrances to the MAMAC museum and St Pons abbey, the street art tour, coffee breaks and lunch programs. Presentations (in English or French) will be scheduled for 30 minutes. No translation services will be provided. Accommodation and transportation costs are at the contributor’s expense.

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