Carl Knappett, Thinking Through Material Culture: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, Philadelphia, PA 2005.


The resulting works form the basis of this contribution, and are part of a larger body of work called My Stalking Silver Jubilee. They are discussed and shown here for the first time. Writing is the source of all the works, the writing I have received and the writing I have produced in response. I have focussed on a dozen letters, received in 2000, taking their content and handwriting style as my inspiration. By so-doing I have entered an isomorphic relationship with my stalker. Isomorphism comes from the Greek isos meaning «equal», and morphe meaning «shape»; a similarity of structure or form. I wanted become similar to him in form: obsessed, seeing connections where others see none, making images from words and finding analogues for those images via google image search).

In his book, Thinking Through Material Culture, Carl Knappett [3] discusses «the codependent nature of the connections between mind and object». He takes a relational approach to perception and concludes that our understanding of material culture is a codependency of mind, agent and object. Assuming my perception is relational and codependent is a useful tool as I interrogate my perception of the letters that I have received, and as I conduct my own writing experiments. It has also been useful to look at copies of letters inscribed by allegedly psychotic writers. The well-known letters by Emma Hauck have become key works, touchstones that have helped to push my thinking and my writing. In the exhibition, Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis [4] were a series of so-called «artworks» made by the patient Emma Hauck, titled Letter to Husband. These pencilled letters are typified by one in which Hauck wrote (ca 1909) over and over again «Sweetheart, come», in pencil, until the single page of paper is reminiscent of a field painting, a dense layering of text that becomes image. I look at these works reproduced in a catalogue and imagine Emma Hauck writing them, and find it hard to believe that she did so on the understanding that she was making art and that they would be exhibited in a gallery after her death. It makes more sense that they were letters, a correspondence from her to her husband, willing, through text, her husband to visit. To rescue her from the asylum? To hear what she has to say? Who knows because the implication of these being in the Prinzhorn Collection is that her letters were never sent. If this is the case she was doubly betrayed, once by whomever she trusted the letters to, believing they would be posted, and secondly by the re-branding of them as art. The works are labelled with her name and her apparent mental illness, as though the illness (if it were accurately diagnosed) was as much the author, or as though the letters-cum-artworks were a gauge or expression of her illness. If such repetitive writing was an expression of psychosis, could a state of psychosis be induced, temporarily by writing in a similar way, repetitively?

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