Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zürich, Switzerland) is artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. Prior to this, he was the curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show ‘World Soup (The Kitchen Show)’ in 1991, he has curated more than 350 exhibitions, his recent shows include IT'S URGENT at LUMA Arles (2019-2021), and Enzo Mari at Triennale Milano (2020). In 2011, Obrist received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, and in 2015 he was awarded the International Folkwang Prize, and most recently he was honoured by the Appraisers Association of America with the 2018 Award for Excellence in the Arts.

About the project

"It was the late novelist, critic, philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco who spoke to me about the significance of handwriting, professing his concern that we are on the verge of losing it as a great art. He told me that the art of handwriting teaches us to control our hands and relates to hand-eye coordination. It makes us compose the phrase mentally before writing it down. The resistance of pen and paper slows us down and makes us think. The unfortunate disappearance of handwriting is concurrent with the digital velocity that characterises our contemporary environment. The speed with which words and images are circulated throughout our globalised world can lead to a generalised state of homogeneity, whereby difference is flattened out and we are left with only the ubiquity of the typed word. Eco’s depiction of the (soon-to-be) lost art of handwriting was the starting point for my Instagram project, ‘The Art of Handwriting’. It was intended as a conflation of analogue and digital; the slow composition of the written note and the velocity of the Instagram post are brought together. This endeavour to record, remember and reaffirm the idiosyncrasy of handwriting began when Ryan Trecartin and Kevin McGarry downloaded Instagram on my iPhone, whilst I was at Trecartin’s studio in Los Angeles. The overwhelming image potential that Instagram opened up prompted me to find a structure for its use. It was during a holiday with the artist-poet Etel Adnan, artist Simone Fattal and my partner, the artist Koo Jeong A, that this constraint became clear. On a stormy day, in a café, Etel was writing poems in a notepad, which I found incredibly beautiful. It soon became evident that the preset should be the written word – a celebration of handwriting rather than lamenting its disappearance. Since then, I have posted photographs of handwritten notes on Instagram at least once a day, each containing a message from individuals I meet."

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