Quelques Corps Favorables

Artistic research, participatory epistolary action, audio, photography, work in progress since 2020.

This longterm artistic research takes as its conceptual and material starting point an encounter with the library of French photographer and writer Hervé Guibert, whose book collection has been preserved at the Paris home of his executor Christine Seemüller since his 1991 death from AIDS. The project imagines alternative approaches to art historiography and the forging of queer kinship bonds through the design of participatory, community-generating gestures involving epistolary actions and performative museum visits across Europe.

During my doctoral studies into queer libraries and audio guides, I had the opportunity to visit the Hervé’s library, which stands on his original bookshelves in Seemüller’s home. In addition to numerous mentions of his library in his writing, Guibert also produced a photograph of his book collection in 1987, entitled Ma Bibliothèque, pictured above. I photographed his library thirty years later, composing the image to mimic Hervé’s original.

Most striking about the current state of Guibert’s library is the absence of the fifty-six picture postcards that appear displayed in front of the books in his 1987 photograph. Seemüller explained to me that after Guibert’s death, she distributed the collection of postcards among his friends, allowing each individual to select the cards they wished to keep.

My research focuses on these dispersed postcards, not only for their visual appeal, but also as diaristic and epistolary material, as signs of life, travel, communication, and relation.I have embarked on a process of identifying and collecting as many of the postcards that appear in Guibert’s photograph as possible; to essentially “re-collect” this missing visual and relational material from his library. This process has involved reaching out to art historian colleagues and art-lover friends around the world, telling them about my encounters with the library, and requesting their assistance in my task.

To date, twenty-two postcards have been identified, the majority featuring artworks from European museums. Once an artwork from one of Hervé’s postcards is identified, I contact a friend, lover, or colleague who lives in the city where the artwork is housed. I ask them to visit the museum, purchase the postcard from the museum store, write a note on it, and send it to me. So far I have received postcards from friends in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Munich, Palermo, Budapest, New York City, Pisa, Stuttgart, Paris, and Vienna.

I have created a number of artworks that trace the contours of my research as it unfolds, expanding both its sensory and relational culture, involving increasing numbers of participants and contributors.

These include the scripting of a performance lecture that has been delivered at the Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid), McGill University (Montréal), and KASK+Conservatorium (Ghent); a research exhibition at La Chaufferie (Romainville); and research actions involving the creation and distribution of my own postcard series at Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid) and a-pass (Brussels).

I have also produced a suite of audio letters addressed to Hervé as well as contributors to my postcard research, entitled Trois Lettres Parisiennes. For an exhibition at the Ystads Konstmuseum in 2022, one of the audio letters — addressed to artist Conny Karlsson Lundgren and including epistolary writing by Eli Levén — was exhibited with an accompanying wall arrangement of forty-five postcards.

This research is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts (Ottawa), the Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid) and KASK & Conservatorium (Ghent).