Queer Correspondence

A mail-art initiative

June - December 2020

David Lindert, 'Door', 2020
In the context of on-going uncertainty –a condition familiar to minority communities, though now made even more palpable to themselves and others by the arrival of Covid-19–, alternative forms of artistic production, distribution and reception are being developed. Cell Project Space presents Queer Correspondence: a mail-art initiative that seeks to nurture the indeterminate spaces of possibility that are put forward by subcultural lives.
 
Consisting of monthly commissions, between June and December 2020, artists and writers have been invited to begin correspondences that will establish connections between queer families: those who are already “in a queer time and place” (following the title of Jack Halberstam’s seminal book). By exchanging with peers, friends, loved ones and close community members –as well as with themselves, nature and absent addressees–, through writing, poetry, photographs, and other 2D forms, these responses will hope to invoke the intimate and invisible gaps of this moment. 
 
In making their exchanges public, Queer Correspondence enacts a gesture of solidarity, one particular to queer communities. Letters, which today are shared in various forms via the internet, have historically served as a means for making connections when physical proximity was not possible; not just by geographical distance, but also by social and political imposition. At a time when manifold restrictions have ultimately changed the way we are able to be with one another, now and in the foreseeable future, the use of mail-art as an offline form of artistic and discursive production seeks to underscore, as much as to bridge, the distances between us; connecting us, while also disconnecting us. 
 
As each project is sent out, Queer Correspondence will make literal and symbolic physical journeys, moving across borders, transiting private and public spaces and inviting its recipients on a multiplicity of past, present and future temporalities of possibility. 
 
At Cell Project Space supporting artists continues to be at the forefront of our activity. All Queer Correspondence commissions have been conceived with artists and writers that were already invited to participate in our 2020/2021 programme and whose projects have been postponed due to the impact of Covid-19. Artists and some of their chosen pen-pals include: ⁠
 
June: Inspired by the methods of living history, artist Alex Margo Arden and artist and writer Caspar Heinemann will produce a multi-sensory experience invoking themes of trickery and trapping.
 
July: Artists Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee will continue an on-going conversation on “becoming atmosphere” as a metaphor for becoming undefined, malleable and porous. Engaging with histories of art production in times of the AIDS epidemic, war and migration, the artists will consider the current pandemic and its socio-political constructions as reminders "that we are breathing each other”.
 
August: Writer Ezra Green and choreographer Martin Hansen will attempt to share a nakedness by shedding the fabrication that they know what they mean when they say the words “the world” and “the future”.  
 
September: Offered as a form healing, artist rafa esparza will write a letter/poem to men who feel they have to perform in toxic and violent ways in order to make themselves feel validated. 
 
October: In addition to producing a new video work, artist, writer and filmmaker Gelare Khoshgozaran will design a stamping system for all Queer Correspondence commissions in collaboration with Nooshin Rostami. 
 
November: Artist David Lindert will establish correspondence with himself, producing poems, diary entries and a series of photographs that will speak of self-decay, addiction and the upside downs of his romantic relationship in the times of “the virus”. 
 
December: Artist Atiéna will explore correspondences with absent recipients; individuals and communities who are hidden or no longer there, who cannot or should not reciprocate.
 
For any programme and press enquiries, please contact Eliel Jones, Associate Curator, eliel@cellprojects.org
 
Made possible with the generous support of an Emergency Grant from Arts Council England.
 
 

Subscribe to Queer Correspondence

 
Queer Correspondence was launched with a free monthly distribution of 500 copies, with most editions being posted within the UK to sign-up subscribers and to households in the immediate locality of Cell Project Space, in the borough of Tower Hamlets, London. Hundreds of editions are also being distributed to sign-up subscribers from the EU and worldwide. All subscriptions have been prioritised on a first-come-first-served basis.
 
After releasing an additional 150 editions for each project, all of which have now been taken up, we have reached the total of 650 editions per commission. There are sadly no subscriptions left for Queer Correspondence. We are encouraging all QC subscribers to let us know that they have received their mail-art projects. We are also inviting them to share their delivery with others who may not have been able to subscribe by submitting images of the projects at their various destinations. 
 
If you are a QC subscriber and would like to share your delivery with others, you can tag us on your images, tweet them to us us, post them and/or send them via email at info@cellprojects.org.⁠ We will be sharing these images via our social media channels, and also on our website. 

Queer Correspondence #5

Gelare Khoshgozaran

October 2020

Continuing a series of solo projects for which artists have been invited to produce artworks to be distributed by mail, the fifth Queer Correspondence commission by Iranian Los Angeles-based artist, writer and filmmaker Gelare Khoshgozaran comprises a new film, distributed in a bespoke USB drive with a printed postcard. Shot on Super 8 film and digitised and edited over the past four months, Khoshgozaran’s film unfolds a series of vignettes that toy with the unstable ground between fact and fiction. Though this is a strategy reminiscent of much of the artist’s practice, it is here further entangled in a moment when the feeling of living within a dream –or a nightmare– transverses reality at a speed and consequence greater than most of our untethered imaginations. 
 
In the opening sequence of MEN OF MY DREAMS (2020), soft tidal waves encroaching over rocks give way to a domestic scene of making tea. We first see a kettle boiling water on a hob and then a thin waist glass, carefully set in an otherwise mostly empty frame, as it is being filled with black leaf tea. Despite its ritualistic value (the making of tea is as much a culture as it is, itself, a place), little do we know where this place is, nor from when it is. The black and white grainy footage initially obfuscates our attempts of locating these moments within a particular geography or time, albeit Khoshgozaran does not leave us hanging for long. 
 
From this seemingly mundane idyll, the artist soon places us in the streets of Los Angeles, where Khoshgozaran lives “since once upon an August day a one way ticket”. Unlike the sun-sunken, star-studded and palm-filled scenes that are often associated with the city of dreams, Los Angeles here appears in a dystopian aftermath of social unrest. Shooting with her camera while driving through various streets, the artist captures an assembly of military trucks and vandalised store fronts, including one where large graffiti-sprayed letters spell out ACAB (“All Cops Are Bastards”), which brings us closer to the ‘when’. It is May 30th 2020; the day after a protest in Central Los Angeles in response to the murder of George Floyd by asphyxiation from the choke-holding knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. Preceded by several nights of rioting, it is the first organised protest in the city and it will be accompanied by many more; in California, throughout the country and worldwide.  
 
Khoshgozaran’s opening images depict a hostile environment in civil conflict; an experience all-too-familiar to her growing up in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war, and living through significant civil unrests in 1999 and the 2009 uprisings, when the artist migrated to the US. Creating an image of the West that is seemingly at odds with the type of saviour narratives that are often politically pushed by countries where people exile to and/or seek asylum, the artist collapses these places and times together, bringing us closer to her experience of reality as a muddy dream-like state; an understanding of the world as a place wherein, in Khoshgozaran’s very own words, everything is so ruined “that I feel at home anywhere”. 
 
Over this backdrop, which is made even more poignant by the context of a global pandemic, the artist delves into a revision of her engagement with cultural and literary history as a way into grounding herself with the tools and means that she associates with survival –those that come from the memory of a war, the passing of long spans of time at home and of having to find one’s own voice under the stronghold of fascist oppression. 
 
Thinking about this past as being materially present in fragments of knowledge carried by the body, MEN OF MY DREAMS delves into Khoshgozaran’s personal history by invoking a group of men that surrounded the artist through their writing, singing, filming and activism while growing up in Tehran and moving to the US, including: writers Edward Said and Roberto Bolaño; poet Federico Garcia Lorca; filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini; singer Farhad Mehrad; Iranian journalist and poet Khosrow Golesorkhi; and also Saeed, her father. 
 
Reckoning with the cultural legacy that accompanied the Iranian revolution – “the producers of left intellectualism” – as being overwhelmingly male, Khoshgozaran inserts herself into these masculine identities by lending her body to carry their countenances, invoking their presence with paper-cut masks on her face. Throughout seven chapters presented as dreams, the artist literally and metaphorically juxtaposes these men against her own life, reflecting on the experiences of displacement, diasporic belonging, political persecution and queerness as being at times converging meeting points in the production of subjectivity, as well as of an artistic and discursive practice of resistance. Avoiding a fall into mere nostalgia, the artist’s exploration –which has an air of performance, comedy and healing– liberates the weight of these men while still acknowledging their personal influence, giving way to a form of exchange; a correspondence where Khoshgozaran speaks back. 
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Eliel Jones
Associate Curator, Cell Project Space
 
Queer Correspondence is a mail-art initiative at Cell Project Space, running between June - December 2020. Consisting of monthly commissions, artists and writers have been invited to begin correspondences by mail that will establish connections between queer families: those who are already “in a queer time and place” (following the title of Jack Halberstam’s seminal book). By exchanging with peers, friends, loved ones and close community members—as well as with themselves, nature and absent addressees—, through writing, poetry, photographs and other 2D forms, these responses will hope to invoke the intimate and invisible gaps of this moment.
 
Gelare Khoshgozaran is an undisciplinary artist and writer who, in 2009 was transplanted from street protests in a city of four seasons to the windowless rooms of the University of Southern California where aesthetics and politics were discussed in endless summers. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the New Museum, Queens Museum, Hammer Museum, LAXART, Human Resources, Visitor Welcome Center, Articule (Montreal), Beursschouwburg (Brussels), Pori Art Museum (Finland) and Yarat Contemporary Art Space (Baku, Azerbaijan). She was the recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2015), an Art Matters Award (2017), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2019) and a Graham Foundation award (2020). Her words have appeared in contemptorary (co-founding editor), The Brooklyn Rail, Parkett, X-TRA, LA Review of Books, Art Practical, Ajam Media Collective and MARCH, among others.
 
In 2021, Gelare Khoshgozaran will stage her first solo exhibition in the UK at Cell Project Space, originally due to have opened in September 2020 and postponed due to Covid-19. 
 
For any programme and press enquiries, please contact Eliel Jones, Associate Curator, eliel@cellprojects.org
 
Made possible with the generous support of an Emergency Grant from Arts Council England.