Frog-Pond-Plop: The Yoga of Concrete at Norwich University's College of the Arts

By Richard Moss | 28 September 2010
a drawing consisting of a grid pattern of boxes
The five buddhas & the womb of the tathagatas (1967)
Exhibition: Frog-Pond-Plop, the Yoga of Concrete, Norwich University College of the Arts, Norwich, until October 16 2011.

Like many of the concrete poets, Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924-1992) is an intriguing character. Guernsey-born and Oxford-educated, he served with British Army Intelligence between 1944 and 1947 before entering the Benedictine Prinkash Abbey in 1949, where he was eventually ordained a priest in 1959.

But far from retreating into the quiet of the cloisters, Houédard cultivated a lively career as a noted theologian with a particular interest in Eastern religions and philosophies. This brought him into contact with many of the poets, artists and philosophers of the 1960s, including Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs.

His most esoteric achievement was perhaps as a proponent and theorist of the concrete poetry movement, in which the visual and typographical arrangement of the words on the page became just as important as the words themselves.

Houédard's visual poems appeared in pamphlets throughout the 1960s, and his most famous concrete poem was Frog-Pond-Plop, a visual rendering of a Zen haiku by Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. It was a perfect knit of his two great loves – concrete poetry and Eastern religions. 

Both provide the jumping off point for Frog-Pond-Plop: the Yoga of Concrete, an exhibition at Norwich University College of the Arts which, as well as including visual representations of Houédard's work, incorporates a number of concrete-inspired live performances that are being filmed and then displayed within the exhibition.

It also explores his collaborations with other artists interested in Eastern religions – particularly the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition.

The show has been curated by NUCA student Nicola Simpson, who explains: "Houédard found within Eastern philosophy a paradigm for questioning the process of coming into form, being and no-thing-ness, form and emptiness, the non and the non-non."

Coinciding with the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery's The Art of Faith exhibition and a host of faith-based cultural events at The Norwich Anglican Cathedral, Cinema City and the UEA, Simpson will be incorporating the exhibition into her doctoral research.

For more information see the NUCA website
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