two proposals


 this isn’t an introduction to a thesis, but an open letter addressed to particular group of artists. The text below takes the form of a proposal and testimony. Please be patient and if this eventually seems incomplete, the rest takes the form of an unpublished (book size) text called talking house(s).

 Some time ago I took part in a group show and one small piece in it surprised me. It was a printed text with handwritten alterations and lines crossed out and in some way a friend’s work became a template for talking house(s), which took five years to write. 

 After Warhol set the tone with 15 seconds of permissible fame, the work of art could allow at least one moment of grandiosity, or an assertion following an interpretation of the historic avant garde. This is then my moment. Posting an open letter to some other artists could be bad form when the Other barely exists (following Lacan). Being in the world is never what it seems and I’m taking this risk during a pandemic. I don’t expect replies but a trajectory is sometimes unavoidable. I’ve lived art school moments and social practice moments and hope there’s more to art world trajectories in these difficult times.

 Talking house(s) is partly a description of time spent with a extraordinary person and it’s partly a run up to an open letter and two proposals which can be seen below.


   new circumstances 

 The first of two proposals and an open letter to the art world was first put together prior to the ongoing Covid epidemic and these texts can be seen on two websites. I wanted to do something like this months ago and texts and videos referred to here have to do with talking house(s).

 I’ve also included the first version of new video, called Peripheral. In it I refer to a passing storm which is only passing some time in the future. I refer to the word extension in this film and there’s a short paragraph in a current text that has to do with what follows.

 The word extension implies pausing and an open letter to the art world supposes an event that can be modified. There were plagues in the seventeenth century and one proposal refers to the painter Jan Both and his life was short. But talking house(s), is not commemorative... and I have in mind Paul Chan’s reference to Waiting for Godot shortly after floods in New Orleans. There is a sense of things or something seems sensible at the time.


   'open letter to the art world'  

 What follows is a love letter and a second, sometimes attached proposal can be seen at one of two websites (see I don’t know how to write a love letter to the art world but I begin with addressees. When work resonates it attracts a response and I'm responding to artists whose work resonates for me. 

I've been toying with the word proposal for some time and still don't know what to make of it, but begin with something that Jacques Lacan says in Seminar xvii. Misunderstandings are inevitable, but for Lacan, something happens when one discourse turns into another and for Lacan, love happens. 

 I imagine an in-between place and an in-between status is part of a contention and part of the mix here  I’ve moved backwards and forwards between art practice and versions of something like clinical practice and want to look again at showing work. 

 Once before, I was an art student at Goldsmiths with conceptual and arte povera leanings... and it was quite a long time ago.  It was during and after May ‘68 and showing work in recent years follows psychoanalysis and an aversion to art worlds. The 1970s 80s and 90s were different times and a new analysis of those times seems overdue. 

 I mostly write and make videos and what I produce is now possible due to advances in technology and small excerpts can be seen on my two websites (see also I’m looking for some kind of advice showing and publishing work and looking for a dialogue that can be discursive. 

 I have the beginnings of a new body of work, following serious illness, personal loss (and relocation) and doing what I can to contend with isolation in digital times. This love letter to the art world precedes a proposal addressed to a group of psychoanalysts and both proposals have something to do with dreams and daydreams or dreams structuring texts and proposals. One proposal supposes endless re-vision and a curatorial dream supposes a living, but retroactive process. I risk bad form with an open letter and make constant reference to a book size text, talking house(s), and two websites that provide further information, but wanting to do something isn’t possible without connections (in the first instance).

 I met Ruth during cancer treatment and were both having radiotherapy. I spent five years with her and she died at the end of 2014. She asked what I’d do afterwards and losing her is the other side of a small miracle. I moved to England five years ago and have come up with something like a new body of work. It begins with isolation and proposals are hopefully part of something else. I’m introducing myself and moving in the direction of some kind of connectivity.

 In the book size text (talking house(s), I refer to moments in Goldsmiths College library looking through art magazines, then e-flux moments in recent years, but with e flux, there is no submissions procedure and that process is possibly covered by artists migrating to universities and subsequent networks. 

 But there are other people out there too (like me) and this letter to the art world is unavoidably text heavy.

  a first and second proposal

 A first and second proposal is part of an open letter. The first is part of a process of re-vision. It took me five years after Ruth died to come up with a text and future revision and updates are likely. If circumstances are ever conducive, I want to put on a reading, performance and exhibition translation of talking house(s) - in seventeenth century Dutch and Italian... next to a painting that's possibly by Jan Both. It's the first painting I ever saw and the artist is known for Dutch landscapes with Italian mountains, inspired no doubt by a one off visit to Italy at the start of the seventeenth century.

 It’s a first tentative outline and I’m happily mixing up two proposals and an extended version of this open letter can be seen online.

Christopher Sands, still, Mo 2020

   introducing a curatorial dream 

 Telling a dream that’s not Freudian or Lacanian involves dreaming a dream that’s not Freudian or Lacanian and I’m making a start with proposals. The first part of talking house(s) (see websites for excerpts) is about Ruth and the second part (mirror text) can be about video or problems elaborating dreams. 

 I always look at pictures first and video is part of a persistent trajectory. I look at a text and Jacques Lacan refers to a wall of language. He plays with the French words mur and amour, (amur)... I'm writing an open letter with walls in mind and video precedes this wall of language. 

 It precedes a wall of language and both projects involve dreaming. One proposal proffers an art world event and a second begins with a curatorial dream, first mentioned in the Brompton Road text (at the end of talking house(s).

 My father spent most of his life painting and spent a few months in a small bedroom at the end of his life. 

 The room later became a storage room and what’s left of a family collection now remains in another rarely visited (paid for) storage facility. Digital storage and the fate of texts and video are something else and curatorial dreams persist between the lines. A first dream (at the end of talking house(s)) updates Tarkovsky’s famous zone in the film, Stalker, and a baby sits on a table in a Brompton Road tea room in the second. Here, there’s reference to the Royal Marsden hospital, which is a cancer hospital in Brompton Road. 

   demands and a lost generation

 There’s work to do and a love letter to the art world is part of a strategy that includes curatorial dreams. 

 The letter and the text (talking house(s)) are inevitably demanding and demands are problematic. The dreamer dreams telling a dream and demands seem part of language and language is demanding. I already have what I want, but nothing stands still and the work seems part of an improbable trajectory. I suffer from insomnia and most nights walk backwards and forward along a long upstairs corridor. I can’t sleep and nothing compares to this place for insomnia. Projects presage a passage of time but nothing beats wandering at night.

 In an interview between Nostalgia and his last film (the Sacrifice), Andrei Tarkovsky makes demands. He needs money and laments the personal cost of his work and the interview anticipates a last title and it anticipates more than it should. The work of art involves personal sacrifice and there was more to Tarkovsky's sacrifice in this instance.

 The work (of art) takes time or too long and there is little chance of funding in austere digital times or few chances beyond trajectories bound to academia. This is an open letter and talking house(s) is an open text. Little is possible without funding and connections and little is possible beyond texts and video.

 A turn towards safe sponsorship in the last twenty years freezes innovation and I now feel part of a lost generation. 

 We came too soon for Goldsmith's 1990s entrepreneuring generation and the digital revolution was anticipated for a long time. Work that wasn't possible thirty years ago is now possible, due to new, more affordable technology and the ongoing digital revolution, but growing isolation is a part of this revolution and personal circumstances compound isolation.

 With this email, I'm feeling my way, having spent time working on a new body of work.  

 There's only so much that’s possible without collaboration and connections, but I want to begin putting myself out there once more. This may be bad form when so many artists have migrated to universities but contingencies and circumstances prevail

 This work can be part of an interface between psychoanalysis and current contemporary art and it's networking in the first place. I'd like to begin to show work again and want to publish a book, but know none of this is possible without help. This is no new way of doing things it seems, but shifting from isolation to showing work or from one discourse to another (following Lacan) amounts to a love letter to the art world.

 It’s a love letter making up for lost time and a testimony of sorts. Conceptual art was anticipated 100 years ago and digital platforms, computers and video technology amount, once more, to attitudes becoming form.  

 Let’s say, it’s a testimony or a voice from a lost generation. We questioned art education and too much professionalisation in the wake of May'68 and many artists took to social practice (Chris Kraus). Arte povera didn’t lead to safe careers and younger artists now look to universities for employment. New professionalisation leads to new norms and a new academy based on increasingly academic texts. 

 And consequences are clear.  A new subjectivity seems possible with new technologies and something must be possible in digital times, but this letter to the art world is symptomatic. 

 Sending something unannounced is bad form, but there's no cure for digital isolation and establishments based on mutual self interest and exclusiveness. That exclusiveness in education and in art worlds was questioned 50 years ago and some things haven’t changed. 

 I have my work and want to do something with it, but there's no place for late development or having something to say (which is always a contentious phrase).

 Some time ago, the Artists Placement Group had a maxim: You’re either in a position where you have something to say but have no position or you have a position but nothing to say.

  stills and texts or stills and video

 Throughout texts, I include digital stills and some are included in video timelines. I don’t know what I’m looking at with stills and clips or what’s happening when I wander around with a camera, but stills are often used between clips on a timeline and digital stills play a part in texts. Am ambiguity is possible. There is the duration of a text and the duration of a short video and the space taken up by stills. Stills are a go-between in both instances, linking text and video. 

 In a Lacanian sense, there’s a matheme that begins with video. Video and a stills archive come first and a text with stills follows. Something hopefully resonates in both places, but both begin with isolation in digital times. I’m updating a video called out there, which seemed unsatisfactory in 2017. The text, talking house(s), refers to an interior space and video sometimes proffers time spent outside. Jacques Lacan refers to a space that’s neither inside or outside with the word extimacy

 It’s intimate and not intimate and digital stills function between video and a text, but outside is a conundrum. 

 There are fewer and fewer places to wander with a camera. Shopping malls are warm during cold winters, but there are many restrictions with public places. Talking house(s) begins with storytelling and video. Looking and being seen were soon part of two people getting to know each other after cancer treatment and Ruth sometimes made the case for doing something with the work. 

 But taking in what happened has taken a long time. Texts are open texts, video can be updated from time to time and stills are first part of video, then part of a text.


 I've mixed two proposals. I want to start showing work again. My addressees are long range addressees who mostly don't know me or my work and I'm looking for something discursive. I want to curtail circumstantial isolation and start working again. Home based work is no longer work and my second proposal supposes dreams without psychoanalysis and a presentation addressed to a group of analysts.

 There are two separate proposals, but both address a problematic space or place. A much mentioned text possibly resonates in the first and a curatorial dream in the second proposal turns in on itself. There's a problem and it's a museum of our own making. As Bernice in the second proposal suggests, best a change of register sometimes... that and a little love sometimes.  

   an extension?

 Even as an introduction (in search of connectivity), this open letter isn’t long enough or substantial enough. It’s still a proposal, not an essay or the start of a thesis, but there’s a shift towards it being a testimony and this testimony possibly makes sense of proposals and an open letter.

Christopher Sands, still, Mo 2020

    'Part 2' 

  more testimony than proposal

 There are dreams at the end of talking house(s). It's a long text and I should say something about dreaming.

 I dreamt beginning to make sense of an area where time stood still and another dream has something to do with Brompton Road, the Royal Marsden and a baby sitting on a tearoom table. One dream suggests trying too hard, a young woman on the outside and a Lacanian conference.

 I refer to a curatorship dream and curating involves a little homophony. It's a small homophony with dreams on the outside.


 With too much and too little at stake there's a co-ordinate from long ago. 

 It's something overheard at Goldsmiths nearly fifty years ago and I was listening in to a post May '68 art school meeting, when someone on the teaching staff elaborated. 

 He took time to say what he wanted to say and was making a case for art schools and art school education in 1968. Bernice responded in a different register. She wasn’t really listening and couldn’t be drawn into a localised arguement. Knowing what was best in art school education fell short of Bernadette’s sense of fair play and saviour faire and she wasn't even in the art school.

She dismissed an arguement with consumate ease and invented a different register. 

 It's a lost in time moment and a lot seemed to be changing in 1968. There was no answer to arguments surrounding art school education then and there isn't now and a change of register did the trick. She wasn't on the other end of a case... and the art school soon moved closer to a local community. 

 Some gestures have a bearing or take time to arrive and Goldsmiths is well known for a later entrepreneuring generation, but other moments can be far reaching and far reaching is probably an ambitious qualification these days.


 Accommodation wasn’t possible for a while and retroactively art school occupations can be part of a discontent surrounding work and the signifier occupy. A post'68 lost in time moment lost some momentum and a disdain for professions, in my case, led to poorly paid work for a long time.  

 I should fast forward to a curatorial dream and to a location where something happens in the text called talking house(s). The curatorial dream is part of a run up to more re-vision and likely work on a text that can only be updated.

 A location persists. It turns up in the Lacanian conference dream and the Tarkovsky moment isn't far away, but in the curatorial dream, I'm looking at animals and making notes with museum people. Neglect is palpable... and it’s the zone in Tarkovsky’s Stalker with farm animals. It’s dream-like afterwards, sensible at the time and there's a list of associations premising a museum without walls.

  Let's say, it's where time stands still... and where there's everything and nothing to say. The work is beyond us. Notes won't suffice and it's no longer a museum without walls. Our presence changes things. The animals want food and I do my best shearing a sheep. It won't do, can't do and nothing stays the same. Curatorship isn't possible in a post Tarkovsky world and catching up is letting go. 

 There is a museum without walls and no museum without walls!

   a returning Tarkovsky moment

 A plan of action began with an embarrassed tree, mentioned in talking house(s). I point my camera, leaves start falling and it's already part of a much later dream.

Christopher Sands, still, 2014 

   video spot

 Returning to the same spot is a feature in my video. The spot becomes what it is, an abstraction, coordinate... spot

 After a trip to the Marsden, when anything might happen, I already knew what I wanted to do. There's time for a coffee, with an outside table as tripod. It's a one off moment, like other one off moments, with dreaming to follow... and making a fool of myself in front of Ruth’s brother with Ruth looking on. 

 A brief testimony, then a few more hours sleep. Problems with my eye and with video... when looking has to do with past events. 

 I lay in bed thinking what I’d say if I got as far as the voice recorder on my phone. There was steam outside, not mist or fog but something hissing at street level and it clearly has to do with video called Peripheral and the life of a train station. 

 I slept and woke up, then slept and woke up again and the hissing wouldn’t do. I’m doing what I’ve done for a while, listening with just half a body and looking out for the ghost of a cherry tree in an English village. 

 No one should know!


 tongue tied

 I came up with new video texts and want to include them somehow. Texts have a part to play here and there, but video texts leave me tongue tied. It begins with a preoccupation... and the after effects of a preoccupation. 

 It has something to do with an archival photo, steam, a railway station and lying perfectly still. Listening to sounds follows time spent filming and it’s something I’ve always done. Stains at different times and a painting that’s not one. 

 My father went about things in a different way.


 With peripheral there are the sounds of two stations and there’s a voice-over that can be mute. With a text there is more and more text and with video something is declined. It’s not exactly less text. There’s so much and so little to see in an old archive and nothing is really old. There are twists and turns and sometimes something else. Something else is becoming a leitmotif. 


 I’m working on video and catching up is part of video and texts accompanying video. It’s slurred motion and the time it takes makes showing them problematic. It’s problematic but not a problem and video and text problems feel like physical problems. There’s no getting away from them and adding something could be a distraction, but the distraction is untested and apparitions are made up like appearances. Putting on a show is putting on a show. It’s looking good in some way. 

 An epidemic could involve staying in and getting out there somehow.

   having a body

 Having a body is a problem some evenings. I felt very cold after Ruth died... and don’t feel well when I don’t move around. I don’t circulate or my circulation isn’t what it once was. I’m slumping and will slump over one day or one evening and it won’t be a pretty sight. I’ve been looking at unused clips from 2014 and video is never just archival. I’ve been looking at old albums and remember sitting on a horse and feeling uncomfortable at my father’s school. He was the art teacher at a different school and I was in the wrong place sitting on a horse.

 Comings and goings will be disturbed by the epidemic and recent preoccupations already seem surprising, but two proposals are still part of talking house(s). It’s a text and broader project.


   something blossoms without blossoming

 There are photos of Ruth in a Southampton hotel room in 2012 and I include one (of the room) without her in a timeline and she’s mostly absent in (the video called) peripheral. I sit on a horse and remember a cherry tree in a garden. I’m here and not here and something blossoms without blossoming.


Christopher Sands, still, 28 September 2014


 I push on with a camera, hold back editing and say something about visibility or something like it. It’s never the same and something else is something else. It’s a misnomer. It’s a surprising misnomer and difficulty showing work is an extension. Something begins with music or something heard but not heard. The rest, if there’s anymore, begins with something thought up once before. It’s possible or it was once possible. 

 My father seemed tired in a dream this morning. 

 Something carries on and something doesn’t and there’s something retrospective here. I could say I felt unwell, then there were floods and an epidemic preempts ecological disaster. Things are moving very fast or not moving at all and I still don’t know what to do with my work.

 Is it a problem?     

 The word extension implies pausing. An open letter to the art world supposes an event that can be modified. There were plagues in the seventeenth century and Jan Both’s life was short. The text, talking house(s) is not commemorative and I have in mind Paul Chan’s reference to Waiting for Godot shortly after floods in New Orleans. There is a sense of things or something seems sensible at the time and I’m referring to one of the proposals. 

 The proposition involves translating parts of talking house(s) into seventeenth century Flemish and Italian and a performance of sorts. The other proposition is addressed to a group of psychoanalysts, positing dreams that aren’t Freudian or Lacanian. I'm already making the case for this second proposition.  


Christopher Sands, still for peripheral, 2020  

Christopher Sands, Ruth, 4 July 2010



   what I've done here

 I make reference to proposals and the proposals look more like a testimony in the second part of this open letter to a group of artists and Lacanian analysts. The proposals and text follow an unpublished book size text and some videos can be seen on both websites. I would like to start showing work in due course, but want to begin conversations surrounding this work and other work.

 My partner Ruth died at the end of 2014 and I've spent time coming on with new work, but there's only so much that's possible working on my own or in isolation. 

CS. March 2020

© Christopher Sands 2017