Phung Vo Facsimile Object (PV1), 2022, 297 x 210 mm, digital print, with full-size, digitally printed COA, signed and stamped

I’ve written before about the long reach of Danh Vo’s 2.2.1861 (2009 – ) on my thinking, but also specifically on the Facsimile Objects project, before I made a one-off Facsimile Object of it. Having a visual of Phung Vo’s beautifully transcribed letter from soon-to-be-beheaded J. Théophane Vénard to his father in front of me, instead of tucked safely away, has leveled up that influence.

It makes me try to improve my handwriting. It intensified my preference for A4 paper, which turns out to be difficult to find and work with in a world that defaults to 8.5 x 11. It prompted me to seek out the original source for Vénard’s letter. It got me to learn LaTeX. It, along with spending time with aging parents and a global pandemic, made me think about mortality, the moment that awaits us all.

And it made me think about what a Facsimile Object does, or what it could do.

Phung Vo Facsimile Object (PV1) is one result. It is the transcription of a slightly different published version of Vénard’s letter than the one Vo uses. It is set in LaTex using the French Cursive font package created by Emmanual Beffara, and printed on Vietnamese A4 paper. A certificate of authenticity matches it, and both are contained in an A4 document sleeve.

The layout is inspired by Vo’s 2.2.1861, but between the machine font and the slight textual differences, the line breaks diverge after just four lines. It’s a bit like how the clocks in Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers) slip out of sync, except for the perfect lovers part, and the baked-in indexing of facsimulatory failure.

I am not decided about what to do with these. Part of me wants to make them available on demand. Part of me thinks they shouldn’t go out until the…end of Vo’s project. [Here at the beginning of a new lunar year, I once again wish Phung Vo a long, healthy, happy, and prosperous life.]

As I contemplate this, I remember back to a project I started in the Summer of 2014, to continue On Kawara’s Today Series after the artist’s death as a communal practice. It was called fromnowon.us, and it would have made it possible for people to order a date painting from Chinese Paint Mill, depicting the date on which it was painted. I’d arranged the production, even getting the painters to include a sheet of the local Shenzhen newspaper with each completed painting. When the test painting arrived, it turned out to be from Sept. 11th. Which gave me pause.

But anyway, I’m still working through this.

Prev, related:
2021: Danh Vo Facsimile Object (V1)
2014: On Kawara Today