May 20, 2019 - Grazer Kunstverein - My Summer is your Winter
May 20, 2019

Grazer Kunstverein

Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey, Performances for Pets. Photo: Erich Malter. Image courtesy of and the artists.

My Summer is your Winter
June 14–August 1, 2019

Grazer Kunstverein
Palais Trauttmansdorff
Burggasse 4
8010 Graz
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–6pm

T +43 316 834141
F +43 316 834142
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Dear Elizabeth,

You do not exist, at least not in the material world, you are not flesh and blood, you never have been, not as far as I know. And yet for me your voice is real. Ever since I first read J. M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals you have preoccupied me. Your conviction of thought and ferocity of will, your relentless spirit, the generosity of your ideas and your lonely campaign to articulate these ideas long before they were popular has made me feel not only for the lives of the animals you defend but for you, a fictional character, a figment of a man’s imagination.

I write to you from my desk at Grazer Kunstverein, a contemporary art institution in Austria. In June we will open a new exhibition, titled My Summer is your Winter, and it is dedicated to you. The exhibition takes place in thresholds. Doorways, passages, jambs. Realms, registers, mindsets. With soft interior furnishings by Laurie Charles, animal-led workshops by Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey, ancient telecommunications by Simnikiwe Buhlungu, bodies in a library in a film by Dora García, a troupe of suspended portraits by Veronika Hauer, an interruption of poetry by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, soundwaves across thresholds by Chris Evans and Morten Norbye Halvorsen, and a startling manifesto by Fahim Amir, the exhibition explores the idea of fiction as a method or tool for understanding what it is like to be another (human or nonhuman, real or imaginary). To test the capacity of fiction (by which I also mean art) to elicit empathy for the unknown, and explore forms of consciousness beyond one’s own.

You’re not real in the way that the living are, Elizabeth, and the likelihood is this letter won’t be answered. Nevertheless I sometimes imagine conversations we might have together. About consciousness, and the birds and beasts of the earth, and changes in the world of science and education ever since you first found your way into Coetzee’s books, in 1999. Your awareness of your subjectivity in every argument you make is what mobilises me. I deeply admire your resolve to speak your truth in a world of closed ears, and to eschew your privilege and seize the possibilities of your platform to make some good. I hear your voice in choral harmony with others currently overtaking the didactic, authoritarian, stubborn patriarchal dedication to an idea of "objectivity" that once informed the world about itself. It seems such voices, speaking with deeper capacity for nuance, affect, embodied knowledge, awareness of non-human subjectivities and a taste for the unknown, are becoming louder. In some way, Elizabeth, you opened my ears to this.

From Austria to Australia—where I visualise you still, endlessly striving to express your principles even as life exhausts you, and people diminish you—I write to thank you. We may live in different worlds, where your reality is my fiction, and my summer is your winter, but with a modest leap of faith that feels so vital to our survival, your power can be felt. We are humbled to dedicate this show to you.

With fond regards,

Kate Strain

Grazer Kunstverein
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