“Writing on foot”

Fernanda Brenner

Sarah Tritz, TRISTZ INSTITUTT (detail), 2019. Cloth, cardboard, nylon, various materials (each puppet: 50 x 20 x 3 cm without their seats). Photo by André Morin.

September 28, 2021

Meta is a collaboration between art-agenda and TextWork, editorial platform of the Fondation Pernod Ricard, which reflects on the relationship between artists and writers. Here, Fernanda Brenner considers how questions of intimacy, digital mediation, and “unlearning habits” influenced her response to the work of Sarah Tritz.

My old drama teacher used to tell a story about Antonin Artaud. Trapped in a taxi in a massive Paris bouchon and unable to hold himself together, Artaud stepped out of the car, jumped on top of it, and started walking over the sea of immobile vehicles shouting: “You are all mad!”1 The anecdote came to mind when I was asked to write about Sarah Tritz’s work. The artist and I had planned a studio visit right after I saw her outstanding exhibition at Centre D’Art Contemporain D’Ivry – Le Crédac, in Ivry Sur Seine. Cut to lockdown. Whoever didn’t reappraise the pillars of their life during that time—love, work, whereabouts, and so on—must be truly mad.

Since I was unable to meet Sarah in person, writing about her work became an exercise in pairing information gathered piecemeal over Zoom calls to the artist with my still-fresh impressions of the works I’d seen in person. In the essay for TextWork, I mention how our digital introduction left me with an out-of-sync perception of her practice. Seeing into each other’s living rooms while sharing our concerns about the current state of affairs and how we managed that unprecedented situation in Paris and São Paulo, where we are respectively based, prompted an awkward sense of intimacy, something like a blind date.

The incompleteness of my notes was thrilling, and I drew on that feeling while writing the essay. Its flickering structure reflects my anxious attempt to grasp Tritz’s work through a non-linear, associative mash-up of her words, personal memories, and references from multiple sources. Not many artists’ practices would allow me to combine Rei Kawakubo, Barbara Hammer, Luigi Pirandello, and an Art Deco doorknob. Tritz’s practice conveys a rigorous playfulness that is in itself an invitation to step out of one’s writing comfort zone. Her character-sculptures beg for a sensory—or rather sensual—approach before pressing the “record” button and switching to critical mode. I felt the urge to interview the works themselves, in a dialect which I couldn’t yet speak.

Ursula K. Le Guin once said that the “daily routine of most adults is so heavy and artificial that we are closed off to much of the world. I think one purpose of art is to get us out of those routines.” She added that this can happen around young children or adults “who have unlearned those habits of shutting the world out.”2 Tritz has proudly unlearned the habit and conventions of contemporary art. Her work delivers everything you need to know right away, like a kid who has just found her way around verb tenses. There’s no time for lofty discourse or too much varnish. It’s all humming on the surface of her trippy, funny, yet melancholy works. Pursuing the right words to describe them reminded me of Wisława Szymborska’s advice to aspiring poets: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”3

Almost a year after writing about Tritz’s work, I finally met her in person. In her studio, she showed me some vintage French erotic magazines, a collection of fantastic new drawings that were lying on the floor, and a couple of hand-sewn cats. Two days earlier, restaurants had reopened in Paris. It was a sunny day and the cars were roaming around at a strange, slow pace. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to walk outside while whistling in a new dialect.


I tried in vain to fact-check this anecdote online but nevertheless, it’s a great story.


Ursula Le Guin interviewed in Jonathan White, Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), 99–121.


Wisława Szymborska, “How To (and How Not To) Write Poetry” (Poetry Foundation, 2006): https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/68657/how-to-and-how-not-to-write-poetry-56d2484397277.

Covid-19, Art Criticism

Fernanda Brenner is a curator and writer based in São Paulo.

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September 28, 2021

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