Chris Fite-Wassilak, 23.05.2024

The I in AICA: Chris Fite-Wassilak

Who is AICA beyond Switzerland? Here we present AICA UK member, Chris Fite-Wassilak, and ask him about his writing practice. Fite-Wassilak’s own publications include The Artist in Time, (2020) and Ha-Ha Crystal (2016) while he regularly contributes to Art Review, Art Monthly and other periodicals – all the while maintaining a keen interest in cheese.

What are you writing at the moment?

In short form and short term, a review of the Yokohama Triennial; it was great, so 700 words isn’t enough. But as a longer project, I’m working on a nonfiction book on cheese and hygiene – the origins of cleanliness obsessions in the 19th century, and how this shaped a hygienic imaginary of shiny architecture and spotless sci-fi cities.

How do you go about writing?

I always start with copious, handwritten notes. But I hardly ever use the notes, they act more as background platforms and ways to untie mental knots, only sometimes yielding the occasional phrase. The writing itself is on a laptop, and feels like quite a sculptural process – starting with sections in which I know what I want to say and how I want them to feel, and the building and re-arranging from there.

What do you do, when writing isn’t working?

I return to the notebook, to write through certain lines of thinking, or at least outline the corner I’m stuck in so I can shift focus. Or I watch cartoons.

Who do you write for?

I think I’ve lost, or let go, of the notion of an ideal or imagined reader. Partly as I have no clue who actually reads art publications, and partly as I hope that there will be a blurred range of people reacting to something, that the reason for texts, and the various media we embed them into now, is that they can have their own weird life of their own that might at some extended point find resonance, or a glimpse thereof.

What’s a brilliant text you read recently?

I’m really enjoying the comic book series «Rare Flavours», written by Ram V and illustrated by Filipe Andrade, at the moment; about a demon who comes out of hiding to make a foodie documentary. Well-paced storytelling with mythology, humour, interwoven with actual recipes that all sound delicious: what’s not to like.

Which text annoyed you recently and why?

I enjoyed Daisy Lafarge’s essay-book «Lovebug»; but it took an effort to get there. The book is about metaphors of infection, and attitudes to disease. Kind of. Such smart thinking and writing, but somehow it felt like much of the writing was listing references and making oblique nods to all the amazing thinking that had gone into shaping the book. It pays off in the end, but left me wanting more from it.

Can you make a living from writing? 

Almost; I still rely on editing work and teaching. The shift has been more towards work that is more relevant to the writing. Previously it was cheese mongering, and while at the time it didn’t feel relevant, now it feels like that was more a long period of preparation and embedded research.

Have you ever regretted publishing a text? 

There have been texts where I made overstatements that I regretted; one where I visited Athens for 24 hours, but that didn’t stop me from making statements about the state of exhibition spaces in the city. Nothing worse than an itinerant visitor presuming to be familiar with a whole ecology.

AICAramba! What should change?

Everything! AICA should be more like a union, pushing for standard writer’s rates and employment rights; art publications should be more independent, in reflecting the multiplicity of activities that make up the range of art worlds; critics should stop caring so much what artists intended to do with their work; and on and on.

Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer, critic and editor based in London