Lead artist/researchers: Helen Spackman, Manuel Vason, Ernst Fischer
GHOST LETTERS was conceived by Isabella Di Cola, Ernst Fischer and Helen Spackman in the spring of 2008. Exploring themes of dis/appearance, (dis)remembrance, metamorphosis and migration, GHOST LETTERS interrogates the relationship between ghosts, memory and performance, with specific reference to Jacques Derrida’s assertion that technological developments in the mid-late twentieth century have increased rather than diminished the power of phantasmic images to haunt us, that "ghosts are part of the future" rather than the past (Derrida, interviewed in Ken McCullen’s film Ghost Dance, 1983). In accordance with other current LEIBNIZ projects such as The Book of Blood & The Book of Dust, GHOST LETTERS seeks to promote the concept of performance as a dialogic form of counter cultural documentation that remains open and responsive to spectatorial engagement.
In his seminal sound recording Feu la Cendre (1987), Jacques Derrida describes (post-) modern life as lived on the edge of a volcano, in a continuous state of fragmentation and decline without resolution - ‘an end without end’. As an image-based performance response to Derrida’s proposition, GHOST LETTERS takes the form of an organic and fragmented performance installation, broken up and distributed over several architectural, geographical and temporal spaces, with neither a clear beginning nor end. Objects, bodies, actions - traces of past LEIBNIZ performances and intimations of future ones - have/will be placed in a number of separate spaces, inviting spectators to re/visit them in a series of intimate or public encounters according to chance or following their own chronological and narrative choices. In other words, spectators have/will become participants in the performance by taking on the role of archaeologists, uncovering fragments of stories or finding silent spaces where meaning has long since crumbled to dust, creating newly disremembered and forever shifting patterns from the material at hand.
GHOST LETTERS is designed to adapt/respond to the spaces of any particular venue or location and, constituting and re-presenting an ongoing process, is based on the condition that its images and actions (of loss, terror, longing, incineration and ‘incorporation’) shall be repeated and re-used in different combinations and contexts with each new (de)mise en scène. The long-term aim is to gradually diffuse the work across various other performances and presentations until each has ceased to exist in its own right without being completely eradicated since (at least some of) ‘its’ images survive elsewhere. It is the responsibility of the participating artists to document this process of dissemination in various (audio, graphic &/or visual) ways in order to both chronicle the original performance/s’ demise and to facilitate their reconstitution from the surviving remnants by other artists and spectators who may or may not have been present at their ‘original’ manifestation. In this respect, the project might be read as a simultaneously decadent and generative testament to the concept of performance as documentation -in- process, where ‘liveness’ and ‘presence’ are not necessarily preconditions of participation, an aspect which is becoming particularly pertinent in relation to LEIBNIZ’s constitution as a fluid collective of international artists.
To a certain extent, Ghost Letters represents the formalization of the process of recycling and transforming images that has characterized the organic nature of the performances we have created over the last 14 years - while each successive performance has often incorporated material from previous performances, this is juxtaposed with new imagery, so that, to paraphrase Warhol, the older images change with their repetition. Ghost Letters’ ‘passing over’ of images and actions to other artists also marks a deliberate shift towards a more collaborative way of working, beyond the directorial role we have respectively taken in The Book of Dust and The Ship of Fools projects, and our largely organizational and facilitative role in The Book of Blood. Ghost Letters’ collaborative artistic endeavour reflects the underlying aim of such spectral ‘writings’: to build a portfolio of performances - an assembly of ‘ghosts’ - that ‘speak’ intimately to each other and to their spectators of friendship, community and remembrance as a means of resisting the negative impact of the wider socio-political context of globalisation, class division, ethnic and religious distrust and societal breakdown.