Steven Cottingham


CAAF Residency @4Five, January РFebruary 2014




Lately, I have been thinking: how can I write anything down without first discussing the limits of the medium itself? How can I avoid the failings of language and the inadequacies of articulation and the subjectivity of opinion and the boundlessness of my ignorance and the impossibility of the truth of ever describing something with real relevance? Everything I say is unfair, full of assumption, and overly-simplified. Even now, the things I am saying are approaching fiction. The language I use denies my own disbelief in its capabilities. We have words (here, let me speak of ‘love’ or ‘art’) that are used too much, cast forth too frequently. They are semantic husks with the meanings beaten out of them. We need more words, more ways to communicate our desires, to lessen the gaps between intention and interpretation, yes, or we need fewer.

Maybe there is another land, free of mouth-sounds or crude representations, a land where we don’t have forms or histories or connotations or these boundaries of flesh between our selves. Maybe there is another land where there is no distinction between our thoughts and our feelings, a land without language. But we love to bend words to the shape of our bodies. I will speak of your flesh more than anything else. My body will describe your body. Your skin tastes the same as the sounds that form your name. We have had much practice uttering words that are insignificant: words that do not mean a thing. What if I were to tell you things that were so encompassingly significant that the sounds and intentions and meanings of the words were the exact same things as the things they formed and connoted and became? What if I could use words that existed briefly and for no other purpose than saying the one thing that meant, perfectly, everything it was meant to mean? I think a kiss is closest to one of these words. I want to kiss you now.


I am currently preparing for two exhibitions concerned with artistic interventions in bureaucratic arenas and evolving forms of art criticism. While in residence with Calgary Allied Arts Foundation, I will be working on collaborative projects with a sailor, an escort, a politician, a speechwriter, a beggar, and a skeptic. We will search for common ground.