When artist Joshua Saunders and I exchange emails, he often signs off with “all my love, Joshua.” As queer as I think I am, this signatory always jars me. A backlash of years of Woman of Color feminist training reveals itself; I am still always a little shocked by a gesture like this, small as it is, from a person who discursively is a straight, white, cisgendered, US American male from a moneyed upbringing. The tiny gesture is a pinprick in the script of how such a figure is expected to communicate. From this pinhole springs a flood of excess, troubling the discourses I often bring to bear on my own acts of looking, multiple feminisms and post- and decolonialities among them. The flood also washes over notions of professionalism and hierarchies embedded in the relationship between artist and art historian, maker and critic. For that is ostensibly the fundamental reason of our relating at all; me discovering this artist in 2010 and he finding in me a translator of sorts, a writer of criticism and press releases and exhibition statements. We interlocute between the studio and the page or the classroom, as has been the way of things for quite a long time.
This interlocution transforms intimacies into historical narratives by way of so many scholarly conventions. In the translation, much is lost. These losses are recuperable to a degree in the archive. Often letters are the archival discoveries that recast public, intellectualized language of articles and books as the stuff of day-to-day living for the researcher. Suddenly, the art historian sees how daily life and moments of ambiguous togetherness live beneath the surface in canonical art works and writings. But these revelations remain the privilege of a few; the majority of the art viewing public will never know these stories. I want to bring them out of the closet of the archive, so that art might mean more, and mean differently.
I propose that we have it out out here. I am tired of translating. So the rest of this writing is a letter to Joshua.
The full letter is included in the catalogue KINDA BLEW, available here.
Video: Joshua Saunders, Pseudo-masochism, Wurhaus, Austin, Texas, January 29, 2011