On Experiencing: Urban Poet Robert Montgomery

When I talk to people about my experience in Portugal for the DISQUIET Literary Program during the summer of 2016, one of the first things I’m asked is: “Why Portugal? Couldn’t you go somewhere closer for a two-week workshop and save a lot of money?” The answer to the second question is yes. Of course I could go to hundreds of workshops for less money. For me, the best part about DISQUIET wasn’t even the workshops (though they were pretty great); it was the city of Lisbon.

Within one mile of the Centro Nacional de Cultura (CNC), the main DISQUIET “headquarters” for the running program, stood multiple statues of poets. Poets. In the United States, if we decide to erect a statue of a historical figure, it’s probably a war hero. Maybe a civil right’s activist like Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s never of an artist, though.

As you enter Portugal through the Lisbon airport, the walls are lined with images and poetry created by local artists. Within the city limits, a stylized face of Fernando Pessoa, debatably one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language, gazes out from food kiosks within the cement confines of the metro station. Even the graffiti is more artistic than what is typically seen in the United States.

Robert Montgomery’s billboards remind me of Lisbon in the context of bringing art into the real world. His artworks are located in the locality of the city, side by side with advertisements. Like Susan Philipsz’s Surround Me, urbanites are urged into participation with the art, although, in the case of Montgomery, participation is not forced upon participants, as they are capable of walking past without recognizing.

Talking about his art, Montgomery states that “it’s touching real people and it really works out there in the world and not just in this … microcosm of art, which matters to me quite a lot” (2:44). Instead of being locked inside the confines of a museum, shrouded in mystery and sitting alongside “Art,” Montgomery’s works are out in the world, accessible to (almost) all.

Crane.tv. (2012 March 12).  Urban poet Robert Montgomery. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6toOuIOGtAQ Robert Montgomery. Retrieved from http://www.robertmontgomery.org/new-gallery/hlltwglwt2au4gtsho09mz2afejeee Advertisements Share this:
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