A few months ago I had the opportunity to partake in a filmed séance by Ecuadorian visual media artist Oscar Santillan titled Afterword (dancing clairvoyant) for his recent exhibition To Break A Silence Into Smaller Silences.
In a large new installation titled Afterword, Santillan connects elements as diverse as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a defective typewriter, and dance. As his sight began to fail, Nietzsche acquired a typewriter. The “Writing Ball” was a cutting edge device developed by the Danish inventor Rasmus Malling-Hansen. Nietzsche’s “Writing Ball” arrived defective due to damage during shipping, leading it to produce a great many mistakes. Despite his frustrations Nietzsche typed more than 70 documents using it. Some were abandoned but many were corrected and finalised with increasingly agitated pencil marks over the errors. Fascinated by the frustrations of one of the world’s greatest philosophers, Santillan has produced a composite of all the pencil marks from these obscure documents. The result is an expressive and gestural drawing, accompanied by a compilation on a single page of all of the errors that Nietzsche made using his beloved ‘Malling-Hansen’.
By his own account, Nietzsche spent hours teaching his fingers “to dance with the Malling-Hansen”. He wrote of dancing himself “as if something supernatural” echoed out of him. A century after the philosopher’s death, a fragment of paper from one of Nietzsche’s typed manuscripts was used as a point of connection in a filmed séance. The psychic medium was asked to pose only one question to the philosopher: What was your dance like?