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Dane Mitchell: Letters & Documents

Tina Barton


At the centre of Dane Mitchell’s Letters and Documents is the printed matter produced in the artist’s Post Hoc installation conceived for the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. This artefact of the seven-month exhibition features the printouts that list the archive of ‘lost things’ Mitchell compiled manually for his multi-part exhibition. In Venice, these lists were ‘performed’ daily by Mitchell’s various sculptural components: as spoken words broadcast through cell towers that doubled as artificial ‘trees’ and transmitted into the sealed and silent interior of an anechoic chamber, and as lists cascading from a digital printer secured to a tower structure in an emptied library. At the Adam Art Gallery, they are arranged spooled into rolls, a physical reminder of the sheer bulk of ‘lost’ subjects Mitchell managed to retrieve.


In considering the status of these printed lists: are they part of Post Hoc or merely its by-product? Do they serve ‘for the record’ as documentation of words spoken? Or is their presentation designed to refuse digestion, to highlight language’s material presence but not its coded contents? Such questions underpin the Adam’s invitation to the artist to present these remnant rolls apart from the installation that generated them, to enable him to reflect on the conundrums that structure his practice: his inclination to slip between material and immaterial states, to toy with language and to deploy the furniture and tools devised to aid remembrance and fix what cannot be seen.


Mitchell’s response has been to bring together a selection of some of his earliest works that have never been shown together. These found him—as a young artist transitioning from art school—sending letters and sifting through rubbish to bring to attention activities, exchanges, processes and systems that prevail in the art world but which mostly remain hidden. These were products of a renegade inclination to test what can and can’t be said. It was also motivated by a fascination and pleasure in the look and language of documents, and a recognition of the aesthetic potential of the archive; attitudes that have stayed with him.


In addition to the material from Post Hoc, the exhibition brings together works produced between 1997 and 2006. These include drawings, printed documents, vinyl records and photographic documentation, all testament to an earlier era of technological (re)production. These formats uncannily replicate the logic of Post Hoc, but are its incipient precursor. From a stolen painting, to a lost satchel, a purloined bag of rubbish and illicitly recorded conversations, Mitchell treats his subjects and their representation as tools to reflect on how information and knowledge is conveyed, exchanged, withheld, remembered and forgotten.

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