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Etel Adnan and Lynn Marie Kirby’s Poetic (and Funny) Email Exchanges

Here’s a sneak peek of Oracular Transmissions, a new book collecting three collaborations between these two artists.

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We’re all familiar with the rich tradition of mail art, but less explored is the evolving form of email art. Back in 2015, artist Lynn Marie Kirby started an email exchange with her friend, the artist and poet Etel Adnan. Kirby, on a trip to Southern Spain, periodically sent Adnan photos of the historic Alhambra palace and fortress. “You can see what kind of response the images evoke,” Kirby wrote to Adnan over email. For example, Kirby sends an image of an octagonal fountain. Adnan responds, on “a hot day you want to put your face in it and stay there and make sure your thoughts are silenced and your whole being is happy.” Their conversation unravels in poetic and amusing directions, as Adnan inquires “what is a selfie pole stick” and concludes that the Alhambra “is one giant lettered book.”

Below, we’ve shared an excerpt from this delightful email collaboration, which is now printed in a new book titled Oracular Transmissions, published by the Los Angeles-based X Artists’ Books (they’re offering free shipping through May 11 with the code “READINGTOGETHER”). The book gathers two other collaborations between Adnan and Kirby. The earliest, Back, Back Again in Paris (2013), builds off of Adnan’s 1993 novel Paris When It’s Naked; for the project, Kirby found each sentence in the book with the word “Paris” and together the two artists created a new poem. The artists’ latest project, Transmissions (2017), was originally performed live at KADIST gallery in San Francisco (where Kirby lives). The text emerged out of conversations they had in Paris (where Adnan lives) about the Oracle of Delphi, whereas minimalist and expressive ink drawings were made collaboratively when they paused talking.

Funnily enough, Kirby first read Alhambra Exchange at Crunch Fitness in San Francisco. The gym was originally the Alhambra Theatre, an ornate movie palace from 1926 inspired by the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra. Kirby, who exercises at Crunch, decided to pay tribute to the space’s unusual past.

Reading the emails between these two artists feels especially inspiring at a moment when we’re all home and finding new ways to express ourselves. As we increasingly talk to and write friends, why not make a project out of it?

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Oracular Transmissions is now out from X Artists’ Books. 

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