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The Courtauld | Less Letters or, A Poetics

June 16, 2022 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Less Letters or, A Poetics: A lecture-performance by Quinn Latimer

Who are you always writing to? What is the voice you’ve conceived for this address? Why so laconic? Why so desperate? Why does this distance seem like a kind of practice—designated for desire or its performance—or the ground for the construction of a practice, that is, the construction of a voice and its literatures and the aesthetics it advances? Is it possession that makes you address them by name, by first letter? Why so clingy? I mean, why do you always begin your letter with a letter—can’t you just spell it out? Why dear? Why stranger? Why bother? Why fill your screen with letters of petition, submission, recommendation, exhibition, resignation, boredom, war grief, economic imagery, pandemic news, signs of love and rage and other international communications? Dear L., This is my first letter to you…
For her keynote lecture-performance, Quinn Latimer will examine the letter—as literary form, as art criticism, as ideological sign, as ludic instrument, as international communications system, as feint of alienation and/or resistance. Letter as letter and letter as system. She will also consider the form of the lecture itself, as the letter’s oral-performative equivalent. Consider: In 1982, Christa Wolf began a lectureship at the University of Frankfurt by noting, “Ladies and gentlemen: This enterprise bears the title ‘Lecture on Poetics,’ but I will tell you at once, I cannot offer you a poetics.” Instead, Wolf offered: “I want to set a fabric before you. It is an aesthetic structure, and as such it would lie at the center of my poetics if I had one.” In the spirit of Wolf’s prophetic, Cassandra-like fabric, Latimer will place in front of you a letter, an aesthetic structure that somehow lies at the center of her poetics (if she had one). With this letter she will hash out that strange comfort we find in the ever-adaptable epistolary form—which scores our poems, phones, films, novels, affairs, friendships, songs, political resistance, domestic and public literatures—and what it offers us (writes to us) in return. While surveying the letter’s social, political, aesthetic, and gendered histories and futures, Latimer will also consider the standardization of national postal services and international communications, and their place in empire and our late capital systems. For letter by letter, our systems are constructed or resisted. Like language.
Quinn Latimer is a California-born poet, critic, and editor. Situated between the performance and the page, her writings often take in feminist imaginaries of literature and the moving image, technologies of gender and culture, and our many natures. She is the author of Like a Woman: Essays, Readings, Poems (2017), Sarah Lucas: Describe This Distance (2013), Film as a Form of Writing: Quinn Latimer Talks to Akram Zaatari (2013), and Rumored Animals (2012). She was editor-in-chief of publications for documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel. She is curator of SIREN (some poetics), opening at Amant Foundation, New York, in September 2022. Latimer is Head of the MA at Institut Kunst Gender Natur in Basel.
Organised by Dr Alice Butler (The Courtauld) as part of the “What a Hazard a Letter Is”: Correspondence in Feminist Art, Art Writing, and Art History, from Emily Dickinson to Now series.
Please note this event will be live streamed to allow those outside London access to the event. All those who wish to access the event via this online method should book a ‘Livestream’ ticket rather than ‘Lecture Theatre’ ticket.
Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.


June 16, 2022
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
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