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Produced with Arie Altena


dear A,

i guess i have to write this assuming you received a letter from Dublin, though the bastards didn't put that on the franked postmark, right? if you haven't received a letter, you'll have no idea what i'm talking about here. in that case, a scan of the full letter can also be found on the DS True Mirror website (http://www.sinisterdexter.org/) here:

http://www.sinisterdexter.org/MEDIA/PDF/OpenLetter.pdf

basically, that letter is a kind of further-to-what-we-were-emailing-about, but also not. by which i mean, our True Mirror project for the Whitney Biennial has nothing directly to do with your writing the magazine article about Joyce's reference to Dublin as doublin', but everything to do with it indirectly. both are concerned with mirrors, shadows, gaps, parallels as points of departures and metaphors.

why is this so difficult to explain? all i'm trying to say is i'd love you to contribute something to this Whitney project.

ok.

and after all that, just to say that the Whitney letter was sent to a small list of people, all of whom have some connection through their work to what we're thinking about. the letter is intended as a starting point for a discussion as to what and how you might contribute (if interested and able). i'm sure a lot needs clarifying or elucidating, and if you respond with interest we could start that procedure. as yet, from the frame of the word "press release" anything is possible.

best,
Dexter Sinister

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Dexter,

yes, the letter of invitation arrived in the post a few days ago. i'll pick up in the next few days, and see if doublin' up a shadow piece on Joyce might intersect with a strange double of a press release...

as for press releases, writing, journalism, in general... i see what you mean & for a larger part i agree. i have been guilty in a sense of much of what you say too. it's how the "writing" & journalism industry is organized nowadays, and how it is necessarily organized around selling the writing (be it at one remove -- the paying magazine acting as a contractor, which is good, as it can also ensure a larger independent-ness/disinterestedness of the writer. this is the classic model, of course.) a writer is hired and does his/her job as well as possible. i think this is basically okay and i think most writers/journalists try to do their job well. they at least try to write well. but time is short, especially thinking-time. what we miss in the "fast media" is time to reflect. what i miss personally is time to look much harder, read harder, think harder. (it does not always pay off, of course.) my intention in writing is never to make people go to see/hear/read something as it is to see/hear/read better. and i am afraid i often do a bad job at that -- as a hired writer with a deadline. but then, i'm still learning to write.

i have also written press releases and descriptions of art works for catalogues (you know the genre). i must say that i enjoy doing it, because it has taught me a lot about writing -- how to make sentences work, how to try to put as much information as possible in a sentence and still be clear, how to not state the same twice, or even three times. i also see how these texts stage the interpretation given in a lot of quick reviews (not in all cases -- not at all. the situation is not that bad). but it is funny to see how these things function...

in a sense i find it fascinating to see how certain bits of texts are circulated, rewritten, keep on coming back: the description of a work of art given by an artist (asked by a despairing curator, who needs text tomorrow, no today, for the PR-person to advertise the show); the bits of text stating the aim of a show, or festival, or the description of a festival theme (worked out over a long time, written for the first time for a subsidy request, re-used for publicity, for a press-release, as an introduction to a night of discussions -- such texts evolve over time and are re-used again by the reviewer who states what a show might be about &c.)

btw: there is no "world" that searches so hard again and again for the "new" as the world of contemporary art. it is worse -- much worse even -- than in the world of pop music. i have never understood that. 95% of what is "new" for one person (or world) is old hat for a much larger group. especially as the world of culture and art evolves slowly; certainly now. it is much more interesting to see how "culture"/art evolves in practice, in all these different pockets of the world (and I mean "world" in a geographical sense rather than, let's say, a "group").

enough for now, for a moment.

well, i'll just dispatch this, not even looking again at what i wrote, hoping it makes sense...

A

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hello A,

sorry i'm only getting around now to responding... though even as i'm writing that i'm thinking "why am i apologising for the slowness i'm supposedly promoting?"

since when has 3 days been slow?

anyway,

i wasn't expecting such an involved response. i'm setting aside the weekend to reply to most Whitney responses in more detail, but i just wanted to say there is a hell of a lot in your mail to build on, and whether this is tied up with Joyce at all is completely open (maybe only by implication or influence). but from dealing with your own role and conflicting feelings, through the idea of deconstructing the press release genre (and not in a necessarily negative way, which would be what 99% of writers would do, i guess; Bank's press release project from the 1990s is a great example), through to your not rereading your mail before sending (something very nice there)... the logic of free and easy email conversation, where you can happily convince yourself you're not writing anything fixed or important, and so go on to write something fixed and important. all seem potentially ripe for development. and i think the shortform nature of the project -- in terms of the compressed time and space of a press release -- lends itself to much of what you're thinking about.

so sunday i guess, but very promising.

best,
DS

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A,

any further thoughts (i'm doing this to everyone involved)? -- just to be clear, and to maintain a sense of momentum, there's a nominal deadline of march 4th, which is the day we move into the room at the Armory building, but then it's fluid for the following 3 weeks. we're not intending to have a bank of pre-written contributions at the beginning. in fact, the idea is to start from zero, but it's probably a good idea to have some idea of how things might be progressing, not least in order for us and you to start considering together what the nature of the form and channel of distribution might be...

DS

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DS,

your mails are on top of my reply-to-list... waiting for a chance to get back to all the musings on writing & editing & the economies of writing.

A

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A,

in retrospect i don't have much to add to the comment i made last week, i.e. that there seems to be a lot to build on in your whole response. but i'll try and name them in case it help or triggers something:

1. THE ECONOMY OF INTEREST/DISINTEREST -- how the concrete job (being paid to be interested) enables the abstract musing (in what you're actually interested in), or at last ways in which they do and don't intersect. again, i like the idea of writing about something that would usually be seen as, i guess, negative (at its most extreme/melodramatic form: prostitution) from a positive, progressive viewpoint. as usual i'll resort to relating this to The Fall, meaning the band: i always enjoyed Mark E. Smith talking about the group as if it were any other community of workers, by which i suppose i mean manual laborers, and specifically about how he, being the boss, had "mouths to feed". "it's that kind of industry...", he says, i.e. anything but the fantasy the pop group is supposed to represent. i admire that kind of revealing contrariness -- taking the deliberately opposite opinion to the one expected; the practical polemicist.

2. TIME TO LOOK/THINK/READ HARDER -- this reminds me of a line i loved in a piece Ryan Gander first showed at the Stedelijk Museum last year, called THE LAST WORK. as he's musing, recording (it seems to me) the exact speed of thinking while drifting from his studio to his home in east London, he dwells on the idea of taking a sabbatical, taking time off, and how people are very suspicious of it. he ends this part with the thought that "... but just because you're not producing, doesn't mean you're not working. if you're a certain kind of person you're always working, even if the working is just thinking." i'm paraphrasing wildly, i guess, and in retrospect it seems very simple, but it has the ring of an infrequently acknowledged truth.

3. STILL LEARNING TO WRITE, AND THE IDEA THAT YOU ALWAYS ARE -- i can't get out of my head at the moment the beginning/end/continuum of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, how sublime that first/last looping word "riverrun" is, connecting the end back to the start seamlessly, without a full stop. writing as constant practice: i feel very close to this at the moment; not myself (i wish) but through being involved in publishing some works by a forgotten english writer called E.C. Large. he's a model of the practising, constitutional sunday writer -- writing because he HAD TO, to stay sane, in the guise of a hobby. you can almost feel him limbering up to write the 4 books he eventually produced, and that limbering has its own particular quality. this also reminds me of a report on the 1966 English world cup game by another largely forgotten British writer, B.S. Johnson, which is an incredible slow-motion account of the game -- razor-sharp, economical -- but then also only special if you read it through knowing him as a writer. and then VERY special. which is how a lot of art works too, of course. by which i mean Ryan's line wouldn't have meant anything to me, for better or worse, if i didn't know him. that's a very tricky thing to deal with, that kind of positive incest. there's something interesting here about that taboo of writing about friends in art, how that plays out in certain structures, and how it both helps and gets in the way.

4. THE CIRCULATION OF TEXTS -- even the brief experience of the few bits we've had to write for the catalogues, programs and wall captions at the Whitney is very telling. we've been trying to USE them a lot, more consciously than we might normally. for example, we've been inserting things into descriptions and statements that would appear to be editorial or subeditorial oversights -- deliberately repeating lines, or suggesting or totally rewriting supposedly objective descriptions of ourselves. your paragraph that starts "In a sense I find it fascinating to see how certain bits of texts are circulated, rewritten, keep on coming back..." -- this is exACTly what we're interested in exploring.

5. NEWNESS -- i also keep coming back to Nabokov's line about "reality" being the only word that should always be set in quotation marks. since we started this project we've thought of a few more: "seeing", for example..., and as you point out, "new".

we could carry on like this, perhaps.

DS

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DS,

i know, i know, this will be too late. you've been sending me mails, tiptoe-ing, reminding me of a text to be written, promised earlier. my inbox is my to-do-list and this weekend it contains four e-mails from sender "Dexter Sinister".

is it that we always overestimate the time we'll have in the future? i certainly seem to. or is it rather that we undersestimate how much attention and concentration the task will need? looking back, i always think: but i MUST have had the hours to do it. maybe i did have the hours, but i did not have the time to think, to give attention. "i need more time" might signify: "i need more hours in a day". it might also signify: "i need more concentration, undisturbed moments, more flow, more getting caught up in the flow of things, more attention". more time to reflect. and i think "time to reflect" and "attention" are not measured in hours-of-work.

time and money -- they are always on the mind of a writer. Joyce's letters are filled with money-matters, not with musings on literature. Samuel Delany states somewhere in one of his essays in ABOUT WRITING that novels are always about money. i don't want money. i need "time". but this is about money too; it always is. i am lucky to have a decent job that pays the rent. i don't have to worry too much. but the jobs take time, and i have hobbies that take time, (i need cycling trips to stay sane...), living with someone takes time. priorities, you say... you have to set priorities. but i'd like to do it all. i have to cut back somewhere, and THAT is about money...

but we were going to talk about writing, not about time and money. we were going to talk about how texts travel through different media and contexts, how they are used and re-used, edited, re-written, translated, transformed.

some text-work is "just work", it's "labour" -- i don't intend anything negative with that. when you organize a show, or a festival, you need text. in the first place to make clear to yourself, and then also to others with whom you are working, what you are up to. then you need text to convince others to collaborate, a means of presenting to your "boss", your colleagues, and the institutions that will hopefully give you money. and then, you need text for the first publicity and text to invite other artists and lecturers. as you approach the event, you need more text for publicity, but also for critics and journalists that you hope will visit, will interview the artists and lecturers that you've invited with your text, and of course you need text for the exhibition -- descriptions of the art, of what's going to happen around it. although all these texts are just one part of the process of organizing an event (other people talk on phones, face-to-face, so many informal e-mails going back and forth), and i find it fascinating to see how bits of sentences travel through that whole process.

writing a press release is really something other than developing, in text, the content for an event. of course, you say. writing the press release partly consists in ransacking the texts already written -- for those good sentences, to repurpose them, rewriting them, refining them, as you go along. and so it happens that the first press release text turns out to be better than the previous texts, and is then used for the e-mails, for stating the theme of the event, becomes the text for the website. it might be re-used and rewritten again for a late or later subsidy request, improved again, maybe extended a bit for that purpose and that text then is used again for later press releases, slightly rewritten, shortened. this is the economy of texts. and once the publicity takes off a bit, you see your texts turning up in different contexts: blogs and magazines refer to it, put it in their agendas, etc. etc.

what i was getting at was this: the labour of writing and editing such texts DOES take time, it DOES take working hours. it is labour that can be done when one is tired too. it can be done at the last instance before the deadline: a last check, a last correction, a few last re-phrasings.

an e-mail like this one, on the other hand, needs a different type of attention. it needs (in my case) a feeling of F L O W (being caught up in a stream of ideas, you have an idea of what you'd like to say, and you give it shape with every sentence, and out of the improvisation a structure is built). (well, hopefully.) I cannot "just do it" (though once i sit down to do it, it feels like i could've done it at any time). it needs to be there in my head for days, slowly ticking away in the back of my head, taking shape even while i'm not thinking about it. attention, not hours. TIME, not time.

regarding the problem of friendship, this is a difficult field. not so much for the "incest"-thing. generally you or i wouldn't push friends' work without being 100% convinced by it, but because knowing the author/artist of a work makes you see so much more -- where it comes from, what it's connected to. you tend to fill in the significant gaps with information known from the friendship. that makes it more subjective too -- and so difficult to assess the quality. but if the work is truly good, i think, anyone else can fill in the significant gaps and, well, have a worthwhile experience/thought/emotion.

what i find troublesome to deal with is the call for the "new" and the "newest", "latest". where critics and organizers almost become the prophets of what will come after. i was once on a panel about art and biotechology when someone in the audience interrogated me critically for failing to come up with a prediction of the next thing in contemporary art. as if that's what i would obviously be interested in. as if art is this progression from "the comeback of conceptual art, via the new blossoming of painting, towards locative art, and then after that, biotech art, and then, yes, then what? can you please predict? (these things are important for the art market: "how will such and so be doing in 2 years time, is it a good way of making my money work.") ("well, a good way of making your money "work" is making sure that art is to be made, put your money in organizing concerts, give funds to artists, et cetera.") (ah, money again.) of course, you try to be topical, organizing something (a festival, an exhibition), you set a context for the now (and the future) and you rewrite the past. of course you can hit exactly the right note, and you can equally hit the wrong note too. and of course things change, and for instance painting nowadays (however interesting) simply does not bear the same cultural weight it had, say, a hundred years ago, and 200 years ago there was no biotechnological art (though there was art that reflected on the progression in science). back to "new": what I CAN deal with is the Poundian "MAKE IT NEW", without the call for the newest and the latest, which is something else altogether.

"we could carry on like this perhaps."

sure.

all the best,

A

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DEXTER SINISTER WILL OCCUPY THE COMMANDER'S ROOM AT THE 7TH REGIMENT ARMORY EVERY DAY FROM 4 MARCH TO 23 MARCH 2008 RELEASING A SERIES OF PARALLEL TEXTS THROUGH MULTIPLE CHANNELS OF DISTRIBUTION WHICH REFLECT ON THE 2008 WHITNEY BIENNIAL.

MORE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE ON THE TRUE MIRROR WEBSITE:
http://www.sinisterdexter.org/

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Edited email conversation negotiating a contribution to True Mirror. Released on the Open-Reading-Group mailing list, 10 March 2008.


Posted 10 March 2008 10:45:51

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