Back-to-back: perspectives on artists' writing and publishing

Vrancken Reinier toeof Men 3 min

In the con­text of the word and book fes­ti­val Druk in Leuven, Off the Grid (Cas-co’s resi­d­en­cy and pre­sen­ta­ti­on plat­form) enga­ges with the rele­van­ce of the­se media within con­tem­po­ra­ry art through a two-day pro­gram­me of talks, per­for­man­ces, and rea­dings, devo­t­ed to publis­hing as artis­tic prac­ti­ce.

Publishing and book­bin­ding ter­mi­no­lo­gy abounds in bodi­ly metap­hors and voca­bu­la­ry bor­ro­wed from cho­re­o­grap­hy, like dos à dos (‘back-to-back’) or tête-bêche (‘head-to-toe’). This dual mea­ning, also appa­rent in the fes­ti­val’s tit­le Druk (trans­la­ting to both edi­ti­on’ and pres­su­re’), under­sco­res publis­hing’s intrin­sic con­nec­ti­on to mate­ri­a­li­ty – of prin­ted mat­ter and the writer’s/ rea­der’s phy­si­ca­li­ty – and offers a pre­mi­se for the explo­ra­ti­on of the rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween text and body.

From the van­ta­ge points of the invi­ted artist, wri­ters, publis­hers, cura­tors, and desig­ners, fre­quent­ly per­for­ming seve­r­al of tho­se roles simul­ta­neous­ly, the pro­gram­me explo­res an expand­ed field of publis­hing, with a par­ti­cu­lar focus on its per­for­ma­ti­ve dimension.

Taking pla­ce across two after­noons, the pro­gram­me strings together a series of diver­se con­tri­bu­ti­ons that in some pla­ces touch each other and address, amongst other, the posi­ti­on of wri­ting and rea­ding within artis­tic prac­ti­ce; how tex­tu­al objects – books, sco­res, docu­ments, records – can be (re)published through per­for­man­ce; and how net­works and com­mu­ni­ties of prac­ti­ce are for­med through publishing.

Participating guests: Henry Andersen, Clara Amaral, Francesca Hawker, Will Holder, Martha Jager, Jeroen Peeters, Isabelle Sully, Reinier Vrancken. Curated by and with par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of cur­rent cura­tor-in-resi­den­ce Alicja Melzacka.

Read more about the con­tri­bu­tors and the pro­gram­me below.

  • Saturday, 13:00 | dis­cus­si­on group on wri­ting and illness 

    We will enga­ge with selec­ted texts that address, and at times embo­dy, the need for a new kind of lan­gu­a­ge that Virginia Woolf cal­l­ed for, one capa­ble of expres­sing the ail­ments of illness.

    The kind of lan­gu­a­ge that pro­du­ces disea­sed, smud­ged-glass-wri­ting’, who­se surfa­ce has been tex­tu­ri­sed by expe­rien­ce, grea­sed with topi­cal oint­ments, and fog­ged from the con­den­sa­ti­on of feve­rish exhales.

    Through the lens of wri­ting on ill­ness, we can appro­ach the pro­blem of the limits of expres­si­bi­li­ty and empa­thy (vs con­ta­gi­on) in the con­text of readership/​vie­wership. It is also an expe­ri­ment in the making, explo­ring whe­ther and how the­se kinds of texts can be expe­rien­ced collectively.

    To ensu­re com­for­ta­ble sca­le, the num­ber of pla­ces for this even is limi­ted. If you’­re inte­rested in joi­ning, email offthegrid@​cas-​co.​be. Preparatory rea­ding is not requi­red, but if you email us, we will pro­vi­de the texts in advan­ce of the session.

    Alicja Melzacka is cur­rent­ly cura­tor-in-resi­den­ce at Cas-co. She always ima­gi­ned she would beco­me either a trans­la­tor, a wri­ter, or an artist, and how she under­stands cura­ting takes a bit from all of the­se dis­ci­pli­nes. In her cur­rent work, she aims to inte­gra­te wri­ting and cura­ting, often thin­king from or through spe­ci­fic tex­tu­al prac­ti­ces, such as non-linear sto­ry­tel­ling, gen­re hybri­di­ty, or embo­died writing.

    Seeing the invita­ti­on to orga­ni­se this pro­gram­me as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand her research, she exten­ded that invita­ti­on to seve­r­al artists and cura­tors with whom she main­tains an ongo­ing dia­lo­gue, and to tho­se with whom she would like to enga­ge in one.

  • Saturday, 15.30 | lecture-performance

    Reader, I invi­te you to do the rea­ding of the wri­ting of my rea­ding of what I am wri­ting,’ wri­tes the French poet Francis Ponge in La table’ (196773), the last of his note­book works, devo­t­ed to the table that is his imme­di­a­te work envi­ron­ment. In this per­for­man­ce rea­ding, Jeroen Peeters takes up the invita­ti­on to do the rea­ding of this note­book and the tables it evokes.

    Jeroen Peeters is an essay­ist who works across the media of wri­ting, not-wri­ting, per­for­man­ce and publi­ca­ti­on. He resear­ches mat­ters such as eco­lo­gies of atten­ti­on, mate­ri­al liter­a­cy, rea­der­ship, com­mo­ning and cul­tu­ral rewil­ding. Recent books inclu­de Bookmarks of sorts (2021) and And then it got legs: Notes on dan­ce dra­ma­tur­gy (2022). Together with Mette Edvardsen he runs the publis­hing hou­se Varamo Press. Peeters is a research fel­low at Hasselt University, Faculty of Architecture and Arts, and PXL-MAD School of Arts.

  • Saturday, 16:15 | performance

    Do you remem­ber that time we were together and dan­ced this or that dan­ce? To remem­ber a dan­ce by remem­be­ring the counts, the spa­ce, the fee­ling. Also, the sweat, the steps and con­text; to remem­ber the memo­ry of what we remem­ber dan­cing, the ones that we dan­ced with or ima­gi­ned whi­le dan­cing. To remem­ber a dan­ce that we never real­ly dan­ced. Dancing as a fake tit­le, an ima­gi­na­ti­on, fan­ta­sy and fiction. 

    This per­for­man­ce pre­sents a book, which was writ­ten and learnt by heart by Clara Amaral, and it is trans­mit­ted in one-on-one ses­si­ons of 30 minu­tes (in this par­ti­cu­lar con­text the rea­ding can be wit­nes­sed by an audien­ce). This book actu­al­ly exists, but it has only been seen by Clara Amaral, Dongyoung Lee (desig­ner), and Loïc Perela (ano­ther per­for­mer who knows the book by heart). 

    Clara Amaral is an artist wor­king with wri­ting, per­for­man­ce, prin­ted mat­ter and publis­hing. Her inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry prac­ti­ce ques­ti­ons what it means to be a rea­der, to be a wri­ter, aiming to expand exis­ting modes of rea­ding, wri­ting and publis­hing. Central to her prac­ti­ce is the inves­ti­ga­ti­on of publis­hing moda­li­ties and the per­for­ma­ti­ve aspect of language. 
    In January 2021 Clara ini­ti­a­ted misted​.cc, an onli­ne plat­form: A book of sorts. Every new moon an artist, wri­ter, grap­hic desig­ner or cura­tor, con­tri­bu­tes a text. Throughout the month the con­tri­bu­ti­on vanis­hes in direct rela­ti­on to the num­ber of visi­tors, lea­ving, even­tu­al­ly, an emp­ty web­si­te until the next con­tri­bu­ti­on is publis­hed. As of the new moon of February 2022, misted​.cc is edi­ted by Clara Amaral and Simon Asencio.

    Clara’s work She gave it to me I got it from her, with grap­hic design by Ronja Andersen and Karoline Świeżyński, was publis­hed in 2021 by Kunstverein Publishing. This volu­me is part of a broa­der research on publis­hing moda­li­ties and their rela­ti­on to per­for­ma­ti­ve practices. 

    Her works have been pre­sen­ted in The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Austria, France, Norway and Switzerland, etc.

  • Saturday, 17:00 | table-read

    In this table-read, rea­ders and lis­te­ners will col­lect around a table to read through a script, which is com­pri­sed of bio­grap­hies of peo­p­le, both his­to­ri­cal and con­tem­po­ra­ry, who were or are into’ eels – a spe­cies who­se sexu­al deter­mi­na­ti­on and mating habits have elu­ded sci­en­tists for years. The pre­sen­ta­ti­on fol­lows on from work pro­du­ced during a wri­ting resi­d­en­cy in January 2024 at House Van Wassenhove, orga­ni­sed by Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens and MORPHO. Jellied refresh­ments will be provided.

    Francesca Hawker is based in London and is often in Brussels. She gra­du­a­ted from the Dutch Art Institute Masters pro­gram­me in 2020. She works across the fields of per­for­man­ce, poe­try, instal­la­ti­on, music, self-publis­hing, and come­dy. Prevalent the­mes inclu­de fai­lu­re, friends­hip, and the main­tenan­ce of com­mu­nal fan­ta­sies. She often works col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve­ly within the slap­stick of ordi­na­ry rela­ti­on”, defi­ned by Lauren Berlant as a way of trying to stay in the same enough con­ver­sa­ti­on in order to build some­thing together that nei­ther of us could build by our­sel­ves.” She has pre­sen­ted work at a ran­ge of insti­tu­ti­ons inclu­ding Jester, Genk (2023), KIOSK, Gent (2022), and Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich (2021), and has con­tri­bu­ted to a num­ber of fes­ti­vals inclu­ding International Performance Art Giswil, Switzerland (2023), Oscillation Festival, Brussels (2022), and Konvooi Festival, Bruges (2022).

  • Sunday, 13:00 | conversation

    Teeth Surrounding a Flower in the Meanings is Reinier Vrancken’s recent­ly publis­hed book of era­su­re poe­try, in which he draws on sixteen texts on sixteen of his pie­ces writ­ten by cura­tors and cri­tics bet­ween 2016 and 2023. It is also an uncon­ven­ti­o­nal com­pa­n­ion rea­der’ to Vrancken’s prac­ti­ce at lar­ge, whe­rein each poem takes one of his pie­ces as a con­s­traint against which its form is shaped.

    The con­ver­sa­ti­on with cura­tor Alicja Melzacka will manoeu­vre bet­ween this book and their sha­red fas­ci­na­ti­on with the rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween art and writing.

    Reinier Vrancken lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

    In his artis­tic prac­ti­ce, he moves in and out of mate­ri­al and imma­te­ri­al worlds through obli­que con­nec­ti­ons and poe­tic leaps.
    His instal­la­ti­ons, inter­ven­ti­ons, objects and artist books test with lyric atten­ti­on the vague con­tours of phy­si­cal and con­cep­tu­al bodies — their dif­fu­si­on and plu­ra­li­ty in par­ti­cu­lar for­ming the sub­ject of artis­tic address — and beco­me entry points for arti­cu­la­ting their under­ly­ing kinships.

  • Sunday, 14:00 | talk

    In this ram­bling attempt at some kind of cohe­si­on, col­la­bo­ra­tors Martha Jager and Isabelle Sully will pre­sent their indi­vi­du­al publis­hing prac­ti­ces, ones which paved the way for the for­ma­ti­on of Playbill — an event-based plat­form for expe­ri­men­tal lan­gu­a­ge and text-based artis­tic works that the two esta­blis­hed in 2022. Spanning self-ini­ti­a­ted publis­hing pro­jects, episto­la­ry enun­ci­a­ti­ons and admi­ni­stra­ti­ve anec­do­tes, Messy Keynote will attempt to for­ma­li­se Jager’s and Sully’s appro­ach to publis­hing as artis­tic and cura­to­ri­al practice.

    Martha Jager is an artist, cura­tor and publis­her who­se prac­ti­ce unfolds at the inter­sec­ti­on of making and cura­ting. With the eve­ry­day and the domestic realm as a site for the pro­duc­ti­on of art as an over­ar­ching sub­ject, her work focu­ses on per­so­nal his­to­ries, admi­ni­stra­ti­on and archi­ving as a form of pre­sen­ta­ti­on. Often col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve, her work takes the form of per­for­man­ces, exhi­bi­ti­ons, public pro­gram­mes and publi­ca­ti­ons. She is the foun­der of Dear, a postal publis­hing plat­form dedi­ca­ted to the episto­la­ry form and co-cura­tor of Playbill, an event-based ini­ti­a­ti­ve focu­sed on text — and lan­gu­a­ge based prac­ti­ces in Amsterdam.

    Isabelle Sully is an artist, wri­ter and cura­tor. Originally from Melbourne/​Naarm, she now lives in the Netherlands whe­re she is the foun­ding edi­tor of Unbidden Tongues, co-cura­tor of Playbill and artis­tic direc­tor of A Tale of A Tub, Rotterdam.

  • Sunday, 15:00 | reading

    Republishing is a tac­tic fre­quent­ly used by Andersen in his work. As such, the invita­ti­on from Cas-co has ope­ned up a chan­ce to pro­du­ce and dis­tri­bu­te a boot­leg of Duncan Smith’s essay On the Current Symbolic Status of Oil’, dating back to 1979, the year of the glo­bal oil cri­sis in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. Smith was an elu­si­ve figu­re in litera­ry cir­cles, having publis­hed only one book of essays (‘The Age of Oil’, 1987) in his life­ti­me befo­re pas­sing pre­ma­tu­re­ly in 1991. Andersen will deli­ver a rea­ding from this scar­ce resour­ce, whi­le some copies will be cir­cu­la­ted via Cas-co’s bookstore.

    Henry Andersen stu­died as a com­po­ser of expe­ri­men­tal music in Perth and Berlin befo­re moving to Brussels and retrai­ning as a visu­al artist. He makes per­for­man­ces, sculp­tu­re, sound recor­dings and prin­ted mat­ter, some­ti­mes alo­ne and some­ti­mes in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with Bryana Fritz under the name Slow Reading Club.

  • Sunday, 15:30, pas­sa­ges trans­la­ted by Will Holder

    Typographer Will Holder likes to use public time to do some­thing nor­mal­ly done in pri­va­te: such as work on a book. He is cur­rent­ly trans­la­ting Kate Briggs’ novel, The Long Form, the sto­ry of two peo­p­le com­po­sing a day together. It is a day of move­ments and impro­vi­sa­ti­ons, com­mon and uncom­mon rhythms, stop­ping and star­ting again. I finis­hed […] and star­ted again from the begin­ning; I wan­ted to under­stand how this mira­cle of a book had come to be; I was not rea­dy to let go.” [Moyra Davey]. As the mor­ning pro­gres­ses, a book – The History of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding – is deli­ve­r­ed, and the sco­pe of the day widens fur­ther. I got the fee­ling … not of inter­rup­ting my life by rea­ding it, but under­stan­ding what it means to inter­rupt a book with a life.” [Elisa Wouk Almino]. Small inci­dents of the day revi­ve some of the oldest pre­oc­cu­pa­ti­ons of the novel: the for­ce of soci­al cir­cum­stan­ce, the power of names, the mea­ning of dura­ti­on and the work of love. 

    Kate Briggs grew up in Somerset, UK, and lives and works in Rotterdam, NL, whe­re she foun­ded and co-runs the wri­ting and publis­hing pro­ject Short Pieces That Move’. She is the trans­la­tor of two volu­mes of Roland Barthes’s lec­tu­re and semi­nar notes at the Collège de France: The Preparation of the Novel and How to Live Together, both publis­hed by Columbia University Press. The Long Form fol­lows This Little Art, a nar­ra­ti­ve essay on the prac­ti­ce of trans­la­ti­on (both publis­hed by Fitzcarraldo Editions).

    Typographer Will Holder edi­ted and publis­hed F.R.DAVID, from 2007 – 24, a jour­nal con­cerned with the orga­ni­sa­ti­on of rea­ding & wri­ting in the arts (co-publis­hed with de Appel, Amsterdam 2007 – 16, and KW, Berlin 2017 – 24). In 2017, Holder was inau­gu­ral fel­low of A Year With…”, at KW, Berlin: a year-long pro­gram­me pla­cing publis­hing, wri­ting and docu­men­ta­ti­on in paral­lel with the institution’s exhi­bi­ti­on pro­gram­me. Holder fur­nis­hed and ran a pri­va­te resi­d­en­cy with 13 guests, publi­cly dis­cus­sing and pro­du­cing publi­ca­ti­ons, on site at KW. This peri­od laid the foun­da­ti­ons for uh books, and Will’s work with Alice Notley will be the last book it will publish. The sin­gu­lar uh” sug­gests an adap­ti­ve who­le of a plu­ral books”. The dis­pa­ri­ty bet­ween logo­ty­pe (a) and its pho­ne­tic uh” (say out loud: a sand­wich, a wal­let […] a giraf­fe”) is sug­ges­ti­ve of the publisher’s work with artists, musi­cians, dan­cers, rea­ders & audien­ce using con­ver­sa­ti­on as model and means for wri­ting; by way of speech, per­for­man­ce and transcription.

    Holder has recei­ved a Paul Hamlyn Award in sup­port of his prac­ti­se, and has had most recent solo dis­plays of his work at British Art Show, (various venues) UK; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; Kunstverein, Amsterdam; Institut Funder Bakker, Denmark; Oscillations Festival, Brussels; Kunstverein, München; and Alma Sarif, Brussels. Amongst many others, Will has made books with Cady Noland, Ricardo Basbaum, Robert Ashley, Michael Stevenson, The Otolith Group, Falke Pisano, Lucy Skaer; and he has publis­hed the work of poets Lyn Hejinian, Alice Notley, and H.D.

  • Sunday, 17:30 | performance

    Budget Statements takes the ite­mi­sed annu­al bud­get of a small artist-run plat­form in Amsterdam as the sco­re for a sta­ging of insti­tu­ti­o­nal acti­vi­ties. With Julie Ault’s words inscri­bed as a gui­ding prin­ci­ple, a bud­get is pri­o­ri­ties made con­cre­te.’ Administration is the domain whe­re public resour­ces are com­pu­ted, assig­ned and dis­tri­bu­ted. You can’t hide in the num­bers, transpa­ren­cy is key.