dove/Christopher Kirubi: I guess it's becoming two things in a way: one is what it was when I wrote it, which was, it was an invitation to participate in a group show. And for some reason, what came up at the time was all this writing that I had. And it was also the first moment that I was taking myself seriously as a writer, and then also struggling to make work because of some harmful experiences during my BA, writing my dissertation and stuff like that.
So actually this was a moment when I was able to articulate those things in writing, and then to also think about that writing as work, like as a piece of work. So I made the zine and then sent it to the curator of the show who then printed out many copies and exhibited a stack of the zines as an artwork.
But it was also simultaneously, like, me starting to think about writing as a form or as a way of doing things. So what it is is just an attempt to, through loads of different more discursive stuff, more ranty stuff, and more poetic stuff, trying to articulate a position against lots of the infrastructural difficulties I was coming up against within my growing understanding of the art world and the art school and of dissertations and stuff like that.
Mixed with trying to get through a position on representational politics or diversity and things like that. Kind of all colliding and meeting together. So it was originally an artwork that was meant to be in a show. And then obviously, because it's in a book format, it became distributable through other means, like doing book fairs and I would email it just to people as like a PDF and stuff like that.
So it also just became a piece of writing in its own right. But then eventually it got slipped inside Rahana Zaman’s Tongues publication kind of surreptitiously without it really being announced. So I think the first … I don't know how many copies of that book that went out had this zine slipped inside of it.
So it's kind of a really mutable piece of text that has had many lives and iterations. So that's what it is, but then coming to this moment of thinking through its archival life or iteration has kind of been trying to, instead of … I guess the thing that's coming up is not wanting to pin down certain moments of its existence in a cataloguable way because that seems to go against what it is.
It's like a kind of slightly elusive, slippery piece of work. But just thinking about what it means for this to inhabit something like an archive, or to have to represent itself as a piece of text or work or something, or make a decision about what's important and what isn't. Because it's like, do you catalogue just the exhibition circumstances, or do I also catalogue the private correspondence I've had with people where I've said to them as well, like, what falls into the archive space?
And how does the text show up for itself in that way, I guess. That's pretty much like what the question's been.
Ami Clarke: And I think the interesting sort of point of the distinction then between what's the ‘new work’ and what is it that's—whether it's each event or if it's… —because it's the same text, so each time then we can think about its materiality perhaps and its format in which it's produced.
Because you were saying that it's been printed, but it's also been shared, and then presumably not printed actually sometimes. And then sent places in a digital format and then printed. It's pretty interesting how complex it could get. Because you could, say, there must have been a printer in New York hat printed the text, which is almost part of its articulation as well. And then it coming to Printed Matter art book fair and then being on somebody else's table. There's lots of sort of parts to the puzzle, isn't there? It's really fascinating. But then the distinction, in your mind—have you got closer to which? Because then your response was really interesting to me, that you felt that the best articulation was to have it on the site to represent itself, to have it as an object, a digital artifact. Can you say something about that in relation to the many articulations that it's had?
dove/Christopher Kirubi: Yeah, yeah. Something else that I remembered going through my email history, typing in the title of the PDF and stuff, is that there was also a workshop that Raju [Rage] did where they wanted to include this as a kind of material.
So that also becomes another kind of life that's had in terms of sitting in amongst other texts and materials for a workshop that I didn't actually attend, so it's a life that I don't know that it's had or I don't know what that was or felt like to have it like as a prompt or talking point within a workshop format, or to have it thought about or discussed in that way.
So I think it's also, in terms of this trying to account for something, actually it's like trying to hold a lot of space for the amount of things that I don't know about it somehow, or you know, like sending it to a book fair to be printed. And then you know, I don't know how it sat on the table with other publications or who picked it up or … I mean I don't even really know if it was printed out correctly because the other thing is that this was in my zero production value era and I just made it on Microsoft Word so I would have to shuffle the pages around to make it fold into a booklet where now I would do it on InDesign and I would have it kind of as a set thing. But I would send multiple versions of it in order and out of order so that people could hopefully figure out how to print it out in the right way or the right order.
And there have been versions of it where I've messed the order up. Right? There have been mistakes in how it's been printed and stuff like that. And somehow it's like all of those different relationships within the text, internal structure, but also in its external iterations, feel kind of really important, but also really beyond my capacity to actually catalogue. And when you’re confronted with an archival system, I have to either pretend that I know what each iteration was as its own work or its own kind of thing, or I have to start by just admitting things that I don't know and work from that point. And somehow it's the best way to represent the text is just with the text itself, that’s the easiest for me at least.
Ami Clarke: But it also feels like another work, or another articulation of the work. And it's just, it's a point of... Well, it's interesting then to think, how does it operate then in the world? Because you could then use it as a link, you know, you could, and then I guess the context of the work is there.
But then there's the question, because then that loses … So the slipperiness that we were talking about earlier, are you irked by pinning it down? Is there a sort of aspect of it that's catching it somehow in a solid state almost?
dove/Christopher Kirubi: Yeah, I feel conflicted about that because in one sense … I mean there's something that I wrote in 2017 or ‘16 and I kind of have moved on from a lot of the things within it and the idea that it's kind of still circulating in the world is like a little bit like a horror to me anyways because I've also written so many other things since then. I'm like, it is an artefact for me now of a certain moment.
So in a way, the archive thing comes up at like a good moment to do something like this and to kind of be able to kind of date it to that year and that time and what it was and kind of slightly … I don't know, it's like a new chapter for the work or something. It's more of an archival way of seeing it rather than just constantly reprinting it and redistributing it.
So in a way that kind of makes a lot of sense. But the other thing is that because of what it is and its status is, you know, three pieces of A4 paper folded together, I don't take too seriously even this iteration of it on an archive. If I want to reprint 10 copies of it and throw them around in the street, I'll still do it. It doesn't matter. It's not precious enough to ever have a fixed … No amount of fixing it could really ever actually fix it because it's just, you know, the most … it's loose. It's the loosest thing you could possibly …
Ami Clarke: It's on the loose.
dove/Christopher Kirubi: Yeah, exactly.