Scrivere Disegnando (“Writing by Drawing”) is an exhibition about writing and its shadow side. Its aim is to look back over a number of practices, from the early twentieth century to the present day, in which writing leaves the function of communication behind and moves into the sphere of the illegible and unspeakable. It sets out to explore the tension inherent in script, the way that it hovers between the genuinely semantic realm and the uncharted territory of mere arabesques, automatisms, repeated marks and scribbles.
All of the works on view inhabit a special terrain vague in which the act of writing is more about “trying to say” than “saying” itself, more about potentialities of meaning than about signification, to paraphrase Giorgio Agamben. It is writing that has transcended communication, becoming a trace of existence and affirmation of self, but also an element of fancy, a metaphor for the mysterious weft of the world. Our investigation centers on this ancient human impulse to move past the communicative side of writing, toward the unfettered, absolute reclamation of the mark, with its wealth of imaginative possibilities.
As the very first collaborative project between the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and a contemporary art institution, this exhibition brings together a diverse range of personalities: from “outsider” artists, some of whom carried out their work while institutionalized, all the way to “official” artists, some of whom played key roles in twentieth-century avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements. What these very different individuals have in common is the desire to capture an “elsewhere” within writing, to move past the semantic dimension and freely mine the innovative and imaginative resources of language.
Another aspect that the exhibition highlights is the indissoluble link between writing and power—between language and gender. In this sense the project also represents an exploration of the status of women’s voices over the last century. Since the early 1900s, many women have used compulsive, often illegible handwriting to express an existential need for personal affirmation, often in response to a patriarchal world that preferred them to be politically invisible and socially voiceless. The moment of writing becomes a moment of life, a private act, a sign of existence, and tool of self-knowledge—but also an instrument of rebellion and artistic expression.
A richly illustrated 300-page catalogue will be published in English and French editions by Skira in conjunction with the exhibition. It will bring together essays specially commissioned from curators, critics, artists, philosophers, and academics on the questions of asemic writing and walk the reader through these plural writings. In addition to texts by curators Andrea Bellini and Sarah Lombardi, this volume will also include contributions by Derek Beaulieu (poet), Federico Campagna (philosopher), Vincent Capt (researcher), François Chastanet (architect and graphic designer), Andrea Cortellessa (literary critic), Morad Montazami (art historian), Joana Neves (curator), Marta Spagnolello (art historian), Michel Thévoz (writer, art historian, and philosopher) and Marina Yaguello (linguist). A bibliography and descriptions of the works of more than one hundred artists round out the publication.
With works by: Douglas Abdell, Vincenzo Accame, Rosaire Appel, Tchello d’Barros, Gianfranco Baruchello, Tomaso Binga, Irma Blank, Nick Blinko, Alighiero Boetti, Marcia Brauer, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Elijah Burgher, Axel Calatayud, Gaston Chaissac, Laura Cingolani, Guy de Cointet, Aloïse Corbaz, Dadamaino, Betty Danon, Hanne Darboven, Michel Dave, Michael Dean, Mirtha Dermisache, Emmanuel Derriennic, Jean Dubuffet, Giordano Falzoni, León Ferrari, Chiara Fumai, Pepe Gaitán, Jill Galliéni, Ryan Gander, Anne-Marie Gbindoun, Marco Giovenale, Rafael González, Giorgio Griffa, Mariangela Guatteri, Gustav, Elisabetta Gut, Brion Gysin, Ana Hatherly, Emma Hauck, Takanori Herai, Joseph Heuer, Susan Hiller, Steffani Jemison, Carlo Keshishian, Annalies Klophaus, Maria Lai, Fabio Lapiana, Jürg Lehni, Dwight Mackintosh, Kunizo Matsumoto, Viviane Van Melkebeeke, Reinhold Metz, Henri Michaux, Miriam Midley, Bruno Munari, J.B. Murray, Gastone Novelli, Palanc, Giulio Paolini, Luca Maria Patella, Enzo Patti, Jean Perdrizet, Nathalie Perrin, Laure Pigeon, Renata Prunas, Justine Python, Svetlana Rabey, Carmen Racovitza, Judit Reigl, Jane Ruffié, Valeri Scherstjanoi, Salome Schmuki, Greta Schödl, Luigi Serafini, Jeremy Shaw, Hélène Smith, Ivana Spinelli, Martina Stella, Lina Stern, Laurence Sterne, Barbara Suckfüll, Jenna Sutela, Cecil Touchon, Louise Tournay, Jeanne Tripier, Pascal Vonlanthen, August Walla, Robert Walser, Galaxia Wang, Melvin Way, and Adolf Wölfli.
Curators: Andrea Bellini and Sarah Lombardi
Documents section: Sara De Chiara
Public program: Work.Master students of the HEAD – Genève with Pierre Leguillon, artist and teacher