[Exposition] Les écrits — galerie Vincenz Sala (Berlin)

on the show

“Writing is drawing” says Tim Ingold (in ‘Lines’). Of course, an important reference for the selection of drawings on show at ‘Les Écrits’ (after ‘Verzeichnen’ (end of 2019) and ‘traumatic lines’ (August 2020) the third and final edition of our trilogy of group shows on the extended field of drawing). However, the reference to Ingold, and also the exhibition title, leads astray in one respect: there is nothing to read! One may be able here and there to decipher a word or perhaps a brief sentence (e.g. Katja Pudor, Saskia Wendland). And more generally all the exhibited drawings have a typeface, are handwritten drawings (Isabel Zuber, Myriam El Haïk, and also Pierre Sportolaro’s rather more seismographic recordings of a flight from Berlin to Paris). However, they lack the significance that is essential for writing. They are not text, and only rarely a readable word or short sentence shows up. Thus, whilst ‘Les Écrits’ provides ample evidence for Ingold’s “writing is drawing” there is no drawing that would suggest an “… is writing”.

“Reading” these handwritten drawings must do without much linguistic meaning. It’s writing on this side of language and of the order of the symbolic. Writing in the realm of the allographic. Some sort of, obviously autographic, signature, though, not even bothered to put a name. Nelson Goodman (‘Languages of Art’) discussed at some length the distinction between the autographic and the allographic, emphasizing that for the latter the formal properties of what’s written are contingent, irrelevant for the meaning. Whether ink, pencil, or felt-tip pen, the color, size, and shape of the letters, all of these features are redundant. And the works presented at ‘Les Écrits’ offer nothing but that. Thus, the viewer is pushed to follow, above all, the physical act of writing as recorded in the written drawing. It’s again drawing as a purely performative act, as doing, in some cases almost doing nothing (Sportolaro) and finally simply waiting (Isidore Hibou’s ‘Till Death Dries’). 

However, the viewer is well equipped for this kind of reading. Having undergone himself the lengthy and laborious exercise of learning to write is there to help. It’s in the dimension of the physical, of the own hand conditioned by that exercise of learning to write, that the viewer relates to these works. A kind of bodily tracing of the recorded act of writing in the shared world of the fine motor skills of the hand. A tuning in and resonating that refers to the automatisms ingrained in the viewer’s body and procedural memory. And one wonders how Roland Barthes’ famous question about the romantic ‘Lied’ would have to be reformulated for this kind of drawing. The question was: “What sings to me, who hears, in my body the song?”


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