September 18, 2015

Open Letters: A Correspondence with Chilean Writer Ignacio Szmulewicz, 4

Ignacio Szmulewicz is an art writer in Santiago, Chile. We met on Twitter and ended up writing each other letters about art writing. You can read the former ones here.

Dear Ignacio,

Your film references made me smile. I like how your writing references so much a visual medium. And it made me wonder if your writing itself is cinematic. Is it as much about the images and the sound as it is about the words? 

Gertrude Stein, one of my favorite writers, wrote like a cubist painting, circling around and around and around its subject, always slightly changing the angle through repetition. How do I write? Friends have told me I have an easy style, I write as if I am talking. I like to take that as a compliment. As an Andy Warhol fan, I can only believe that everything that comes across easy, is a good thing to be! 

But is it easy to make something sound easy that is essentially complicated like art? Let me take one of your references, Gonzalez IƱarritu. His film 21 grams is one that I remember well, although usually films don’t stick with me.  

To delve deeper and deeper, you say. I guess that’s true, but at the same time writing for me is about reaching the surface of things. Truman Capote said that one has to exhaust the emotion before writing, like eating an apple every day so you know exactly how it tastes like but you have lost all appetite. Writing about art involves for me coming to this surface, to write with a clear and cool head, no longer lost in depths. 

Occasionally, however, I do, as a friend noticed, write from a place of anger about art. It’s very easy to write from that place, anger makes the pen flow. Much harder is it to write about art that touched me in a special way. It’s very difficult to write about it because, in such cases, there’s something that escapes me. I guess that something is where poetry comes in. This writing about good art can be a struggle, but when I manage, it feels like I have touched upon that spirit of 21 grams, the weight the body looses upon dying

When I’ve finished such a piece, I can be so content that I read it again and again for hours, like looking at a beautiful painting on the wall. After a while I reach a point of over-saturation so that I can let it go and then I will not look at it again. If I do look at it again, which I sometimes do, I no longer get what the thrill was all about. The magic is gone. 

This whole writing process involves good tools. I have a notebook of Muji with me at all instances because most ideas come to me when I’m on the road. On my desk I have my pencils sharpened, although I rarely use them. They’re just there to spark joy. 

I’m interested in the utensils of writing. Do you have some? 

Best wishes,


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