These are letters to unknown—though dear—readers, present and future ones.
They began in late March 2020. Like so many other institutions (in the arts and otherwise), we sent out a newsletter notifying that our office would be temporarily closed. Like everyone else, we had no idea what would happen next with COVID-19, nor did we know what effects the pandemic would have on our institution or on members of our team. The following month, in April 2020, we decided to lean into the uncertainty and anxiety, not with predictions but with reflections, ruminations, queries and concerns. Since then, the letters have evolved, but a few elements have remained at their core: we continue to open with ruminations on the current situation; we continue to share readings—parts of our research practice that we want to share (or, in some cases, re-share); and we continue to look at the work of the artists and researchers, with which we are currently engaged as part of our Edition VIII – Ritual and Display programme.
Only sometime in July, just before leaving for our holiday breaks, did we realize that these texts were not so much “newsletters” as they were something between the space of a field report and the space of notetaking. In their intimate tone, yes, they are letters. They are a space where we hold ourselves in the uncertainty, and, reciprocally, a space where we let the uncertainty hold us. In them, we bear witness to our historicity and to the complexities surrounding us—personally, as bodies living in a certain city at a certain moment; institutionally, as an arts organization devoted to the exploration of performance and performativity; and geopolitically, as raced, classed and gendered subject-citizens in the arts sector in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, in the European Union. Allowing ourselves the time and space to think and feel these various levels of experience together has felt important to continue, both psychologically and curatorially.
Since March, thus, the letters have continued with a monthly rhythm, and they will do so until it feels right to stop. With each passing month our thinking and our feeling changes. The pandemic remains. Global movements and local organizing continue to develop. Our work at If I Can’t Dance continues to develop. The world keeps moving, as it always does, and we continue writing letters, as we do our best to keep moving with it. (MH)