Balla’s collage poem mobilizes these varied elements to tell the story of his attempt to visit the Czech artist Rougena Zatkova, one of his students. Finding that the keys didn’t open the door, he entered through a window on an upper floor, descended the inner stairway, and opened the door with the keys from the inside. The orange dots indicate the artist’s path, which leads him up the stairs signified by the sounds of his creaking shoes: taaa, teeech, tieeech, tech, tach, tech, tich… The pattern then grows more dynamic and illogical; a question mark rises just before the short vertical stripe of grey paper adjacent to the central line, representing the impediment of the locked door. Is it an “O” or a zero that accompanies this question mark? The artist then reverses his steps and catapults himself into the air like a ball (the word BALLUALTO at the far left evokes both “Balla” and “Ball;” ALTO signifies “high”); the arrow points to a curved row of orange circles marking the site of his passage through the upper window. Landing with the sound PLANTLAN, he then descends—tech.., tich, tich…tech, tech…tlech, plep plip, plop, plap… to the level of the door. Shiny metallic blue and vermilion vectors signify the keys opening the door from the inside; the word APERTO (OPEN), (with the letters PERTO contained with the profile of an acute A), points to the keyhole where the metallic sound of the turning keys emerges as CRZT. The composition as a whole enacts the story it tells: climbing steps occurs by means of circles that get progressively smaller along with the letters evoking creaking sounds; the dynamic flow of vaulting into the air figures through rapidly changing curves and lines of flight; and the descent back to the ground level becomes visible through the accelerated rhythm of steps and a pattern of sounds on smaller stairs (which are thus represented as farther away). In this pictorial free-word poem, noisy forms (rumoristica plastica) convey the essence of a simple action, realising its multiple sensations and intersecting narrative arcs through the visual figuration of movement and sound.
Sotheby’s would like to thank Christine Poggi, Professor of Modern and
Contemporary art at the University of Pennsylvania, for writing the entry for the
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