Oracular Transmissions weaves together three of the most recent collaborative projects Etel Adnan and Lynn Marie Kirby have completed through processes of exchange and translation: Back, Back Again to Paris (2013), The Alhambra (2016), and Transmissions (2017). The book also includes poems by Denise Newman, a friend to both Adnan and Kirby, and an introduction by KADIST curator Jordan Stein presenting their works and performances. Design and typography by Brian Roettinger bring these numerous transmissions — video, performance, photography, email and other texts — together in one volume.
Etel Adnan is a visual artist, poet, and essayist living and working in Paris, France. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, her writing integrates perspectives on subjects such as the nature of creative work, the landscape of Northern California, and the politics of exile and social injustice. Adnan became a painter in her forties as an act of resistance, and much of her visual work focuses on the landscape of Mount Tamalpais as seen from the home in Sausalito she shared with her partner, Simone Fattal.
Lynn Marie Kirby is an artist and filmmaker based in San Francisco, CA. Kirby and Etel Adnan met there in the 1990s, forming a friendship that has produced many collaborations from printed texts to performance and video works. Kirby works in a variety of time-based forms and engages with questions of place and our relationship to sites. Her projects map emotional topographies through the use of improvisation, translation, and exchange.
"When Kirby’s Alhambra Project finally opened in San Francisco in 2016, she exhibited her correspondence with Adnan as part of the installation, turning their words into a visual presentation of found poetry. Phrases plucked from Alhambra Exchange flashed as video stills on a screen in white san-serif text against a cobalt background, like the blue signal that plays before a VHS tape. “I wish we could see the moonlight over the Alhambra together,” reads one of the stills, printed in Oracular Transmissions to blanket a whole page. I revisit this page often; I imagine Lynn Marie Kirby and Etel Adnan, shoulder to shoulder, bathed in moonbeams. It’s an image that encapsulates the whole of their correspondence — wistful, intimate, and suffused with love." -- Sophia Stewart, Los Angeles Review of Books
"In their linguistic experiments, Adnan and Kirby uphold that there is truth, and that this is accessible by anyone, of any culture, via a myriad of intersecting paths." -- Chloe Chu, Art Asia Pacific 121
" Multiple shifts within the book from portrait to landscape orientation make the act of reading active and attentive – from section to section the reader must raise their arms and tilt their head to make sense of the words. It is through the need to frequently turn and rearrange the book, rather than passively propping or resting it, that the relationship between reader and object becomes more sculptural and performative, reinforcing the sense that this is not a record of works completed, but that rare thing: an artists’ book that becomes another multi-dimensional work of art (all too often, such attempts result in an over-designed, under-read catalogue).
Oracular Transmissions is the first book I have encountered that is published by Pasadena-based X Artists’ Books, whose stated intention, exemplified abundantly here, is to produce ‘courageous and beautiful [. . .] artist-centred books that fit within and between genres’. The first lines of each stanza in Newman’s preface distils what this book aims to do, and ably achieves: ‘A work of art that is a book’; ‘A work of art that is a conversation’; ‘A book that overruns its container’; ‘A collaboration between friends decentres the work of art’; ‘A collaboration that is a friendship that is a conversation that is a book that is a work of art’." -- Susannah Thompson, Burlington Contemporary