A mail-art initiative
01.06.2020 — 13.02.2021
Curator Eliel Jones
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: Pulling from bell hooks’ definition of queerness as “the self which is constantly at odds with everything else”, artist Atiéna will think through the structures and intricacies of moments of celebration to reflect on situations in which hook’s definition of ‘being at odds’ can at times be most palpably felt, facilitating spaces of unbelonging.
Following the delivery of the last commission, in January 2021 we conducted a community survey of Queer Correspondence. A special limited edition was produced in collaboration with fluent (Santander, Spain), and was offered to the first 100 participants of the survey. Accompanying this period of reflection, Berlin-based artist Jesse Darling and Cell's Associate Curator, Eliel Jones, were in queer correspondence; an opportunity to exchange thoughts on the offerings and limitations of mail-art. The virtual conversation took place online on Saturday 13 February 2021.
Made possible with the generous support of an Emergency Grant from Arts Council England.
- Queer Correspondence | AnOther Magazine
- Strange Mail: How the postman delivered a lifeline to queer misfits | ArtReview
- In a Time of Social Isolation, Mail Art Offers Invaluable Human Connection | Elephant Magazine
- #QueerCorrespondence as a Form of Art | New York Times T List
- Questionnaire: A conversation with Eliel Jones | Flash Art
- The Art of Queer Support in 2020 | Frieze
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.