September 26, 2015

Open Letters: A Correspondence with Chilean Art Writer Ignacio Szmulewicz, 5

Ignacio Szmulewicz is an art writer in Santiago, Chile. We met on Twitter and ended up writing each other letters about art writing. This week Ignacio wrote me a letter asking some mystical questions.

Dear An:

After reading your last letter, I was thinking all week about two things. The first has to do with what you told me about writing by thinking in a visual medium. I tend to believe that the experience of art has to do with much more than the visual component -what Martin Jay calls “ocularcentrismo”. Juan José Santos, the Spanish art critic living in Chile, who first mentioned you, once wrote about the professional critics as the persons in a exhibition that are constantly smelling the paintings. I don’t know if he captured me doing that, but the thing is, I always go much too close to the work as if by some mysterious way the work of art could talk. 
I also believe that much of the art experience is sensorial, and this in a much wider way than just the visual. Your observation made me realize that there is still much more to do to capture the complete experience of art. Can we imagine what it was like when Kaprow, Abramovic or Burden made their performance? How can we imagine the heat in the bodies of the spectators when they saw the contortions in the bodies of the artists? I’m just telling you this because reading your texts I tend to feel that you are very found of making the reader feel the space and the relationship between the people who participate in the art world. I find that fascinating. The music critic Lester Bangs and the novelist Gordon Burn, both amazing discoveries of this year, tend to translate to perfection the whole business involving  the art experience. 

Related to this, on the second hand, I see very clear the differences in the writing process. As you told me you write while traveling , on the road, as you said. I picture you less as Dick Moriarty in the Kerouc book than the characters of Up in the air (that underrated film of Jason Reitman): with your laptop and your mobile devise. I usually write everywhere, and mostly in the more unexpected places. 
Here is a picture of my desk with the usual tools for my work. On the left side is the Cultura/s, the excellent cultural section of La Vanguardia, which my mother saves for me every week. I tend to read it on the bus, in the subway or as I wait for a person, and always finish up writing in it. Most of those incomprehensible notes I later pass on to my notebooks, of which I have a lot (also gifts of my mother). On the inside, the writing gets a little more in order, with the ideas flowing while thinking, lines that indicate the development of thought and the continuity of the text. 

When I was finishing my High School in the south of Chile a friend of mine taught me calligraphy for a year –preparing me for my first option of study at the University, being a school teacher in languages. Of course, this plan went out the window, but I remain very fascinated with the writing in the most visual way, of words that fought to enter a white page. After all this, the process continues on the virtual pages, which I print several times for correction, for walking through the city feeling the pages with me for an extended period of time. 
What would happen with that energy over time? With that fascination with the art and the text? Do you feel that part of that energy passes on to another text? How can that energy end? I close this letter with all these mystical questions.

With affection,


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