Miguel Ángel Lens, work featured in the exhibition
Miguel Ángel Lens, work featured in the exhibition "La poesía está en la calle". Courtesy: Muntref

La Poesia is in the street (poetry is on the street), a show by Miguel Ángel Lens (Buenos Aires, 1951-2011) curated by Francisco Lemus and Mariano López Seoane at MUNTREF, is something like the culmination of a revealing, dedicated and collective rescue operation. Lens was a poet, visual artist and activist. He was part of the San Telmo Gay group in the 1980s and founded the Poesía Gay de Buenos Aires group in 1994. During his lifetime, he published books of poetry and edited the compilation Poesía Gay de Buenos Aires. And although his drawings and collages reached the hands of many people through pamphlets, he never exhibited his visual work in institutions or art galleries. After his death, and thanks to the efforts of Juan Queiroz, Lens' brother (José Luis) and his friends Néstor Latrônico, Horacio Menú, Alberto Retamar and Marta Muriago donated the works and documents that form the basis of the exhibition to the IIAC archive ( Instituto de Investigaciones en Arte y Cultura).

The show brings together typewritten versions of poems, drawings, collages, pamphlets, letters and photographs. Some (mainly those in which Lens portrays fantastic beings and proposes covers for imaginary books) are hung on two of the living room walls; the rest (mainly material with greater predominance than what is written) in cupboards and drawers. And the menu is completed with a sound installation in which the poet Mariano Blatt reads Lens, in an interpretation that makes it sound contemporary and urgent.

The work that the curators chose to place first in the tour of the walls, Dibujopoem, works as a prologue and synthesizes some of the gestures shown in the rest of the exhibition. In it, a palm tree composed of words and drawn lines has a zigzag trunk that states: “The ugliest trees are the most beautiful”. And then it becomes clear that, for Lens, the visual and the poetic have a common origin: that beauty must be sought beyond the margins; and, above all, that everything — including The instant of the revolution, as another of the pieces is titled — fits on a 30 x 20 cm sheet of paper. All the material from Poetry is on the street (Poetry is on the street) is made up of papers that at any time can be piled up again in a folder to be easily moved and re-presented elsewhere. Or photocopied to multiply and reach even more eyes and hands.

What emanates from all of them is the need to go out, to wander and to find the
another—and in particular with an unknown other. How does it sound in arolá, one of the poems sung by Mariano Blatt: “I'm fed up / of myself / of my egocentrism”, underlining a fundamental axiom for Lens's logic, which is charged with greater eloquence in a present in which cultural segmentation and algorithmic programming meet people with increasingly precise connections with pre-established preferences.

Lens is able to find the common thread between the most disparate sensitivities: between
Sandro Penna's simplicity and Rimbaud's enlightened secrecy; between the radical nihilism of Artaud and the cameos of poets such as Juan Gelman and Haroldo Conti, associated with the more traditional left (which, in turn, excluded sexual dissent). His rebelliousness exudes a curse that is not without tenderness, a rage that is more associative than exclusive, less interested in asserting a precisely defined identity than in opening up to others.

In his urban wanderings, something of the tortured and sadistic existentialism of Carlos Correas from the 1950s seems to coexist with the spontaneity, hearts and diminutives of a figure from the 1990s like Fernanda Laguna. And it's just as much the cafuçu or lumpen worker (as the one who drives Correas's narrator crazy in The narration of the story) and the Baudelairean pen with which Lens composes a drawing-poem (Today on Callao Street I found a dove feather, and with it I wrote this poem) are, according to the title of the exhibition, in the street.

That common thread is, why not, a utopian impulse, the desire for a radically
different, which the democratic recovery of 1983 did not bring (Lens is an insistent critic
the limits of the Alfonsinist spring), and which echoes in what José Muñoz would write in
your book queer utopia. One of the pieces on display offers an image of that future. It's called The hand that comes, a twist on the popular “how does the hand come up?” question, and it couldn't be more mysterious: it feels out of this world.

Miguel Ángel Lens: La Poesia is in the street
Until 4/6
Curatorship: Francisco Lemus and Mariano López Seoane
Center for Contemporary Art – Universidad Nacional Tres de Febrero: Av. Antarctica Argentina 1335 – Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Visitation: Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 18 pm
Free admission

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