This entry was written in collaboration with the PO.EX. Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Literature.
Here translated as “signages”, or as a fusion between the words “signs” and “images”, Signagens (1985-1989) is a series of videopoems developed by E. M. de Melo e Castro at the Instituto Português de Ensino à Distância (Portuguese Institute for Distance Education) and at the Universidade Aberta (Open University). Melo e Castro has been considered a pioneering writer of concrete poetry and videopoetry in Portugal. He was a contributor at Poesia Experimental (1964) and an organizer of this magazine’s second edition, published in 1966. Experimenting with different materials and different media, Melo e Castro has produced a work which ranges from videopoetry, to performances and installations. To write the videopoems in this series, the author used the national television (RTP) studios and new digital and electronic equipment (Reis, 2014: 105). Melo e Castro often proposes theoretical and self-reflexive exercises on language and technologies of inscription. Videopoetry allows a fusion between two quadrants (Melo e Castro, 2014: 89) distinguished by Melo e Castro: orality (“sound, time, and rhythmic values, tending towards music”) and visuality (“visual and spatial values, tending towards plastic arts”). According to Melo e Castro, a videopoem realizes a “verbal-vocal-sonorous-visual-colourful-dynamics” (Melo e Castro, 2007: 179) offering the reader an expanded sensory experience.
Except for “Vibrações digitais de um protocubo”, where verbal language was not included, the alphabet is turned into a set of animated figures which are manipulated in order to express an idea of movement and unstoppable recombination. Computer technology is used to generate “a combination of letters, symbols, and visual effects” (Funkhouser, 2007: 123). The thrill of watching the letters come to life is described by Melo e Castro: “A sense of fascination and adventure told me that the letters and the signs standing still on the page could gain actual movement of their own. The words and the letters could be free at last” (Melo e Castro, 2007: 176). Alphabetic language is thus converted into an ideographic language whose ability to express concepts and ideas is thoroughly reworked. This confluence between image and letter is expressed by the videopoem “Escrita da memória” [memory’s writing] where alphabetic writing and its hieroglyphic and ideogrammatic past appear side by side.
In Signagens, letters and icons often become indistinguishable. The text does not introduce a collage of different languages, but a new language which the reader must learn how to use. According to Melo e Castro, new technologies introduce a “new grammar of visual transformation” which poses a challenge to “the artist’s creativity and to the reader’s reading skills” (Melo e Castro, 2014: 90). Due to an intermission or radical detachment between signifier and signified, words are subjected to a process of estrangement which turns them into enigmatic shapes, ever deferring the production of meaning. The following works, whose titles were translated by Melo e Castro in “Videopoetry” (Kac, 2007: 181), are part of Signagens: “Fontes do texto” [the fountains of the text]; Sete Setas [seven arrows]; “Um furo no Universo” [a hole in the universe]; “Come fome” [eat hunger]; “Hipnotismo” [hypnosis]; “Rede teia labirinto” [net web labyrinth]; “Ponto sinal” [period sign]; “Polígono pessoal” [personal polygon]; “Poética dos meios” [poetics of the media]; “Escrita da memória” [memory’s writing]; “Objectotem”; “Concretas abstracções” [concrete abstractions]; “Ideovídeo”; “Infografitos” [Infograffiti]; “Metade de nada” [half of nothing]; “Diazulando” [daylighting]; “Vibrações digitais de um protocubo” [digital vibrations of a proto-cube]; "Sede fuga" [thirst escape]; "Do Outro Lado" [on the other side] and “O Soneto, Oh!” [the sonnet, oh!]. These last three works are not included in the Po.Ex. Digital Archive. Although the title “Dialuzando” appears in the article “Videopoetry” written by Melo e Castro and published in 1996 and 2007 by Eduardo Kac, the reader will find the word “diazulando” [bluedaylighting] at the beginning of this videopoem.
CASTRO, Ernesto Melo e (2014). “Videopoetry”, in Media Poetry: An International Anthology. Ed. Kac, Eduardo. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 175-184. Also available at: http://www.ociocriativo.com.br/guests/meloecastro/video.htm.
CASTRO, Ernesto Melo e (2014). “An Intersemiotic Network”, in PO.EX: Essays from Portugal on Cyberliterature and Intermedia by Pedro Barbosa, Ana Hatherly, and E. M. de Melo e Castro. Eds. Torres, Rui and Sandy Baldwin. Center for Literary Computing: West Virginia University Press, 87-116. Also available at: http://po-ex.net/taxonomia/transtextualidades/metatextualidades-alografa....
FUNKHOUSER, Chris T. (2007). Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959–1995. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.
REIS, Pedro (2014). “Videopoesia: Produção Poética Híbrida em Língua Portuguesa”, in Poesia Experimental Portuguesa: Contextos, Ensaios, Entrevistas, Metodologias. Ed. Torres, Rui. Porto: Edições Universidade Fernando Pessoa, 101-116. Also available at: http://po-ex.net/taxonomia/transtextualidades/metatextualidades-alografa...