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 the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, 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 interesting aspect of this project is the significant number of female artists. Since the early twentieth century, 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. In their case, writing is almost for their own consumption, written by and for themselves, in order to understand who they are and their meaning in the world. The moment of writing becomes a moment of life, a private act, a sign of existence and tool of self-knowledge.
This ambitious project includes works commissioned for the occasion from artists who have focused for some time on constructing their own “private languages.” Placed throughout the exhibition are showcases presenting a selection of books and documents which allow visitors to examine the question of personal languages, secret alphabets, and indecipherable codes in relation to the history of literature.
A richly illustrated 300-page catalogue will be published 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.