Distribution Automatique

Sunday, February 8

from *The King of Time*
Velimir Khlebnikov
translated b Paul Schmidt
Harvard UP, 1985

"To The Artists of the World
A Written Language for Planet Earth
A Common System of Hieroglyphs
for the People of Our Planet

We have long been searching for a program that would act
something like a lens, capable of focusing the combined rays of
the work of the artist and the work of the thinker toward a
single point where they might join in a common task and been able
to ignite even the cold essence of ice and turn it to a blazing
bonfire. Such a program, the lens capable of directing together
your fiery courage and the cold intellect of the thinker, has now
been discovered.

The goal is to create a common language shared by
all the peoples of this third satellite of the Sun, to invent written
symbols that can be understood and accepted by our entire star,
populated as it is with human beings and lost here in the universe.
You can see that such a task is worthy of the time we live in.
Painting has always used a language accessible to everyone. And the
Chinese and Japanese peoples speak hundreds of different languages,
but they read and write in one single language. Languages have
betrayed their glorious beginnings. There was once a time when words
served to dispel enmity and make the future transparent and peaceful,
and when languages, proceeding in stages, united the people of
(1) the cave, (2) a settlement, (3), a tribe or kinship group, (4), a state,
into a single rational world, a union of those who shared one
single auditory instrument for the exchange of values and ideas. One
savage caveman understood another and laid his blind weapons aside.
Nowadays sounds have abandoned their past functions and serve
the purposes of hostility; they have become differentiated auditory
instruments for the exchange of rational wares; they have divided
multilingual mankind into different camps involved in tariff wars, into
a series of verbal marketplaces beyond whose confines any given
language loses currency. Every system of auditory currency claims
supremacy, and so languages as such serve to disunite mankind
and wage spectral wars. Let us hope that one single written language
may henceforth accompany the longterm destinies of mankind and
prove to be the new vortex that unites us, the new integrator
of the human race. Mute graphic marks will reconcile the cacaphony
of languages.

To the artist who work with ideas falls the task of creating
an alphabet of concepts, a system of basic units of thought
from which words may be constructed.

The task of artists who work with paint is to provide graphic
symbols for the basic units of our mental processes.

We have now accomplished that part of that labor which
was the thinkers' task, we stand now on the first landing
of the staircase of thinkers, and we find there the artists
of China and Japan, who were already ahead of us, and our
greetings to them!..."