Dexter Sinister

Co-operated by Stuart Bailey & David Reinfurt, Dexter Sinister constitutes a triangle of activities: (a) a publishing imprint, (b) a workshop & bookstore, and (c) a pseudonym making site/time-specific work, typically in art venues. Dexter Sinister was originally set up to model a ‘Just-In-Time’ economy of print production, counter to the contemporary assembly-line realities of large-scale publishing. Reinfurt graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1993, Yale University in 1999, and formed the design studio O-R-G in 2000. Bailey graduated from the University of Reading in 1994, the Werkplaats Typografie in 2000, and co-founded the journal Dot Dot Dot the same year.


  • Poste Restante

    April 9–May 28, 2011

    <em>Poste Restante</em>, Installation View

    <em>Poste Restante</em>, Installation View

    <em>Poste Restante</em>, Installation View

    <em>Poste Restante</em>

    <em>Poste Restante</em>

    Presenting the work of eleven artists and collaborators, this exhibition refuses to deliver. It offers artworks sent via national postal systems addressed to the gallery as “Poste Restante”. Typically relied upon by travelers and lovers, “Poste Restante” is a request for a post office to hold a letter or package until picked up by its recipient. The works are exhibited as received, in unopened envelopes or parcels, accompanied by any paperwork generated during transit, including customs forms, bills of lading, and pro forma invoices. Delivery is deferred as the packages wait, held by the gallery for a recipient whose identity is unknown.

    Objects are shaped by various encounters with systems of commerce, information, publicity and transportation. Stubbornly resistant to dematerialization, the art object remains local, specific and visible only in certain spaces, while operating in far-flung networks, both physical and immaterial. Guarantors of the exhibition as an exhibition, the art objects in Poste Restante serve as ground for exchanges of immaterial services, writings, and conversations. Through the suspension of delivery we remove the object-in-itself from scrutiny and see in clearer relief the systems the object both calls to life and circulates within.

    The exhibition will travel to further destinations, including both commercial galleries and non-profit spaces, marking out a geographical network of communication and interests analogous to those of the participating artists and organizations. Parallel events, including talks, performances, and publications, will accompany the exhibition at each location.

    Curated by Eric Fredericksen

    Postscript 42: Sophie Brodovitch on Poste Restante (PDF)

Talks & Events

  • Scratching the Form to Reveal the Content

    January 27–January 28, 2010

    Dexter Sinister presents “Scratching the Form to Reveal the Content,” WEDNESDAY JANUARY 27, 7 PM at Artspeak, 233 Carrall Street, as part of the exhibition An Invitation to An Infiltration at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. We will be screening Erik van Zuylen’s film “Stefan Themerson and Language.” This is the second of five consecutive evening events. Details for each will be announced the night before together with a brief preparatory text:

    Calvino is describing (and promoting) the process of making a form strange in order to resist both one’s own preconceptions and the weight of others opinions. (“Make it new,” as Ezra Pound famously translated Copernicus.) A usefully exaggerated example of this is Semantic Translation, a poetic technique conceived by Polish writer, film-maker and publisher Stefan Themerson, which manages to be at once ferociously ironic and straight-facedly hilarious. According to its inventor, Semantic Poetry Translation, is “a machine made using certain parts of my brain” which was demonstrated most prominently in a novella, Bayamus. In essence, SPT takes a grey area of meaning and attempts to pinpoint it, to clarify it. Themerson introduces the process as an attempt to reclaim poetry from the mouths of “political demagogues,” who in the twentieth century began to adopt the tools of poets — repetition, alliteration, etc. towards their own dubious ends. The idea is to restore emptied-out words, cliches and platitudes with their fullest, specific meanings by supplanting them with their precise, verbose dictionary definitions. The method is usually demonstrated by comparing existing poems or songs with a semantically translated version, although the technique extends to prose, and Themerson generally writes with the same deadpan scientific demeanour.

    But Semantic Translation is more double-edged than this brief description suggests. Although it is ostensibly an attempt to reclaim the “truth” behind words, the proposition is essentially ironic, not proselytizing. It’s more accurate to say that Themerson is after the truth about “truth,” that at best “truth” is more accurately “belief,” and that beliefs should be treated with the utmost suspicion. One of the great benefits of the technique is to be reminded that “the world is more complicated than the language we use to talk about it.” The nature of reading through the pedantic extent of a piece of Semantic Translation is to experience language made strange, to perceive both its technical depth and its limitations. Themerson referred to the process as “scratching the form to reveal the content.”