Leticia Obeid Lusco fusco 2022 Still de video HD color Duración 9 min Edición de 5 14
Leticia Obeid, ‘Lusco Fusco’ (2022), still from HD video 9min

Here I describe being amid an exhibition and the mental responses it called forward. Immersed in the installation’s slipstream, I experienced propositions, many of which, having been signified implicitly, generated multiple meanings. These divergent thoughts ricochet in a reflective cacophony. I submit to a shambles of contemplation and toy with a degree of untangling. My pursuit was a massaging and loosening of knots, a pleasurable worrying, each unfurling ‘point’ becoming a sloppy mass. I am interested in art works as models for unruly reproductions, most appearing in the mind.

Leticia Obeid’s Touch the Veil at Hache Gallery in Buenos Aires largely comprises a collection of tracings. Pencil and ink copies of working drafts and letters by various authors, alongside her own side notes on copies and the act of copying. Each tracing is on vellum, long sheets of it hanging in one room, translucent strips to be walked through and read. Vellum today is most likely made from synthetic plant materials, once it was made from animal skin. Each hide was stretched over a frame called a herse and scraped with a lunellum, a half-moon shaped knife. It’s a beautiful word, lunellum, its sound so in keeping with its sharply quiet industry compared to the sabre or scythe, other crescent shaped blades. It is not that today’s tracing paper holds directly the ghosts of a predecessor’s tools and materials but that art works, in being exposed to perception, memory and research, release variation into the present.

All of the original writing copied into the exhibition is hand written, no tracings from emails, editing software or typewritten texts occur. Yet as much as this might preface the handmade it also acts as a foil. The majority of the copies are drawn from digital reproductions downloaded through the internet and printed by a desktop printer, their size determined somewhat incidentally, by the resolution of each archivist’s original photographic reproduction: the size of each author’s handwriting largely reflects the reproductive transmutations it has gone through before arriving behind Obeid’s vellum. Yet Obeid’s processes of iterative mutation begin earlier than the archivist’s copy, many of the fragments of texts are working drafts—nascent versions of literary works now known but in this space differently phrased and containing sections struck through.

Why depict so laboriously these moultings or scraps from published writers? Castoffs from the built and completed. One author included is the Argentinian writer César Aira, who’s 1990 novel The Ghosts circles a built/unbuilt opposition. A significant factor separating the two lies with assumptions around the management of time and time’s absence from experiences of dreaming. He describes the unbuilt as:

…characteristic of those arts, whose realisation requires the remunerative work of many people, the purchase of materials, the use of expensive equipment, etc. Cinema is a paradigmatic case: for anyone can have an idea for a film, but then you need expertise, finance, personnel, and these obstacles mean that ninety-nine times out of a hundred the film doesn’t get made. [1]

While this example cites the encroachment of finance into time as arbiter of possibility in cinema, The Ghosts is set in an apartment building that is taking longer to complete than expected. Through a collection of pointedly Western readings of ‘other’ cultures’ architecture, Aira returns repeatedly to how the unbuilt succumbs to limitation according to how we produce reality, and he wonders at what point ‘the timeless mental material of the unbuilt is detached from the field of possibility, ceases to be the personal failure of an architect whose more daring projects stalled for want of financial backing, and becomes absolute.’ [2] The partially built apartment block, in its incomplete state is unsettled, strangely undone in time, everything is still planned and not yet materially manifest- a deeply ambivalent model of potential.

Written in 1989, the book was published in Argentina at a time of extraordinary hyperinflation, reaching 2600%. The nominal value of currency had so exaggeratedly outstripped the real value of goods and services that the logics of exchange across promised potential in time as investment were experienced as highly bizarre. [3] Inflation in Argentina in 2022 is set to hit 90 percent. [4] Here in the UK, where it is close to 11%, I have started wandering into small shops looking for older goods, for example, flour, with last year’s price printed on its packaging, still effective but incidentally, a remainder from the past. [5] A fortuitous rate found amid a disordered time.

Anachronistic reproduction proliferates across Obeid’s exhibition: spoken recordings of texts written in the last century can be retrieved through a QR code; in a digital video the vellum pieces move against a window through which the light doesn’t change. Photographs show Obeid’s hand pointing at film stills with actors’ in historical costume holding hand written letters. Almost all the references are canonically literary but as a writer herself Obeid’s books ask questions of how genres such as romance enfold and even possibly direct the performance of daily life. [6]

In The Ghosts, Aria says the art that most minimises the distinction between the made and the unmade, the one most ‘instantaneously real’, is literature. I assume what he means is that the built logics of a fictive world are the same immaterial architectures rendered in the reader’s mind in order to make it usable. These logics appear as a structure moved through instantaneously while reading, valuable only to the degree they produce an entirely necessary, though temporarily usable, fiction.


Corin Sworn is a Glasgow-based artist, writer and lecturer. Sworn has written for the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Candian Art and C Magazine. Recent exhibitions include Cumulo Buenos Aires (2022), OCAT Shenzeng (2021), Toronto Film Festival (2016), Sydney Biennial (2014) and Scotland in Venice (2013).

Leticia Obeid’s Touch the Veil is at Hache Galerie Buenos Aires Nov. 2022 – March 2023


[1] César Aira Three Novels (Penguin Random House: London, 2018), 57.
[2] Ibid 61.
[3] https://www.imf.org/external/p…
[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/0…
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/bu…

[6] Leticia Obeid Preparacion Para El Amor (Caballo Negro Editora: Córdoba, 2015).
[7] Aira, Three Novels, 57.
[8] However, the ghosts in Aria’s story comprise a collection of naked builders, all the unruly potential of labour scraped from the now built, left as an ephemera hanging in the air.