Dipping in and out of a slow-time conversation between an artist and curator. To be read, whether chronologically or not, in an intimate space during moments alone. (MH)
Starting Relationships in Pandemic Times
This, in truth, is a conversation largely, though not exclusively, carried out via emails that began on 10 June 2020. As we considered how we could continue working on Sands Murray-Wassink’s ambitious durational project Gift Science Archive, the looming realities of restricted travel and gathering weighed heavy in our minds. Crucial to Murray-Wassink and his collaborators’ performance of archiving / auto-archived performance is dialogue—indeed, the messy relationality of intrapersonal exchange is an organising principle for ‘the archive’ of Gift Science Archive.
Following “Process Event #1: VALUE. What is trash? What is trashy but valuable?” on 6 March 2020 (just one week before the lockdown in The Netherlands began), we were keen to start thinking toward a second process event that would highlight another keyword in the project and in Murray-Wassink’s practice more broadly: relationships. But this second process event went on hold along with everything else, first for a month, then for two and, in the end, for 81 days. From this nearly three months of lockdown grew the idea for an epistolary exchange, which was initiated by an invitation to Bilbao-based curator Aimar Arriola with whom If I Can’t Dance had previously worked in the frame of the 2008–2010 Edition III — Masquerade. The invitation read:
Given your work on projects like the AIDS anarchive, as well as your numerous other curatorial and writing initiatives around queer visibility politics, we couldn’t think of a better person to invite for a conversation on the performance(s) of archiving.
The event we initially had in mind was an in-person conversation that would have been held in the Rijksakademie studio/archive depot here in Amsterdam where Sands and I have been developing the project together with two other collaborators (Radna Rumping who is working with Sands on a meta-archive that documents the archiving process, and Amalia Calderón who is performing the roles of archivist and researcher in the archive as she inventories and reflects upon the materials uncovered). Such an event no longer seems possible or desirable at this historical juncture, and yet a conversation between you and Sands on these topics feels just as resonant as ever. With that in mind, we want to invite you to a conversation that would take place in a different spatial and temporal frame. What we have in mind is a dialogue that unfolds over the summer (stretching roughly from the end of June through the September) via emails and/or written letters in which you and Sands can share elements of your practices and address orienting questions on the above-cited themes (as a “moderator” of sorts, I could provide a few prompts to begin).
This exchange would begin in late June with a letter from Sands, which he is developing as part of a mail art project with Foundation Perdu, a poetry bookshop and theatre space that has long been at the center of Amsterdam’s experimental arts scene. Sands’ letter would be a first introduction to his practice, and, we hope, could prompt some first responses from you. I must emphasize that this format is an experiment in event programming, as well as in feeling our way through other forms of intimacy. We at If I Can’t Dance are very eager to begin thinking how intimacy unfolds in different spaces and along different timelines; in particular, in the era of the coronavirus when so much of our lives seem to be moving so quickly online, we are keen to think together with our artist commissions and others in the arts how digital space might be a tool to slow things down rather than speed them up.
Arriola graciously accepted. Another month or so passed. In late June Murray-Wassink’s Perdu letter went out. About one week later the conversation began. With time, the exchange has taken on the sub-title “Feminist Legacies, Queer Intimacies” These four keywords—feminist, legacies, queer, intimacies—are guiding terms that hold different resonance for Aimar and Sands. If for Sands ‘queer’ is a stumbling block, for Aimar intimacies is more difficult: How does queer mean? What does it have to do with sexuality? With sexual orientation? What is intimate but not necessarily private? What is intimacy without sexual contact? What would collective intimacy feel like? Such questions do not necessarily surface in the letters directly. Like a lot of the feelings or life questions that drive our calls and responses to one another, they appear between the commas and in other pauses of the breath. (MH)