GALLERY: L before K - Anachronistic Correspondence

Donnerstag 5. Juni | 20.00 Uhr | Zeise 2

In Keats, this got the pencil: »She showed the visitor a box full of paper, saying it was her manuscript, but the box contained unanswered letters and unpaid bills. That, she explained, was the story of her life.«
-- Frances Stark, ›Professional me‹, November 1999–January 2000
(Collected Writing: 1993-2003, Book Works, 2004, pp. 52-53)

To begin at the end is a strategy that Alan Bass chose for his translator introduction to Jacques Derrida’s iconic text ›The Post Card, From Socrates to Freud and Beyond‹ (1980). Inspired by the spirit of the text he translated; he positioned the acknowledgements before the epigraph subverting what is usually taken as a fixed sequence in publishing. Doing so Bass proposes that each sequence contains within itself the potential of its reversibility, of an anachronistic order of events that allows the now to influence the past, and the older to inherit from the younger.
Packaged in the format of the letter or postcard Derrida’s epistolary text reminds us that a letter even as an anachronism in the age of telecommunications is still one technology amongst others. Following this strategy the selected program of artists film and moving image works, poses the question what would happen if L came before K and explores the potential of disorder in a system that sorts, routs, and administers. The programme attempts to detect an epistolary sensibility in artistic work that goes beyond the physical act of drafting a letter but is much more a general approach to making work in correspondence with oneself, the audience or with other individuals unbound to customary chronologies.

Jacques Derrida declared the letter, »not a genre but all genres, literature itself« (The Post-Card. From Socrates to Freud and Beyond 1980. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987) nevertheless he went along to prophesy that it cannot survive the technological regime of telecommunications. And yet here we are 30 years later and the letter still prevails, it survived partially in its original form, and partially in a transmuted form in the guise of e-mails, skype conversations, sms, and twitter feeds. A hybrid – in a highly expedited and dematerialized form that is often more performed than penned and yet its rudimentary nature is still perceptible behind the curtain of pixels.

This film programme attempts to trace the impact that the development in written, digital and tele-communication has had on art making and sets out to proof the epistolary as one stylistic device amongst others in artist’s production today. It brings together moving images work that addresses the way in which artists deal with sequencing, taking apart preconceived notions of the before and after in favour of a potential for reshuffling, reorganizing and simultaneity. The main themes of this programme stem from a tradition of the epistolary novel of the 18th Century, but are more concerned with where these initial themes took us than their origins. Epistolary strategies such as fragmentation, anachronistic rearrangements, authenticity, the possibility of private uncensored if not confessional and implicating conversations, the unsent letter, the diary and the letter as a found document and physical material, but also as a way to speak with foreign tongues and to address individuals out of reach can be recognized and beyond that correspondence is explored as a form of collaboration and teamwork across geographic and historic boundaries.

Whether fan mail, love letter or diary entry, the work by Jenna Bliss, Cecelia Condit, Keren Cytter, Manon de Boer, Cecile B Evans, Loretta Fahrenholz, Sophie Michael, Richard Sides/Stuart Middleton, and Frances Stark reveals thus that although we are all a little out of letter writing practice an epistolary sensibility prevails in modern forms of communication that carries forward the tradition of the letter writer and beyond shows that letter writing exists as a custom, a stylistic exercise and creative process beyond the act of placing ink on paper.

Curator: Anna Gritz, South London Gallery

Anna Gritz is a writer and curator based in London and Associate Curator for Film, Performance and Talks at the South London Gallery, where she is currently working on forthcoming projects with Jill Magid and Bonnie Camplin.