Mad writing

2020 - manuscript

“I am not here to write, but to be mad.” Robert Walser told Carl Seelig after he was forced to stay at the sanatorium of Herisau.

At the end of 20th century, Robert Walser’s microscopically tiny hand writings were transcripted into the well-known publication - “the Microscripts”. Walser used this method of writing he called the “pencil method”, which to me, seems like a secret code on tiny sheets of newspaper, napkins, etc. After these slice-of-life like poems and prose were decoded, the world was able to touch upon the life of Walser’s life during his hospitalization in the Waldau sanatorium.

Robert Walser’s original microscripts were transcripted into German, translated into English and interpreted by me, a non-native English speaker. Due to how layered his stories were constructed, I needed to do a close reading to vaguely understand his monologues. Triggered by this multi transcript aspect of these tales combined with Robert Walser’s surroundings and his way of writing, I created a method to reproduce some letters I received from my friends.

After receiving a letter, I record myself reading it. Then, I listen to it and try to map down the words I catch by that round of listening. After, I repeatedly do the listening and writing until I went mad and exhausted by this hours and hours interpretation exercise.

This project took place while the global pandemic hit the world during 2020. Most of us were obliged to stay at home as much as possible. I couldn’t print, my mind was going in circles, and I felt hollow from the inside. I found the condition of loneliness and isolation was similar to what Robert Walser experienced during his stay at the sanatorium.