A MATERIAL project

Built by D/L

Dear Susanne,
It’s strange to start off a letter knowing it is going to appear in print. Also strange that using the form of a letter determines the tone of the writing. I feel differently writing this than I would an email to you. (Most of our email exchanges involved some form of shorthand, missed connections, attachment mishaps, subtle blame, as in— ‘where are you?’)

My questions to you come from spending too large a portion of time in my own head, editing older video pieces that I have shot over the last few years. It feels quite different to finish off a piece that has lingered. After that first excitable phase has passed, there is a feeling that it is actually work. I always then wonder—why indeed am I spending time on this, and so much time? It feels absurd. I am wondering if you can tell which pieces are older pieces, and which were made in one initial rush—? And if that matters...

Another question I have is about consistency. I am very interested in the permutations involved in repetition as a fuller concept, but I work against repeating myself formally. I am quite concerned by empty repetition; I see a lot of it around, for many reasons, comfort, trauma, branding. Anxiety over consistency of voice is a problem of not being able to see yourself from the outside. And in this, one can become a bit hysteric (tell me who I am).

I have been thinking, because of my exchange with Shana Lutker for this show, about transitional objects, and their function in separating the “me” from the “not-me.” Self-definition occurs as a result of having to make many choices: what you want, what you don’t want. This is me, this is ‘not-me.’ But it’s harder than one might believe to choose what you want. And the experimentation/production involved in making artworks, I have found, can just as often as not lead to that difficulty, as more and more options become manifest. It’s like a wake that doesn’t smooth out, but rather, absurdly gets more tangled and tangled.

So, what, as someone who just looked at a lot of my work for the first time, do you think about all this? Do the formal differences throw you? Do you see connections between works?

I look forward to hearing back from you. I have enjoyed hearing you on Skype—you have such a deep staccato German accent. People’s voices have been on my mind lately, not as metaphor, but their actual voice, R.B./grain-style. My friend Heather said that the way someone approaches a note is the sole interest for her in music. I think that has been my interest in this show thus far.
All best, Kim


dear Kim
very happy that we agreed on the format of the letter as it seems to me somehow evolving from the concept and the location and of course has a relation to my piece. But I also like the format as it is, within all the email conversation skyping and googling of this project, a step out and a slow down, a way of dedication in time and presence to the other person and her practice. And even if unknown, it’s an offer to share and communicate in a definite way. A letter is a letter. A Rose is a rose. Selavy has bothered me a lot these days that’s why my contribution to rose peebles is about exchanging hats more or less as far as you want to engage.

maybe just the idea as it is seems boring to you maybe a bit more because you are in the library and you expect letters and Letters instead of pot and television.

But surely its a manifestation to openess and i am already surprised how much there is of this neediness and people who demand that you entertain, criticize, guide or amuse them. What happens if you don’t??

So here I am and I have these questions with me: how do you see your practice in the world?? what does it mean to you to be an artist?? how can you as you mentioned to me imagine a practice only in your head??? is this sustainable?? do you see yourself a part of society?? What about the political?? did you see taxi driver lately again?? did you know that the hair of Robert de Niro is waiting for you was made out of horse hair??

a big hug and greetings from the San Franscisco Renaissance...i wish sorry but still the bay area


Hi Susanne,
I think I might have answered some of your questions accidentally in my first letter to you...but, I view the choice one makes to be an artist with a certain amount of gravity, having worked in other fields and understanding in a very intimate way the mechanics of what I think you could still effectively call Althusserian ideological state apparatuses. I think it is an important choice to make; I don’t view it as a romantic non-choice. I don’t view it as truth telling. I view it as alternate to a system that seeks to function primarily through branding, and lately, from the tyranny of having to have a self-presentation based on practically nothing but mimicry and blank repetition.

To be an artist, for me, is having a material way to engage with philosophical questions which oftentimes can bring results equal to the poetry of those questions. I am interested in the productions that come from being truly animate, and acutely aware of potentialities.

Actually, to your point, I cannot imagine a practice in my head except an idealized one in which all the parts match up and I am in sync and in flow and there is an overarching thematic that other people might intimate and respond positively to. But the reality is that there’s a lot of parts laying around. Emotion, humor, and concise presentations of paradoxical conditions are my goals for my own work. I often feel very far from those goals.

I think the term society is too vague to claim participation in. I do what I can to create groups that might share similar concerns, and explore what I think are crucial issues with other artists. I try to believe in the idea of abundance rather than lack, but it takes many people to produce that sensation. I have found that the unusual process of this exhibition touches on many of the positive and also the frustrating elements of sharing. Everybody’s idea of generosity is different.

As far as politics go, I find it jingoistic, which is unfortunate given the very real need in the world. The nonsense videos are definitely motivated in some way by the success of someone like Sarah Palin and her word salads. I am interested in nonsense because I am interested in meaning, but I am fascinated by the mechanics and meanderings of the brain as it works through speech, both the flexibility of it and the limitations that time imposes. If you had an hour would you say the same sentence aloud that you blurted out in a second?

horse hair sea shells by the seashore...still the bay area, a Rennaissance, really?


Dear Kim
it is a matter of the whole project i think that some people have problems with the format and the insecurities. Funny to me that you mention the computer voice which I agree is not a metaphor, it’s a technical means and for sure it determines a lot about the conversation. Language and communication can be of use, a treasure and an enrichment—that is how i see the writing of letters too. Reading a letter from someone you hardly know reveals so much. Like your friend said its the approach and attitude that is the most obvious, the egoism or sharing. The hunger for knowledge or overflow of excitement about an idea, a great soup or a film. The caring in a political sense and the affection and passion are forces.

But as you write there can be many reasons and permutations involved. The reflection is to me more something that happens not strategically, like a mirror or black surface, and it is interesting which forms are determined by that. If this however is for you more something that happens in your head there might be a way of talking about this in the first sense? Or it could be its strength? It does seem an opposition, but maybe you need that: too much in your head and then gets triggered out with talking to someone.....The relation to your own work can not really be taken over by someone else and nobody can spare the decision making. Sometimes i found myself making these stupid games with emotional complexity, like if this bird starts flying off in a second I will call my friend.

The need to find yourself out there or in which works is to me the other way round I guess, but there is a necessity, I wish i could call it a Wittgensteinian logical consequence but i guess that’s too much. So if you ask me like this surely I see connections and maybe even a structure that seems to lead to the nonsense piece. The organic evolving sometimes dramatically or heavy weighted can be part of its beauty.

Like the flower that struggles so much early spring end of winter (talking from Europe but whereas one can complain about the differences in geographical and economic contexts,
I appreciate them and embrace them in.)

Kim Schoen
Shesellsshelves, 2010
installation comprised of pre-fabricated shelving, light-jet prints, shells, coral, and video