karen elaine spencer

Editor : Est-Nord-Est, résidence d'artistes
Location : Saint-Jean-Port-Joli
Year : 2023
Language : French / English
Author : Galadriel Avon

Artist and author

karen elaine spencer

karen elaine spencer’s practice involves writing in space. Seeking to genuinely inhabit the places she frequents, she populates them with her texts, covering herself with them like prolongations, like extensions.


            As if the text had a physical location annexed to the body.

            Like how can you make a landscape that you can walk through?


spencer’s performative wanderings testify to long moments of intimacy that she feeds with blank pages that await sublimation through her gestures. These simple sheets of paper rise to the rank of art objects, enhanced by spencer’s poetic – though grounded – outbursts. Their sensitive nature arises from a forty-year practice whose inspirations have been grown more profound over time: spencer has long striven to lay down on paper the affects that subsist within her. At Est-Nord-Est, she finally contemplated the slowness inherent to this process, which permeated her during her long walks on the shoulder of Route 132.

During her recent residencies, spencer has quietly positioned herself to (re)discover her impulse to write, as if she were attempting to learn to tie up the threads of her relationship with textuality in order to not fix it – to not make it less surprising or more routine. To do this, she creates conditions that take her beyond the normal course of a story: she follows the fertile connection that she finds between walking and writing, one influencing the other, as if they form a vast terrain with an end that, although unknown, can be reached.


            The words inhabit you sometimes.


spencer shares her studio with bits of stories that she brings out of her body, prints, and tapes to the wall. Imbued with her personal experience, these snippets are a way for her to write for herself, to deal with all the banal – or less banal – things that punctuate her life and, from time to time, reveal universal questions. The most recent fragments produced are situated in a specific temporality, created after the death of someone close to her. Since then, spencer has been going through various forms of mourning – you know how absence is so full and has its own territory? Death almost like one bereavement among others, like an emptiness that is not empty. By walking, she finds an interstitial space where the body can finally belong, in the small gap between movement and inertia. That is where the words appear.

And just like that ... Reading a text is always a gateway to performance. It’s the way we speak, the way we breathe, the way we inhabit the space as if sharing our solitudes with each other. As if, by necessity, the text leaves the self in such a form and through such words that it often remains private, not intended to be read. spencer thus takes the pulse of her writing through fragmentation: a cut-up narrative whose pieces present a being-together, like a door opening to things we can’t see.