Xul said of himself: “I am maestro of a writing no one reads yet” and “I am world champion of a game no one knows.” But Jorge Luis Borges, who was influenced by him, said: “Xul took on the task of reforming the universe, of proposing on this earth a different order. For that, among other things, he changed the current numerical system of mathematics to use a duodecimal system, with which he painted his watercolors.” But Xul remained a secret. I remember hearing about him in the 1960s, but never coming across his work. His writings are uncollected even today, and his art didn’t begin to circulate until the 1980s. At one point, I wanted to edit a selection of his work and went to Buenos Aires to visit his old home, now a Xul Museum. Someone showed me to his room and opened the closet for me. I saw his white iridescent tie and his green plastic belt. I could suddenly “hear” him speaking in Pan Criollo and dancing with Lita, his wife:
“Olas, ólitas, vintos, hálitos, réspiras, kinflores, hondónadas, pirmanchas, kingramas, biovacíos, tunzoes: too fon.”
“Waves, wavies, wine-reds, breath-rests, kinflowers, profundiads, firestains, kingrams, biovoids, tongtoes: Too fun.”
Pan Criollo was a language Xul invented from the possibilities of language itself, a creative forerunner of portuñol, a fusion of Portuguese and Spanish, which eventually came to exist in South America. He tried speaking it with everyone; it sounded spontaneous, or not; it was an oral sensibility, a music constructed for the unity of the South, to be achieved through the invention of multivocal vocablos, a pure synthesis of languages.
“Tal que me almúo.”
“So I soulunder.”
His ideas influenced Borges, who derived some of his linguistic theories from Xul, and who in 1924 dedicated “El idioma infinito” to him. But Xul’s first text written in Pan Criollo did not appear until 1927, in the legendary magazine Martín Fierro, to later influence Oliverio Girondo’s En la Masmedula in l954.
When Xul died in l963, only a handful of texts in Pan Criollo had been published. It went silent as a poetic tool. It remains a language disappeared before becoming widespread, a tongue first forgotten then learned, because I have no doubt that in the future (will there be a future? Or will the “de-futuring specialists” steal the future from us, as in Macedonio Fernandez’s fables?) people will speak and write in other linguistic variations or inventions for which Pan Criollo will have been a brotherly foreshadowing.
“Cuando se teocoexaltan se hinchan, xus auras irradian vita–i todo se ferviagranda y san luze.”
“When yur teocoexalts you swell, xur auras radiate vita–and alls fairgrand with Saint Light.”
Xul was born in Buenos Aires on December 14th, l887, to immigrant parents. (His father was German, and his mother Italian.) In 1916 he traveled to Europe and lived in many different cities. He knew Picasso and Modigliani, but kept mainly to himself, generating his own poetic universe. In 1916 he changed his name from Alejandro Schulz Solari to Xul Solar, which could be read as “The Light of the Sun Reversed,” or “Lux from the South,” or “Light from the Other Side.” In l924 he returned to Buenos Aires, the imaginary antipodes of the North, and joined the Southern Avant Garde, gathered around Martín Fierro. There he created his Pan-Klub, in the house where he lived, on calle Laprida 1212, and his work entered the imagination of Borges, Macedonio Fernández, Roberto Arlt, Leopoldo Marechal, Julio Cortázar, and countless young poets later gathered around the magazine Xul in the 1980s.
“Veo hai algunas mui moles pagodas de solo libros, que se incuerpan a xus tantos léctores-qe no leen, masbién vitichupan ciencia y sofia.”
“I see some of my pagoda bulks of books solely, pancluded into yur so many readers-who don’t read, rather sucklifeoutofscienceundwisdom.”
In Buenos Aires, Xul invented yet another language, not just for South America, but for the whole world to speak across dimensions, languages, and forms. This Pan Lingua was a system to communicate and link mathematics, music, astrology and the visual arts in unexpected combinations with untold creative potential. And all his pan-experimentation evolved out of or within a set of “games.”
But his games were not only games. They mobilized other dimensions: “Our patriotism is finding the highest possible ideal of humanity-fulfilling and spreading it all over the world,” he would say, playing the invention of other realities.
Games were the “workshop of languages in the making,” as Macedonio said, the nucleus and matrix of it all, and none was more complex than the Pan Game, a board of non-chess, whose indeterminate rules were simultaneously a group of musical notes, a dictionary for the creation of new languages and a way to ask “What are we playing?”
Xul also created a new kind of piano, with three rows of colored keys, to play a scale of his own invention, and to accompany the music of his paintings, acting as “scripts.” In “Choral Bach,” a watercolor dated from 1950, the notes appear as beings with enormous ears who move along the structures of the organ. His paintings were also texts, or texts/paintings, landing fields, anchors of visions, staircases to climb to the heaven of interconnections, where all gestures and forms alter and play with each other.
Perhaps Xul was el Solo Soloist dreaming his co-echoes. Each one of his works becomes a hologram, where a bit contains the whole, each fragment hinting at the larger universe it recalls. In this innoverse all arts communicate variations of a unique and multiform shape, and configure a panbeldoike, or total aesthetic doctrine, readable from astrological duodecimal mathematics, where each artistic category or phenomenon relates to a number and a sign in the zodiac, like the fragments of a conceptual music where ideas are notes of a universal harmony.
That is, a new co-echo aesthetic of the arts and behavior in a mutual fusion and interpenetration: a different way of speaking and theorizing fusion, imposing an uncertainty that generates new modes of interpretation. It is as if Xul had fast forwarded to a liberated and evolved era, where there are no frontiers or fundamentalisms and where everyone communicates through logic and poetry in a Pan Language of Latin roots and suffixes/prefixes from every language, according to necessity.
Translated in closelaboration (sic transit GCI) with the author