Industrial Poetry




Hertz Tower – a landmark of My Private Alphaville! (Photography by Peter Carstens…Danke!) – – – Here’s a little poetry for you. It is based on Marcel Duchamp’s idea of the readymade as well as on the Dada movement’s concept of the objet trouvé. Found art gains significance from the designation assigned to it by the artist. The objet trouvé was one of the mainstays of Dada artistry, alongside with other heuristic inventions, such as the readymade, the collage, the cadavre exquis, and automatic writing.

Basically, these poems consist of CTFA declarations I found on cosmetics. Well – they are CTFA declarations, you know. Ingredients. CTFA – that’s the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. Here you have a striking sample of the Real in Lacan’s theory – by now you should hopefully know what I’m talking about, if not, go back to The Blank Space of Reality, Part ThreeNow! ( Take those CTFA declarations as an attempt to inscribe the intangible Real into symbolic order via scientific terminology. Which I feel is just beautiful. Scientists know it’s impossible to make any statements about the true nature of reality. About what reality is… About what the hell is going on. Their job is to describe nature and to find possible approximations towards the true nature of reality. Which can be found in – chemical terms.

These terms denote things that smell good.

Things which are meant to deodorize.

Or to cleanse.

You may not think it’s poetry – but once you’ve broken a piece of prose into line and verse, anything written may pose as poetry.

Even your bank account.

For some, this might well be the ultimate form of poetry.

Chemical terminology is very sensuous and fragrant.

It is derived from Greek and Latin roots mostly.

But we ought not be bothered with meaning and content.

Here it is looks and sound that count.

So read and enjoy.

Let the fragile beauty of a word like dimethicone work its magic on you.

Let the mysterious power of etidronic acid unfold its subtle effects on your subconscious.

After reading my poems, I swear you’ll look with different eyes at those words in small print on the back of your bottle of shampoo.

A tube of toothpaste will never be the same again for you.

You see, a little shift in perception is all that’s needed, a little fine-tuning…

To raise awareness to another level.

To discover art where before there was only technical specifications.

To find emotion where before there was only… engineering? (I give you a little blank space here…)















It’s just a matter of selective perception.

You all know that.

To find mystery, magic, even transcendence in everyday objects, you just have to pretend you know what you’re looking for – and instantaneously forget it.

That way you are bound to succeed.

Just like this cute li’ l mutant feller…


Peter Bies – Mutant mit Herz, 2081 (540 x 540 cm)

And here’s – the poetrah…!

Head and Shoulders








Sodium Lauryl Sulfate,




Cocamide MEA,




Zinc Pyrithione,




Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol,




Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Sodium Diethylenetriamine Pentaethylene Phosphonate,




Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide,




Benzyl Alcohol, Etidronic Acid,




Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde,




Limonene, Citronellol, Sodium Polynaphtalenesulfonate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, DMDM Hydantoin, Disodium EDTA








Here’s a short one:







PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil,





Stannous Fluoride,


Sodium Saccharin,


Cl 42051.

What do you think? What do you make of this?




11 thoughts on “Industrial Poetry

  1. There is definitely the sound of poetry here! Since the words are reasonably meaningless to me, I only “hear” music.

    I wonder what a chemist would think about it?

    I was at a show years ago of a satirist named Paul Zaloom who did a monologue of food additives. He took everything he said directly from the product information written by the manufacturers. It was hilarious and very scary at the same time. Because you said that the words in your poems are ingredients of shampoo, toothpaste etc., this makes it a bit scary too.

  2. I have often wondered why someone pays six, or nine, dollars for shampoo, when I buy mine for a dollar

    I have often wondered what conditioner is for

    I have sometimes wondered if shampoo causes one to lose one’s hair

    these poems help me in pondering these problems

  3. As my friend Cesare Musatti said, “Lacan was much better than the Lacanians”… It is sooo easy to find the concept of the REAL fascinating: one cannot describe, one cannot define it! But to be onest, Lacan did not intend it to be defined. The Real is just part of the triad IMAGINERY-SYMBOLIC-REAL. If you isolate one of those three, according to Lacan, the whole rest looses its coherence. So what we have to do is to comprehend the whole triad.
    I think Peter’s way to achieve this is a quite realistic 😉 manner. I really like your subtle irony!

  4. Thank you all for your comments!

    @Marylin: I’m not surprised that Paul Zaloom and I had the same idea. And we won’t be the last ones. Reading it out loud must be even better than reading the stuff! I’ll try it out…

    Zigmund – Your reply is a much better poem than MERIDOL…

    @Siri: Hey! I’m dead serious!
    Nothing ironic about it!

    What you said about the Lacanian triad though is true.
    Although it draws much criticism.
    Judith Butler argue that if we say the Real is that which cannot be inscribed into symbolic order – we’re doing it all the same.
    Symbolizing the Real.
    Maybe all art is the attempt to achieve what is -according to Lacan- impossible – to incorporate the Real into symbolic order…
    (Check out the link if you like – a short account of my recent encounter with the ideas of Lacan and Zizek…)

  5. Hey Peter,
    really beautifull!
    Thanks for bringing up so many levels of awareness to the surface.

    What sentence really made me think again is: “… you just have to pretend you know what you’re looking for – and instantaneously forget it.
    That way you are bound to succeed.”
    I need more time to realise which string this is touching in me.

    Funny, after your introduction the chemical therms became mostly artists names for me:
    “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate”, “Stannous Fluoride”, “48073” – oops, that one really exists…

    What do I make of this?
    In my next life I´ll take: Zinc Pyrithione – wouldn´t that be cool?
    “Ey, Zinc, what ya working on, man? …”
    “Pyrithione is rightly famous for trancending the boundaries between engineering and emotions …”

  6. love it , sometimes we are the victims of chemistry, and now it has a different appeal more sensual.apart from the sound the visual impact reminds of cubist poetry

  7. Thanks Jochen!
    The forget it bit… very zen-like, isn’t it?

    Actually I’m not quite sure any longer if you have to forget that you know what you’re looking for – or if you have to forget to pretend to know…
    How does it work best for you?

    Artists names… hmm… why not…?

  8. Bravo, I’m glad you broke it out into poetry. It would have been easy to essay it all the way. The true mastery of objet trouve is only appreciated by artists, the general public never seems to quite understand. I have a houseful of the found that only I seem to love and a dog and a woman and a friend and lithium carbonate for each.

  9. Thanks Giulio – you’re right, it is reminiscent of cubist poetry or poésie concrete.

    Thanks Michael – It’s true, sometimes the whole concept appears to be so absurd, if not downright ridiculous.

    I’m glad you like it!

  10. Peter what a beautiful insight you have brought to our minds, no wonder so many people are losing there natural ability to shine.

    All these chemicals must be having an impact on the way we are all evolving.

    Beautiful work, I just hope it gets to the brains of others who can think about it all.x


  11. Dawn – you’re highlighting the eco-spiritual aspect.
    I didn’t have that in my mind when I wrote it, but now that you mention it…
    Thank you!

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