Tamkó Sirató Károly / Charles Tamko Sirato


The prophet of Dimensionism died

The twenties and thirties of our century were a period of a fermenting art scene: Gabo and Pevsner published the Realistic Manifesto in 1920, Rodchenko published the Productivist manifesto, the Blue Four was founded in 1924 and Breton issued the First Manifesto of Surrealism in 1925. This was followed by the Second Manifesto of Surrealism in 1928 and the foundation of the Parisian Abstraction-Création group; then the DIMENSIONIST MANIFESTO came out in 1936. Although two additional editions saw the light of day later on, the artistic principle expounded in the first edition cannot be found anywhere else in international literature with this title.

Dimensionism was not a movement in the classical sense of the word, nor did it burst onto the art scene like an esoteric trend stirring a great sensation – this would be fair to say, although not sufficient. There were many factors at work. The artistic career of Károly Tamkó Sirató, who initiated and laid down the principles of Dimensionism, was cut short, abruptly broken in half, early on. Hence, Dimensionism lost its leading figure, its intellectual coordinator, at the very outset, in the first stage, before having the chance to raise awareness. While Dimensionist principles were virtually self-evidently justified by the prominent works made in Avant-garde workshops, Dimensionism lost more than its theoretical foundation when Tamkó Sirató passed away. Vice versa: Tamkó Sirató’s loss was graver. Struggling with a serious illness and living in isolation, his life’s work was left fragmented, his Dimensionist mission incomplete. This might partly explain why art historians and aesthetes do not mention his achievements in this department and instead focus on his work as a literary translator and the author of children’s poetry; hence his name is engraved in the memory of Hungarian art history in these genres.

Tamkó Sirató’s early years in literature involved Expressionist and Surrealist experiments. He wrote his first visual poem in 1924 and then, inspired by Kassák’s concrete poetry, he composed more and more experimental poems. At the tender age of seventeen he realised that written poetry is more than a linguistic block conveying ideas and that one-dimensional linear writing no longer met modern needs and the requirements of the literature of the future. He developed several original experimental poem types – numerical kinetic poetry structures, electric poems and planar poems – in an attempt to break out of linear writing. He laid down the theoretical foundation for these new models of poetry in his Manifesto of GLOGOISM. He expounded that “Glogoism breaks away from BOOK VISION* and replaces it with PICTORIAL VISION. It regards paper not as the depressively monolinear web of shapless lines but an area where the placement of sentences and words are lent a CONSTRUCTIVE significance. (...) Therefore, Glogoism primarily emphasises the planar quality of poems. Poems are not written but built”**.

Electronic and planar poetry had no fertile ground in Hungarian literature to take root in, hence its further evolution was uncertain. In 1930 Tamkó Sirató moved to Paris, the centre of the arts at the time, where the values of his new poetry types were given due recognition in the milieu defined by the international Avant-garde trends. His Glogoist theory of poetry was not only borne out by the progressive art trends but gave research new impetus. Tamkó Sirató’s new forms of poetry were not historically grounded in Hungarian art – even Kassák’s concrete poetry was too fresh in the late twenties -, while “similar works by Apollinaire and Picabia were like a base, subconsciously perceived as precedents and in a way created the impression of being an organic continuation of European culture...”. When in Paris, Tamkó Sirató was pleased to declare that in harmony with his own strivings in poetry the static forms of art were increasingly disintegrating and even the leading sculptors were working on expanding three-dimensionality plus one, in other words to incorporate MOTION.

The formulation of the text of the DIMENSIONIST MANIFESTO, initiated by Tamkó Sirató and his closest colleagues, Delaunay and Domela, was supported by those Avant-garde artists in Paris who propagated the expansion of painting, sculpture and poetry with an extra dimension. Dimensionism did not merely mean the launching of a new artistic movement in its embryonic stage but the creation and introduction of an ARTISTIC LANGUAGE, which had existed and spread for years and had been used simultaneously by numerous artists without them being aware of each other’s works. For this reason, the Dimensionist Manifesto of 1936 was signed by the foremost artist of the period: Arp, Arp, Calder, Delaunay, Duchamp, Kandinski, Picabia, Miró, Moholy-Nagy, etc. Tamkó Sirató’s deteriorating state of health forced him to return to Budapest immediately after the first publication of the manifesto, thus Dimensionism lost its leading figure. Nevertheless, it had two more international editions, which proved its timeliness and its truth about the direction of artistic development.

Tamkó Sirató’s Dimensionist oeuvre remained fragmented and incomplete; he spent his life in loneliness, amidst inner struggle and in illness. This is attested to by some of the poems he wrote at the end of his life and bearing less importance in terms of art history but great biographical significance.

Károly Tamkó Sirató was born in 1905 in Újvidék (Novi Sad). He died in 1980 in Budapest.

Bálint Szombathy

(Published in: Képes Ifjúság [Illustrated Youth Magazine] (Újvidék [Novi Sad]), no. 1542, 9 January 1980. p. 18)

See also - Károly Tamkó Sirató: Rádiogramm [Radiogram] | Poéták keresztje [Cross of Poets] | Kassák Lajos | A beszéd vad-unalma [The wild boredom of speech | Vándor Móka [Itinerant Fun]