To Charlotte Posenenske (first letter)

Dear Charlotte,
I’ve wanted to write your American contemporary, Douglas Huebler, for years, but can’t figure out how to begin. I suspect there’s a starting place, and perhaps much more than that, in writing you now. There might even be a chance to conclude, to begin again, to realize something else altogether, but I’m probably getting ahead of myself…
Did you ever meet Huebler? I’ve tried to research this, but nothing conclusive reveals itself. All I know for certain is that you both embraced Minimalism before discovering your own, entirely idiosyncratic forms of creative praxis. It’s these specific changes that stay with me now.
The idea of addressing Huebler at all has seemed transitory to me, like something to be done in passing, as if he is to be left behind within an immutable labyrinth — a fixed order you’ve always already traversed (and so very decisively too).
I used to have a recurring daydream:
I am disillusioned with the role of art in society. I am revitalized by the work of Douglas Heubler. I invite him to a dinner I’m hosting in his honor. I am surprised by the horde of other guests who show up (arts professionals mostly).
Through complex and incessant monitoring, they have discovered Huebler will be available in full view of others (a readymade spectacle of professional association for the taking).
I want to tell him how his work has changed me — explain its meaningfulness in my life — but my voice is buried under the career gossip and hot-or-not debates rising from the mob around us.
The last time I snapped out of this I had your words in my head:
“Though art’s formal development has progressed at an increasing tempo, its social function has regressed. Art is a product of temporary topicality, yet, the market is minute, and prestige and prices rise the less topical the supply is. It is painful for me to face the fact that art cannot contribute to the solution of urgent social problems.”
You knew markets can spring up for anything. Nothing can be something (let alone concepts).  You would give people the tools to invent for themselves, to make their own meanings instead of buying them.
Dematerialization was an unintended gift for the enemy. You would try instead to provide the building blocks of invention. You would devise modular forms for creative process in the material world (so as to change it).
Huebler celebrated this freedom in his work, but he could never enact it. He displaced the unspoken by pinning it down. His variable pieces liberated the everyday from inarticulateness, but they also opened a Pandora’s Box of reification in the process. There’s been no going back ever since.
His image-text relationships are still so refreshingly unpretentious. They effortlessly communicate (as he put it) a sense of “things whose interrelationship is beyond direct perceptual experience.” They seem to deny containment — to transgress successive event horizons.

Now this too is sold, as ethos, as lifestyle, as strategically efficient form, as ethically relative content(s), as both means and ends for the managerial classes, the charge in the battery of a digitally mediated, post-industrial order.
You wouldn’t join them. You never became entirely “conceptual” — and I sometimes wonder if surviving fascism influenced this (hiding as a child inside Hitler’s Germany, always at the mercy of friends and strangers, enduring your father’s suicide before liberation). You were given a concrete understanding of the violence of ideas (Aesthetic ideas? Idea aesthetics? ) and the inevitability of material existence, of death, of bare life outside of the law (the life of the dispossessed).
Even past 1968, after refusing to identify as a professional artist (never visiting a gallery or exhibiting your work again), you wouldn’t of stopped hoping for something else. Experimentation escaping the over-determinations of capital — expression by and for the people — surely these possibilities still haunted your imagination.
They’re not forgotten. You are not forgotten.
Thank you Charlotte.
jeremy