121 
positions contrast gracefully with 
the calligraphic craftsmanship and 
“beauty” that “decorate” the world 
of other artists. The “object-reliefs” 
of the same period, full of unex 
pected associations, are the product 
of Arp the jester. The same may be 
said of his poetry, in which there 
abound absurdities mockingly ex 
pressed in inflated mannerisms of 
speech, in imaginative deformations 
of words, in puns and grotesque ir 
rational images. The realities and 
banalities of everyday life are, for 
him, part and parcel of poetry. 
A mere glance at the titles 0 of 
Arp’s works illustrates to what an 
extent he was preoccupied with odd 
“configurations,” as he called them, of 
beings and objects, of bottles, mouths, 
neckties, navels, moustaches, leaves, 
anchors and heads, etc. How are we 
to explain his marked tendency, es 
pecially typical of the early period, 
to break man’s body down into sun 
dry parts? There can be no doubt 
that it springs from a desire to place 
man on the level of the innumerable 
things that surround him, “pour 
elles, il n’y a pas de quartier de 
noblesse,” Picasso has said. For Arp, 
man is not the crown of creation, 
but simple, lost, transient, like a leaf 
in the wind. Everywhere in his work 
a kind of romantic irony disrupts 
man’s bombastic self-satisfaction, re 
ducing him to the humble scale of 
his surroundings. Precisely the same 
6. Tête moustache et bouteille; Soulier, 
lèvres, nombril; Têtes et cravattes; Tête et 
feuille; Le gant; La moustache sans fin; Le 
corpusculus; Objets placés comme l’écriture; 
Objets placés d’après la loi du hasard; Con 
figurations, etc. 
tendency is present in Arp’s poems, 
“The Pyramid’s Petticoat,” “The 
Cloud Pump,” etc. Arp starts by 
throwing everything conceivable 
into a vast bag which is thoroughly 
shaken in order to upset all logical 
order and to annihilate any rigid 
hierarchy of values. He subsequently 
conjures up a transformed world, 
full of ingenious and paradoxical 
ties between bodies and ideas, an 
irrational world where everything 
is fraternally compatible with every 
thing else. New life is imparted to 
the basic unit of speech, the word, 
and its power to evoke images and 
associations. Consecutive descrip 
tion (the result of a mechanical con 
ception of time) is as foreign to 
Arp’s poetry as perspective (the re 
sult of an analogous conception of 
space) is foreign to his art. 
As early as 1908, Arp had been 
interested in the problem of defor 
mation and in the deliverance of 
art from servile imitation. During a 
long stay in Weggis 6 7 (Switzerland) 
in 1909-12, Arp, together with some 
Swiss artists, founded the “Mo- 
derner Bund.” The group arranged 
meetings and exhibitions in Zurich 
and Lucerne, through which they 
hoped to launch their ideas. How 
ever, the most decisive influence 
upon Arp was his coming into con 
tact with the well-known “Blaue 
Reiter,” a group founded in Munich 
(1912) by Kandinsky and Franz 
Marc. Even today Arp regards Kan 
dinsky’s inspiring personality, next 
to Ball’s ascetic fervor, as one of the 
crucial experiences of his life. The 
7. Where he first met Paul Klee.
	        

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