Short-circuits and Fused Visions: The Works and Networks of Claude Pélieu

08.07.2021 - 09.07.2021

Venue: University of Chicago Center, Paris and online
Organizer: AGORA

This international conference will be the first to focus on the œuvre of French poet, artist, and translator Claude Pélieu (1934-2002). This event looks to bring together researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds who work on Pélieu as well as the artistic, literary and countercultural milieus in which he participated throughout his life on both sides of the Atlantic.

Pélieu is today best known for the translations that he carried out with his American partner Mary Beach (1919-2006) of works by experimental writer William Burroughs and by beat poets including Allen Ginsberg and Bob Kaufman. However, Pélieu was also a prolific collage artist and the author of a protean poetic oeuvre, and maintained an extensive correspondence with numerous key figures of 20th century literature and art.  He was a key intermediary between a French tradition of avant-garde movements, American counter-cultural circles, and globalized artistic networks of Fluxus and concrete poetry.

The materiality of text and image is of primordial importance in Pélieu’s creative process, and is brought into play particularly in his collages which offer an acerbic insight into the turbulent decades through which he lived whilst at the same time enacting unique superimpositions of concepts, vocabularies and images. The same is true of his writing, highly influenced by the aleatory techniques of textual collage and montage of the ‘cut-up’ technique. Pélieu developed his use of the cut-up in dialogue with William Burroughs and with a worldwide network of artists and writers. Circulation is also a key aspect of Pélieu’s practice, one which is attested to by his mail art and by the numerous experimental magazines that he created and to which he contributed in order to disseminate his poetic and visual research. His oeuvre and his networks are thus a singularly rich object of study for understanding the ways in which the artistic and literary fields of the latter half of the 20th century were constituted not only by processes of exchange, collaboration and emulation but also by scrambling, resemanticization and détournement.

Taking its cues from the multifaceted, hybrid and transnational nature of Pélieu’s work, this conference looks to promote dialogue between researchers working in fields as various as art history, comparative literature, translation studies, the sociology of art, and American studies. It will also host a number of American and European writers – Jacques Donguy, Pierre Joris, and Bruno Sourdin, amongst others – who either collaborated with Pélieu or published his texts. The conference will also be accompanied by an exhibition as well as a series of readings and film screenings at Treize, an independent artistic space in the 11th arrondissement.  

Through this programme, we hope to begin to offer a response to an interrogation put forth by Pélieu in one of his final texts: “I wonder whether a poet deserves a place in history […] what becomes of those who shoot faster than their shadow?”.

 

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