Postcards for Perec: Two Hundred and Forty-Three Postcards in Real Colour, 1st July – 31st August 2021, Bower Ashton Library, University of the West of England Bristol, UK, curated by Linda Parr. Georges Perec’s 243 postcard messages, dedicated to his friend/writer Italo Calvino, appeared as a long list, without a single image. Written in 1978, they were translated into English by John Sturrock in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, in 1997. Constructed with mathematical precision, they describe hedonistic vacations in contrast to the stay-at-home restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic during which the project was conceived. Perec’s holiday-makers travel through alphabets, relaxing and sunbathing, making historic and literary connections on the way, with no mention of the journeys nor the bills. The messages seem a little repetitive and formulaic, but as both writers were members of OuLiPo Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: “workshop of potential literature,” it is perhaps not surprising. The first clue to unravelling the secrets is to ask why 243? The aim of the Perec project was to respond to the texts by making a postcard, adding the missing image to the message, and posting the physical postcard. Postcards were offered to the project from twenty-two countries, from Russia to the USA, Finland to the Isle of Wight. My postcard text “We’ve just done Dahomey. Superb nights. Fantastic swimming. Excursions on camel-back. Will be in Paris on the 15th.” was an à propos linking of a place whose history was built on conquest and slave labour to the ongoing waves of civil protest in the United States, fueled by the murder of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020.
Lockdown and Light , landscapeandlight.org, curated by Jane Watt Projects and David Baldry. Lockdown and Light called on artists to create temporary light installations at home around the world during the COVID lockdowns of May 2020 and January 2021. My contributions to the projects included a video projection called “No Words” in which light was cast through a moving player piano roll for the eponymous song. Projected during the UK’s first COVID pandemic lock down, when I was challenged to find words for the level of alarm we were experiencing—alarm that was amplified by the unhelpful approaches governments and people were choosing in reaction to the pandemic which disrupted our core sense of safety. Simultaneously I discovered that a room in my home was a natural camera obscura which inspired me in a different direction to seek comfort, engagement and simple wonder in the space I was locked to. This awareness served as a reminder to self that there are always opportunities to see the world through a different lense, despite what might, in part, feel like insurmountable challenges. To that end, I used the lens of my camera to reframe my perspective on being locked-down in a global pandemic which I shared to the project. My final contribution to Lockdown and Light was a broadcast in Morse code from my rural garden in England—on a rainy, somewhat bleak, January night—of William Carlos Williams’ poem, Peace on Earth. The raw need for sleep was in constsant pursuit, for at the level of survival, it was how we met the challenge to our systems, our beliefs, our fears about safety, doubts of our courage and tenacity, to bear up to it all, while our fragile parts were laid bare to endure the full catastrophe living through the UK COVID pandemic lockdowns.
Letters from A Strange Year, curated by Paul Anderson Morrow and Sarah Needham, April 2021, Letters From a Strange Year is an artist’s project concerned with the relationship between artists’ conversations and practice. “Letters” and responses were contributed for a touring archive which was initially exhibited at a pop-up exhibition at Vout Vintage in London in 2021. The William Blake exhibition at the Tate marked my last trip to London and final visit to a museum in February 2020, when in the UK, we stood literally at the precipice between the world as we knew it, and a global pandemic. My contrbution to the project arose from a stack of studies I had been making related to the many spectacular book forms Blake worked with and my ongoing thoughts about A4 paper—standard in my new home—the UK, versus the “letter”size that is the US standard. In the first COVID lockdown, adapting to challenges which we could never have anticipated and oft-times doubted we could cope with, many threads of my art paths which were in the germination state took a turn—some were abandoned, some evolved, many were possibly just waiting and resting, as part of me was. The poem in my piece extends from my thinking/practice about how we describe where we are both physically and otherwise. I use the app “What Three Words” which describes itself as “the simplest way to talk about location” as a launching “place” for a poem, or as marker for a place where I have left an offering. The app identifies ones physical location by three unique words. The offerings I leave might be to the place itself or a person who might find it. It may be tangible as in a artwork, or ephemeral, as in a wish or an intention. The piece I contributed to Letters is a love letter written from a place of heartache in the summer of 2020 when some days held burdens I believed were too great to bear when we were pushed right to the edges of our toleration.
BABE 2021 | The Lost Weekend, April 2021. I was delighted to contribute several responses to Tom Sowden’s tribute to John Baldessari which will take physical form in a book after its intial exhibition during the Bristol Artists Book Event (BABE). In particular artist’s responses reflected on Baldessari’s pedagocial advice to notice the backs of things which I felt was particularly wry at a time when some parts of the world I was inhabiting fantasized that we were already seeing the back side of the global pandemic while I was bracing with the concern that it might be a very much longer expanse before we’d see the backside of COVID and its alteration of daily life. Rather, we were floundering in its underbelly.
The Great Big Art Exhibition curated by Firstsite , Colchester, UK, launched by Andrew Gormley, January to May 2021. This incredible invention proposed the largest art exhibition ever staged, with artists creating installations in their windows and any other accesible spaces across the UK during the COVID global pandemic stay-at-home requirements. Anyone was invited to create and display their responses to prompts which changed monthly and share them via social media. All works were later projected at FristSite to celebrate its reopening when restrictions were lifted. I took particular pleasure on a blustery Spring day, in curating a stay-at-home-exhibition relating to the theme of colour, on the exterior walls of my rural home, its garage and garden wall. It was a breath of connection to the greater world and the nearer one I share with my family, neighbours and environs.
365 (RE) Affirmations , a blog project by Sarah Figlio, 17th July, 2014 to 17th July, 2015.