Today I received a publication in the mail. It is a publication that I am a part of, that I have a text in. They finished producing it last year, but didn't send out the contributors copies because they were slightly embarrassed. They had rushed production to have it ready for the concurrent exhibition, and therefore explained there were many typos within the magazine's pages. (They corrected the typos on the PDF.) I opened it and read the following: "How many friends can we have at a time? What happens to the friends you no longer see or hear? Where do you put them? When do you stop knowing them?" (These lines were written by Anicka Yi.)
Over the years I have thought a great deal about friendship. In some ways I worry that I am not a good friend, while in other ways it is clear to me that I am able to offer something unusual and honest, though certainly not consistent. It is certainly clear that much more of my time and energy is put towards artistic questions than it is towards questions of friendship, or even (or especially) towards questions of life. And now, quite suddenly, I see the problem of me also writing these letters. I see that I have in fact chosen Pessoa because (more or less) I basically am him. My writing consists of the same energetic melancholy that I so enjoy in his work.
I have never been against the idea of art as therapy, though I am aware of the fact that is has a bad reputation. But what is suddenly obvious, almost too obvious to state clearly, too obvious to write here, is that this comical idea of 're-writing Pessoa to make him more happy' must also have something to do with re-wiring myself to be happier.
What is my relation to the idea of happiness? When I hear the word 'happiness' my first response is the word 'America.' (This might be the most Canadian thought I have ever had in my life.) There is the old comparison - in Russia, when you meet someone in the street and they ask you how you're doing, you're supposed to say: life is hard, things could be better, it's always a struggle, etc., while in America, if you're asked the same question, you're suppose to simply say that you're doing great. So I guess when I hear the word 'happiness,' my first thought is something like 'fake happiness.'
Perhaps all of this has to do with the fact that my father grew up in America, that he only moved to Canada as an adult. I actually don't know anything about Pessoa's parents. Yesterday Adam made the joke that instead of re-writing Pessoa to make it more happy, we should in fact re-write Pessoa to make it more erotic. And I believe there is a kind of truth to be found in that joke (as there is in all good jokes), since much of Pessoa's melancholy had to do with unfulfilled romantic longing, with a lack of erotics in his actual life.
I've often wondered if there is any deep connection between sex and happiness, or if the connection was merely fleeting and the truth of happiness lies elsewhere. I have run out of time, so perhaps now is a good moment to end this strange letter.
May 21st, 2014