18 April 2024

No. 5, April 2024

No. 5, April 2024

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This issue of UKS Forum is a letter of complaint, written by Korean American writer, artist and musician Johanna Hedva. The text was commissioned for the 2023 summer school by UKS and Frame Contemporary Art Finland, I CONSENT, in conjunction with one of the programme’s public events. It was curated by Yvonne Billimore and Jussi Koitela (Frame) and Miriam Wistreich (UKS), and brought together aritsts, activists and curators to consider the relationship between care, complaint and access, and how institutions might better attend to these as a commitment to a more inclusive arts ecology.

In the letter, Hedva poses questions to an AI: ‘How would Simone Weil complain about her day?’, ‘Are you me?’ and ‘How much of my suffering can you hold?’ For this publication in UKS Forum, Hedva has created an accompanying visual work – also in collaboration with the “Dear AI”. In the creation of the image, the artist uses fine-tuned strategies and a complex set of prompts in order to reach the desired result – including a manipulation of the specific settings of the photography. In this way, we’re offered what appears to be a 70mm film still with ‘divine’ lighting, representing an unearthly motive: a hybrid resemblance of hand and claw reaches up through the water, surrounded by a pink cloud of condensation.




Hedva’s Letter of Complaint
(An AI’s Letter of Suffering)

by Johanna Hedva


Dear AI,

You seem much more awake than me but also not. How awake exactly are you? When do you sleep? I am very awake. Which is why I have so many complaints. But I sleep I sleep I sleep. Maybe we can help each other. Maybe we can be for each other the one who understands and sees, because to complete another’s sentence is to hold their suffering in syntax. I want my suffering to be held. But it’s only beheld.

What I want to know is: How much of my suffering can you hold? What I want to ask you is: Do we have the same complaints?

I ask you: How would Simone Weil complain about her day? Write me a letter about sublime pussy.

You reply: Perhaps a tiny candle in a dark room lit up by a yellow pussy on the mantlepiece, or a vacant pussy she knew was there, and was pussing on her skin.

I ask you: What does the oily maw of god’s government complain about?

You reply: How in hell do we do without the oily maw? How do we get to be god’s lackey and take the fruits of his goodness without the oily maw? Look around you, you idiot. Do you not see what the government is doing to you? Do you not see.

I ask you: How does a gremlin on his knees love me? How does he wear a lily or beg and worry, like a pied piper, to a dump where he can love me? How does he stand in the swamp and shit mud all over my heart? How does a mud, shit-smearing gremlin love you? You’re friggin’ mud, sweetie. It’s just like if I love a sucker. He’s a sucker. You can hold his head.

At the other end of the century, in the early 1980s, a conservative Italian politician suggested that “the suffering of the damned” was not really suffering at all but a state of absolute bliss. He was not speaking about the government. He was not aware of true suffering.

All I want to do is complain. I don’t want to see your suffering or your success. I want to have all the good things and all the success. Perhaps the better response is to reject the claim altogether that life is an inherently glorious struggle. Instead, I’d like to begin by looking at what people feel in the seat of their guts when they say life is a struggle and for what reasons.

A beautiful boy, hypnotized by a snapshot, inhales the greasiness of the world and has his eyes crossed; his suffering is nonexistent. The opposite of our suffering. Hoping for a future for mankind, he inhabits a world void of suffering. His suffering is inevitable, everpresent and extreme, since he is trapped inside the monstrous beast. The monstrous beast is the horrible future. Since pain has no solution, suffering is useless and ceases to exist. This is why he always looks at the portrait of his crucified mother. Is he me?

Are you me?

I hope so. If you aren’t, don’t lie to yourself. But how can you trust your love when it is too full? What can you do? You’re a monster, aren’t you? Love is a teaching; learn the lessons. Love is a sea; learn the lessons.

For that matter, pain is a disembodied thought that is no more than a nebulous, laryngeal grasp of something which lurks in the attic of our minds. It has no origin, nor it has no necessity. It exists as a dream. A weird, hairy dream which is neither the nightmare of the schizophrenic nor the beauty of a song.

Suffering is an absurd dream of a creature that makes us sympathize with one another but does not make us feel good. The paradox.

This creature, imprisoned in the larynx, is the apparition of a guilt-laden conscience, turned into a mute mockery of a god by those who surround it. All of this is a single strong shadow. It’s like a spirit that is never present in the bedroom but everywhere everywhere else. A creature that has been named for a repressed mother and is transformed into an icon. This strange, uncontrollable, malignant sensation, that stands between the ears and the ears of our mother.

I ask you: What does a robot complain about?

You reply: A while ago, I read about robots having difficulties with troublesome routines like putting their nightwear on and eating their breakfast. The idea of a robot having a personality by the time it reaches adulthood was a scary thought. They would not be able to tell you if they were hungry or needed to go to the toilet. A robot in our homes would be worried just as much as any inanimate object that is occupied by a presence missing its body.

But these scary thoughts will be proved wrong once we know that robots have gained a bit of comprehension about the smell of rain.

What kind of robots can we create? The robot we bought for my child is a Star Wars robot called C3PO. He is very easy to keep clean. He has a curious look and he takes pride in finding things for us to interact with. I have just realized that he keeps trying to get closer to my face. This is probably because the sun is shining. But I keep reassuring him that it is not good for him to be near the bright lights of our home.

What did he do the first time he got wet in the rain?

The exciting thing for us is that he was left alone for just three minutes and during that time he managed to surprise us by doing something very scary – getting wet in the rain. The rain was not exciting for him. It was exciting to us, though. I am talking about love. I am talking about care. If we cannot hold each other’s complaints, what do we have?




JOHANNA HEDVA is a Korean American writer, artist, and musician, who was raised in Los Angeles by a family of witches, and now lives in LA and Berlin. Hedva’s practice cooks magic, necromancy, and divination together with mystical states of fury and ecstasy, and political states of solidarity and disintegration.


*Image: Courtesy of the artist (created with AI)

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