Thuistezien 293 — 03.01.2022

L’écriture avant la lettre
Alphabetum IX

Once upon a time, there was a book, and inside this book, there was another book. That is the case with the publication for ‘L’écriture avant la lettre’, the ninth exhibition in the Alphabetum exhibited at West Den Haag in 2021-2022. A single book containing another book, each with their own titles, their own ISBN-numbers, their own authors and, arguably, their own reality. Even so, they share aspects of the same universe, as is the case when the reader gets introduced to the character Goran who calls himself a handyman. This self-proclaimed handyman, however, happens to be the author of the second contained book, ‘Remembering a Mondrian’.

Prior to the introduction to the handyman’s hidden second publication, the reader meets a character who goes by the name Res Feber. Feber is a person who collects words that only exist in one language and who is in the process of re-figuring the meaning of language. At the beginning of the story Feber receives a letter with an invitation to a mysterious conference in the capital. The sender is ‘The Society of the Weird and Wonderful Chemistry of Audio-Active Decay’. At the conference, Feber meets all the other guests, none of whom seem to know exactly why they are there and what they are going to do, yet all seem to have an agenda of their own that involves the destruction and/or re-construction of the language. During the last day of the conference, Walter Benjamin, who is also an attendant, hands Feber a book. This is the last action before an intermission in the story, in which the second book begins. The book ‘Remembering a Mondrian’ takes an autobiographical approach. In the book, the author Goran Đorđević accounts for his lifelong work revolving around the act of making copies of the painting ‘Composition II’ painted by Piet Mondrian in 1929. ‘Remembering a Mondrian’ is an ode to the concept of a copy and points out the importance of memory in the reading of images and texts. As argued in the text, a copy has an additional value in comparison to the original because it represents not only the context of the original but also a new context, the time and space in which this copy is constituted. As the book comes to an end, the reader is dumped back into the story told by Res Feber, who now seems to have come to some sort of clarification.

In the progression of the story, the character of Res Feber begins to resemble less of a person and more of a feeling, a certain state of mind existing in the author but, perhaps, also developing in the reader. A feeling that calls for a freedom of logic, from the logic that the letters we know always form words and the words we know always form meaning. There is something relieving about not knowing how to read letters and not knowing what their combinations can mean. I can imagine that relieving feeling, when the letters break free of their orders and form, and an ocean of possible other meanings come into existence. Perhaps an ocean similar to the one Res Feber dives into when the story ends.

The publication can be downloaded as a PDF in Dutch and English and can be purchased in a physical form online as well as in the Alphabetum in West Den Haag.
English version
Dutch version

Text: Rosa Zangenberg