Don’t be afraid for a moment to dream / surely the stars will remain where they are / like a tuneful note is given to song / so shall the human be given the word
Zane Onckule, Art Critic

This text is a stringing together of words and commas following a writing seminar held on 18 and 19 February at the Contemporary Art Centre kim?. Art, Writing and Seminar are words which separately and together create a particular meaning for personal writing style. The aim of the seminar was to challenge the intellect using a kind of “excursion”, pathways to further activities involving thought and action. The lecturers and seminar participants came together for two days to create a favourable climate for what could be described as practical action without (e)specially practical activities (excluding everyone’s own notes on the margins of the hand-out materials, naturally). This was theorising about the theory of practice. Setting the background mood were the exhibitions recently opened in the city and the upcoming Purvītis prize ceremony.

“What to do in mid-sentence?” – the starting point was an idea, an interest and a necessity to organise an event dedicated to writing on art (what we really mean by this combination of words and whether we really understand them, how to think about it and other details not be examined further in the text). In previous discussions with the seminar curator and initiator Maja Wismer, thoughts about written materials moved in a general direction: the use of written materials. How are written materials used and, who by?

An important element of the seminar was an attempt to “move from a two dimensional text towards three dimensional possibilities”, i.e. how to use text or the printed media generally (the background nuance being that writing comes from reading…). Another aspect was connected with the fact that in recent years so many recommended reading texts and various guides have circulated in the field of art, that we have arrived at a realisation that there is too much of everything and it is now once again of essence to “open up” the text. Not just to mention or list the titles, but to actually hold objects – books – in our hands. That is why the guest lecturers were invited to bring along texts, catalogues and other books in order to introduce them and speak about them, and then leave them here for someone else to read them.
Emma Kihl. Bibliotheca Alexandrina. 2002
Emma Kihl. Bibliotheca Alexandrina. 2002
Previously written text, either your own or by other people, is a good starting point and working material which encourages thinking in layers, a closer examination of the issues of proximity and distance and gaining from losing (“first of all yours and then each to their own”). Here we include comparison, compilation, copying and quoting. This is all essential, because the newly created text must be gripping and in the best sense easy to read, allowing the reader to manoeuvre between paragraphs, find other words, references and side notes, and if necessary to choose what to do without. The task of the art writing master is to give examples of how to “read” art with the help of text, in a sense to “curate” the audience.

All in all, texts are like strange words – those key words that come to mind, reminding you that you are currently reading, or what you are concretely reading. These words are aids in forming a text “map”. A digression for thought: can this same formula be applied from the opposite position – in contact with pencil and paper, computer keyboard and screen? Moving along in the investigation of in-the-mood-for-writing, a few words of advice: you must write about yourself, thereby generating your social potential, however the naming of something does not automatically mean writing for communication, this being a habit we should grow out of.

Start writing in another language, adapt and translate text, think in English, Russian or other languages, which will challenge you to a new gravity in the text. Change your critical practice and play games with language (remember that the Latvian language is more synthetic than analytic, and for correlation purposes this can hinder rather than help the writer). Language brings in distance, therefore in one sense the text becomes more formal than descriptive, because the writer has a more unaccustomed type of relationship with the foreign language.

Moreover, does describing an artwork still have any meaning? Does the described artwork momentarily become language to look at (pleasurably)? Is this the artwork itself? A flowing and moving event, like a poem? At the moment when everything becomes an oversized question, stop referring to it.


Mistakenly saying impression while meaning inspiration, or obsession instead of possession. (How) much knowledge is needed to successfully create the concept of misunderstanding.

A distinguishing feature of this seminar was the aura of uncertainty. Starting with what the lecturers would really be talking about, and ending with the titles of their chosen books (excluding in advance the possibility of overlap, one of the lecturers chose a book that was already on the shelf). The aim was to concentrate on the spatial dimension of texts, to not only consider them as titles or “little backs” in a long list, but to link them with the moments in situations where, when speaking about books, people open them. And those supposedly minor visual joys of the print, the design, the fineness of the paper – everything that indicates compatibility between form and content.


All texts (writings) are to a large extent “junk”, but at the same time writing is reinvention of the self; for example, when reading classical texts we become the author’s contemporaries. In the course of the seminar, lecturer Judith Schwarzbart invited the participants to each read aloud a fragment from Jacques Ranciere’s work The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Laura Prikule, an artist with an expressive reading style, concluded her fragment with a phrase that commented on an intellectual adventure described in this work, provided by the eccentric teacher Joseph Jacotot in his 1818 French literature course at the University of Louvain. He began a lecture held in a small room dimly lit by two candles with the phrase: I must teach you that I have nothing to teach you.

Here we arrive to the point that not speaking, but (pure) writing about a problem means creating a problem. Art writing versus critical writing, classical writing versus experimental writing. These are useful concepts for further interest and revisiting the subject, because you must always be aware of the position from which you write.

A personal interest in the direction of absurd meaning leads to thoughts in the spirit of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus with amendments, that “everything that we see can also be written”. Tralala. “Through the morning haze a view opens onto an Oriental city. Its calm is immutable, only the Wind merrily sweeps the desert sands. One day a Woman arrives in the city, she captivates the Wind. Both succumb to passion. In order to be closer to the Woman, the Wind turns into a man, but as a man he starts to rein in the Woman’s freedom. She wishes to return to her stable and secure life, however, having once tasted freedom, the Woman can no longer find peace in stability,” writes Aija Bley in the manifesto of her latest work. Film artist Patrīcija Brekte had signed up for the seminar, but possibly the reasons for her non-attendance are right here, nearby.
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