This week, we reached out to Su Wu, a curator and writer based in Mexico City and the author or our favorite blog-cum-Instagram feed, @imrevolting. Su, tell us what one thing you would choose to place in your personal 'Permanent Collection'.
Su Wu: A wooden clam.
Permanent Collection: Ha! Love that! Tell us more about this special wooden clam.
S.W.: Once, during a period of upheaval, I was on the phone with a close friend. She was telling me about her morning, which involved some crying but also a deer at her window. The deer is her spirit animal, she said, a sign of things turning. And then, because she is a velvety, soft sort, actually a very deer-like person, she turned the conversation to me. “What’s your spirit animal?” she asked. I did not have a ready answer, and later full of indignation was recounting the conversation to another friend, like, “How dare she put me on the spot like that?” What if, I explained, the first animal that comes to mind is, like, a clam or something, and then I’m stuck with it? Anyway, later in another country, with both conversations filed away and almost forgotten, the second friend visited and brought a present: a little carved wooden clam she’d found in Japan. Who needs spirit animals when you can have a spirit thing?
P.C.: Is there anything else that prompted you to select this piece?
S.W.: There’s a Saul Bellow interview in which he admits to being a terrible correspondent. He says maybe he writes novels to avoid writing letters, and that “real letters have more kindness in them, addressed as they are to one friend.”
I’ve been holding on to this idea for nearly a decade since I last read Bellow, an obligatory binge on the South Side of Chicago, but it seems to intersect ever more with the question of what constitutes a genuine creative life, when so much effort to beauty is done in the service of want. Following Bellow, though, we already know what things look like that were made not for sale nor for accolade, and maybe not even to be widely seen. They are things that were addressed to only one friend; that is to say, which were gifts.