Remote communication is self-evident and often indeed indispensable today. Constantly evolving and simultaneously simplifying communication technologies produce an aura of hypercontemporaneity and disembodiment around it. Yet the art of correspondence, or being together through letters, has deep roots and a distinctive regime of corporeality.
If we think about letter in the most common and fundamental sense, we will see that they are nothing but a substitute for the body of an absent addressee – in other words, by writing a letter we send the bodies of letters which represent and simulate us (not surprisingly, we refer to the main part of a letter’s text as “the body of the letter”). The changing technologies only accelerate and condense the choreography of writing letters – becoming embodied in symbols – in neverending search for an ideal simulated dialogue.
Over the course of its evolution, the body of the letter was transformed from alphabetic to sensory, until it finally became purified from verbal exchange altogether, and is now increasingly often being read and experienced in different forms which engage all senses. Contemporary correspondence technologies – animated images, instantly disappearing fragmentary conversations, postcards from other planets, or metaphorical audiovisual readymades which replace entire phrases and ideas – seemingly seek to maximize the intimacy of the correspondence space and simultaneously radically minimize our own engagement. This way, the body of the letter becomes more important and corporeal than our physical body, while the images or sounds we share begin to talk for us, as they have already surpassed our ability to create, maintain and increase the emotional tension necessary for the communication space.
Love correspondence is the highest point of the epistolary genre. It does not necessarily involve two lovers, but rather refers to a certain register of intense intimacy as such, which can acquire non-human forms as well (e. g. correspondence between intelligent machines). Such intimate dialogue is deeply embedded in the world’s cultural imaginary. The story of the letters of the physically separated Heloise and Abelard has spawned numerous interpretations, while Roland Barthes in his Lover’s Discourse mentions love correspondence as reflective of the very essence of this strange relationship of two subjects: when addressing our loved one with our feeling as in a conversation, we talk not so much to this person as to ourselves and within ourselves, while the other remains silent and never fully engaged. Love (and love correspondence) is essentially waiting for a response which might never arrive. Thus, our own fantasies and desires, splinters of other real and fictional dialogues, quotes and allusions, and archetypal motifs from all possible cultures and mythologies infiltrate the love relationship, verbalised and embodied in the text.
What happens when an archaic communication genre is embodied in the contemporary mediated context, revealing both the differences conditioned by the epoch and the permanence of this relationship’s essence? How should we react when responses reach us not as words, but as images of one sort or another? How do we decipher today’s letters? How do they write themselves?
This exhibition is supposed to function as a whispering backstage of correspondence or the body of yet another (meta)letter. We are curious how artists, their topics, curators, the gallery, the audience, and different times and spaces engage in correspondence with each other.
The Body of the Letter
Organised by: Lithuanian Interdisciplinary Artists’ Association
Venue: Project Space “Sodų 4”, Sodų Str. 4, Vilnius
Date: 9th September – 24th September 2016
Artists: Arnas Anskaitis, Žygimantas Augustinas, Andrew Gryf Paterson, Francisco Janes, Geistė Kinčinaitytė, Aurelija Maknytė, Vitalijus Strigunkovas
Curators: Jogintė Bučinskaitė and Jurij Dobriakov
Photography: Arnas Anskaitis