Frida Robles Ponce: Love letters from the Santo Domingo square

“I do not understand love stories”, was the starting point of an investigation about romantic love; activated by an act of public writing. During three months I worked as a scrivener at the Santo Domingo public square in Mexico City. My scrivener service was to write love letters, for free.
Public scriveners are the professionals that write letters or documents for legal purposes, or for people who cannot read or write. Mexico City still maintains this dying tradition and a community, of approximately 40 scriveners, goes to work everyday at the arcades of the Santo Domingo public square. Being a temporary scrivener was for me a nostalgic act and, as well, a means to have a direct interaction with passers-by. The public scrivener writes in the public space and his or her writing is affected by the other, the client.
This lecture-performance will engage with the outcome and process of this long-durational performance which searches for the intersections between public writing, artistic gesture in the public space and the possibility of intimacy through the act of writing. A love letter became an excuse for an intimate encounter with the broad public on their reflections and affections on love. As an artist I am interested in the space that writing can offer, as personally it represent a space of freedom and calmness, as the page brings allows for another temporality. How to then inscribe the page in the public space? How to create encounters through the act of writing? A reflection on this together with a poetic reading of fragments of these letters and a performative exercise on sketching with members of the audience a love letter will be part of this lecture-performance.


Frida Robles is an independent artist and curator. She has been an artist in residence at Q21 (Austria), tranesuropa festival (Germany), Botkyrka Residency (Sweden), Residency 108 (USA), Raw Academy (Senegal) and Clark House Initiative (India). She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Applied Arts. Her thesis focuses on contemporary performance artists from Southern Africa who deal with traditional healing methods to recount or embody social, collective and personal pasts.