Chapter Four: I Am More
Interested in Content
, 13 – 29 September 2020

Studio Notes

13 September 2020

Dear International Friends & Colleagues:

As many of you know, I stopped doing these mass mailings almost two years ago. However, some of you not present in social media insisted that I should also keep you informed on my projects through this means, so I’ll be now sending one message or two per year with relevant news (please let me know if you rather not receive this).

All the Lives

I am in the final stages of a two-month long research residency in San José, Costa Rica, as part of the X Central American Biennial. Curated by Tamara Díaz Bringas and under the motto All the Lives, this year’s Biennial proposes urgent questions on the subjective, ecological and social conditions needed for a more liveable life. Throughout my residency I have been thinking and making with surfaces as an entry point to a number of those questions. The residency is supported by the Spanish Cultural Centre, San José and is part of the Biennial’s Special Projects.

AIDS Anarchive

A month and a half ago the exhibition AIDS Anarchive presented in Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain, came to an end. It took cultural production around the HIV/AIDS crisis in southern Europe and Latin America as its starting point. The exhibition was the result of a four-year long research and production project as part of my own research collective ’Equipo re’ (together with Nancy Garín and Linda Valdés).

Designed by contemporary artist Carme Nogueira, the exhibition has been reviewed in Concreta, El Estado Mental and Afterall online (forthcoming). The exhibition is part of my ongoing doctoral project at the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, which is supported by a CHASE / AHRC scholarship.

Other news

  • — I wrote a commissioned essay on the late work of Stuart Marshall for the current issue of Afterall journal. The essay considers figurations of touch in Marshall’s queer and HIV/AIDS-related work.

  • — This summer I contributed to the exhibition Hailweed in London, which brings together artists, writers and collectives to investigate notions of dependency and parasitic potential. The project marks the launch of Auto Italia’s new space on Bonner Road, East London.

  • — In early spring, former MACBA-curator Soledad Gutiérrez and I curated the commissioned exhibition The Immeasurable: An Idea of Europe for the new Madrid City Council. The exhibition included works by Ibon Aranberri, Gintaras Didžiapetris, Harun Farocki, Dora García, Chris Marker, and Martha Rosler among others and ran till August 28.

  • — Earlier this year I curated artist Susana Talayero’s mid-career retrospective at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which marked the first exhibition at the museum in more than three decades devoted to a female artist – and only the second in a century. Susana is represented by the gallery CarrerasMugica.

14 September 2020

Dear Sands,

Thank you for organising the results of our exchanges so far and sharing them with Megan; it’s good that you shared everything with her so she gets an idea of the richness of our intimacy.

And thank you for those bits and pieces!

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved the archival tips from Adrian. I wish someone would have given me that advice when I began doing work on archives—what about asking Ikea to sponsor part of your project? Just kidding :)

I love your horse wall at the Rijks! You should do a book compiling every single horse drawing that you have; that’s a book I would like to have. And what is that bottom drawing that brings Artaud, Mugler and Gaultier (?) altogether? Can we discuss fashion in a separate letter? I need to understand better what you mean by the REAL / FASHION split. I do have this love for fashion—the garments, but also that cultural realm called fashion, that was instrumental in shaping my visual taste while growing up and for which I usually need to explain myself to others too much.

My Ron Athey anecdote is not as juicy as yours, but it is proof of how hardcore a fan I can be: when I arrived in London in 2014 I found out that Ron Athey was also living in the city. Athey is one of my art heroes (I’m a basic gay), I had been doing cultural work around HIV / AIDS for a while and I was desperate to meet him. Not that I was interested in meeting him as a case study or anything (my work on cultural responses to AIDS was focussed on Spain and Chile). But I wanted to introduce myself and tell him what I was doing; looking back I think I was looking for validation of what for me was an artistic authority, or a kind of political eldest brother. I am an only child and I have spent my life looking for brothers—homosocial desire we could call it. I was already following him in social media and I saw a post he did announcing his therapeutic bodywork services—as a way of making a living he does structural bodywork which is similar to rolfing, deep and slow work on superficial and deep body tissue. Rolfing is sometimes painful. We made an appointment and I showed up at his house (at the other end of town). Sometimes they say it’s better not to meet your idols, but I’ve always thought that was such a stupid advice. You must always try to meet your idols. I’m not shy but I’m not always very talkative, except when I’m nervous. Certainly that day I was nervous about meeting Ron Athey and when I arrived I immediately discovered myself as a curator doing academic work on HIV and I started to interrogate him about his work, what works did or did not include explicit references to his serostatus, etc. Despite his public image, which can sometimes come as aggressive, and the explicit nature of her work, Athey is one of the sweetest persons in the world, even someone shy I would say. And I think my attitude overwhelmed and even bothered him, which I noticed as soon as I lay down on the table and started the bodywork session. As I said, rolfing can be sometimes a painful process and I think Ron applied extra physical pressure on me simply to make me shut up, which I did :) As I said, his bodywork sessions are a form of income—not entirely detached from his performative practice, but a side job anyways. And sometimes I am not that good at keeping life and work separate, of which this was a case.

In any case, I think he liked me and we met again at some other social events here and there and he was always sweet to me. A year later I even went to the first ever presentation in England of his performance ‘Sebastine’, which was a kind of fundraising event to pay for his return to Los Angeles after six years in London.

Also, I have already downloaded the documentation of your first process event and will have a look at this soon.

Wishing you the best start of the week possible.

aimar

You have my permission to use proto and protofeminism in any way you wish :)

I have now replied to your other longer, bits and pieces mail separately. What a delight!

More intimacy soon.

All the best for the day & the week.—

15 September 2020

Dear Sands,

Yesterday was my first day at my new ‘job’; I am the new (the first) Research Associate at Azkuna Zentroa—the Philippe Starck-designed flashy cultural centre in Bilbao, formerly known as Alhóndiga. This is the institution that in the past has hosted retrospective exhibitions of Guerrilla Girls, Judy Chicago and Margaret Harrison (when Xabier Arakistain was involved). My studio is in the production area of the centre and practically I am its first occupant. It’s a very nice office, perhaps still too new and pristine. So today I brought some things from home to personalise the space, including the poster of your Munich exhibition and a photo print of your perfume collection that you sent me (pictures attached)

The institution has a new director who invited me to join his programme. I was initially invited to develop a two-year programme around ‘queer art’—although between the lines I always felt that the expectation was to address the relationship between queer theory and art, yet again. At the time of receiving the invitation, a year ago, I had just finished my thesis and didn’t want to have anything to do with theory in any way :) What I really wanted, and still want, is to talk to artists about aesthetics and a desire for form from a queer perspective, whatever that means. The project will take form in four conversations with artists per year published digitally—not unlike our process event—and a related ephemeral production at each artist’s proposal.

Do you ever think of ‘form’? I thought about form, about queer form when you described to me the way in which your perfume collection became a sculpture. For me that’s a good example of how a form, or a queer desire for form can be something that is not necessarily, always linked to an intention.

I would like to get you involved and I’m already thinking of ways to do it.

More on this soon.
Best,
aimar

Poster and printed photographs sent by Sands to Aimar installed in the very white walls of the latter’s new office, as Research Associate in Azkuna Zentroa Cultural Center, Bilbao
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Poster and printed photographs sent by Sands to Aimar installed in the very white walls of the latter’s new office, as Research Associate in Azkuna Zentroa Cultural Center, Bilbao
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Poster and printed photographs sent by Sands to Aimar installed in the very white walls of the latter’s new office, as Research Associate in Azkuna Zentroa Cultural Center, Bilbao
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Poster and printed photographs sent by Sands to Aimar installed in the very white walls of the latter’s new office, as Research Associate in Azkuna Zentroa Cultural Center, Bilbao.

19 September 2020

Weekend / Saturday lifesign Xx

finally a bit more caught up and caught breath……

i expect to get to all these delicious back and forth emails at the beginning of next week at the latest (mon. tues.)

i am struggling with a decision to vote in the next presidential election of the usa, i have to file taxes for the first time ever (eritrea and the usa are the only two countries in the world where if you have a passport and earn over a certain amount you need to file) and i am late and frankly a bit scared of the process. i am a bit paranoid that if i register to vote, which is a complicated process overseas as is and last time the overseas ballots didn’t appear to be counted, i am afraid the internal revenue service will come after me and i am already pretty ’impecunious’ (nice word imo)…

just a bit of life management background. i feel so traumatized by my past and in between cultures that these things are like spider webs of misery on misery layers

my parents still live in topeka, kansas and i want a ‘good’ or ‘better’ alternative president for them. will see what to do as the deadline approaches…

so more soon you two!

have a loverly weekend i will get it together somehow!

have started reading ‘shy radicals’ by hamja ahsan and i find it really interesting actually, although it seems a lot about pop culture and in that way quite political in a mass way…

28 September 2020

Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
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Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
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Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
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Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
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Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.
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Scans of materials sent by Sands to Aimar in September. The background shows a fringed scarf from Aimar signaling the potentiality of loose ends.

29 September 2020

Dear Aimar!

I have been obsessing about perfume (‘Poivre’ by Caron to be exact) and was up into the early hours of the late night last night just maniacally staring at my computer screen doing research online as to how to manage financially to purchase it, etc. Lots of eBay time etc.

BUT I managed to write you this attached and put it together yesterday. I hope you enjoy its extreme disjointedness!

You are on my mind a lot. Please if I have forgotten to address anything in particular in depth please let me know and I will.

Still chewing on your physical letter with gift comb. The way women have helped us as males see the world and have hope in it.

More as we can. Hope all is well. Amsterdam is a hot spot for corona cases so it’s feared another lockdown is in order. We’ll see…

Big corona-proof hug,

xSands

Hannah Wilke, ‘What does this represent… ? What do you represent… ? (Pink)’ (1978), vintage hand-tinted photograph on board, 117 x 79 cm, framed.
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Hannah Wilke, ‘What does this represent… ? What do you represent… ? (Pink)’ (1978), vintage hand-tinted photograph on board, 117 x 79 cm, framed.

Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter from Sands to Aimar, 29 September 2020
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Letter sent from Sands to Aimar as email attachment on 29 September 2020. Correspondence includes links to: Fragrantica listing of Poivre perfume by Caron; Dennis Cooper’s “Odor” blogpost with clip of Sands’ 2013 perfume performance; YouTube video for Hannah Wilke’s Stand Up; and Electronic Art Intermix’s listing for Ellen Cantor’s Pinochet Porn.