Current and Upcoming
Manon de Boer
Mario Garcia Torres
Works by Other Artists
Letter to the gallerist
March 2002, NYC
Sorry for a delay in contacting you. Hope you are having a good time in Brussels after our last veggie dinner in New York. Meanwhile I kept busy interviewing George Maciunas for the Fluxus publication, exploring my new Chelsea neighbourhood and researching the phenomena of delay. At some point I have come across the Telepathic Piece by Robert Barry that took place in the exhibition at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver in 1969.
As you probably know the artist telepathically transmitted a certain message to the world. What was the message? According to Barry it is a work of art "the nature of which is a series of thoughts that are not applicable to language or image".
I found it extremely fascinating to think of the destiny of this message. Following the most elementary information theory (not necessary including ESP) the message transmitted could not have disappeared somewhere – it is still there - in info-sphere. Even if someone had received it, that does not exclude the possibility that it could be received by anyone else at any time. Contrary to the ecstasy of instantaneity and real time communication I've got struck by the idea of delayed reception (or latent forwarding) of Barry's message after/within/ more than 30 years.
My assumptions about the quantic nature of the piece were reinforced by early Robert Barry interview: "If someone picks it up, then that's communication. Someone might pick it up a thousand years from now. Someone might pick it up five minutes before I've thought about it. You see, because it transcends time and space, and these things sort of exist for all time, so to speak <...>".
However I don't think is worth of our efforts to rewrite art history trying to prove that, for example Marcel Duchamp has received Robert Barry's message in 1917 and brought it to the Independents exhibition. I would also like to refrain from making dirty jokes about Pretzel and president Bush in the course of the sudden reception of message. Nevertheless the notion of collective info-sphere or the hyperspace interacting with our brains tends to revise classical Freudian assumptions about psycho-pathology of everyday life. It also addresses the notions of copyright and open source (since anyone could pick up the message and present as his/her own), random distribution and spam messaging (in terms of imagining the space 'out there' as an infinite bulk mail folder), the idea of alternative communication channels and unmediated public space, etc. And of course, there's something we don't know and that is much bigger.
Anyway in terms of the reception/forwarding target group I would prefer to limit search to people who could reply back themselves. I talked with Jon Hendricks recently - he said he had not received the message, but he made very interesting connections between Robert Barry, Robert Filliou and James Flint.
The reason I am writing to you is to ask whether any of the artists you work with or are interested in haven't received the message or at least thought about it. If so, maybe we could present the reception (which would function as a further transmission, of course) at your gallery? Even if it does not imply an image or a language. However I must assume that the original signal could have been distorted during the years and even Mr. Barry might be unable recognize the message as his.
Hope you are well / look forward to hear from you.