Kaino Wennerstrand

To whom it may concern,

This, and I quote from the invitation e-mail sent to me by Jessie, is “a letter of support for my [Jessie Bullivant’s] work “A Bad Sign”, which was part of the Weathering project at Titanik in 2021.”


Having just laid down Jessie’s book Attached, which brings together similar, previous letters of support they’ve asked from their colleagues, I’m trying to wrap my head around the nature of the ask.

I have no idea what it means to write a letter of support for a past work. I’m being serious. It seems like perhaps something’s lost in translation. I’m neither a native English speaker, nor have I ever worked in an administrative position in the arts. Like, you want me to praise that past work so you can get funding for a new work that perhaps shares some qualities with the former?

But who wants to read praise about a past work? What possible effect could that kindle in anyone deciding, say, on a grant for which Jessie has applied?

Katie Lenanton, a mutual friend of me and Jessie’s, writes in her introduction to Attached how a personal letter of support can turn heads when a reviewer is deciding whether to merit the applicant with a grant, job position, or a prize. Personally, I disagree.

Having reviewed thousands of artist grant applications as a hired “professional” for both private Finnish foundations and the Finnish Arts Council, I’ve never given any thought to letters of recommendation. I rarely if ever even read them.

Finnish art scene is way too small for such empty hype poetry to have any effect, with the sole exception of an artist embarking on a project that requires expertise in an unrelated area. For such an application, a letter, say, from a full-time chemist testifying to the chemistry-related skills of the artist would make a difference.

That’s not the case here, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Jessie would get into chemistry, with exactly the same rigour they’ve shown for all of their artistic endeavours.


Having read the previous letters, it’s obvious all of us invited to write will fail. We can try to be witty, deadpan, serious, formal, meek, or casual, but it makes no difference. The letters are material for a conceptual work; their contents are rendered meaningless in the process.

To me, Jessie’s practice is so often about the elegant, inevitable failure of administrating relations. That’s why I have no qualms about writing a letter of which use value is a total mystery to me.

I could write about anything! Like, say, how it’s easier being a trans woman than a trans man, because the idea of being a man leaves no room for failure, whereas being a woman is nothing but. I won’t, though. But I hope you get my point.

Unrelated – well, I guess logic is now off the table regardless – but I’m thinking of the case Laurent Berlant makes for the beauty and potential of ambivalent affects in their book On the Inconvenience of Other People. It’s not inherently bad to feel ambivalent. It could actually be the thing that could bring us together: our shared ambivalence towards being around each other.


Alright, back to the topic. In the invitation letter, Jessie also brought up their interest in my former position as the Managing Director (2011-2012) of Titanik gallery, in Turku. “A Bad Sign” was shown at the gallery ten years after my stint, in 2021.

Jessie’s work was part of a durational project titled Weathering, which was curated by, not incidentally – told you Finnish art scene is small – Katie Lenanton and Bogna Wisniewska. My now defunct artist duo Biitsi, with Heidi Wennerstrand, was part of the deal, as well.

I never saw the Titanik gallery part of the project, in which Jessie’s sign piece was on display, so it’s futile for me to try to comment on it. But then all of this is futile, no?

I think I saw some images and short video clips. There was this LED prompter with rolling red text? The prompter was installed, perhaps, above the Titanik gallery entrance. That’s all I can remember.

Taking place 10 years before Weathering, my time of managing Titanik in early 2010’s is even more of a blur. So many shows, so many artist’s residencies, so many petty fights with the board, so much paperwork, all the while me being absolutely the wrong person to manage a gallery.

At that time, my ADHD was undiagnosed, I was a closeted trans woman living as a “cis man”, and I was a mess in so many ways. There you go, that’s my Titanic (sic) era. I never learned, by the way, why the gallery was named after the Titanic.


Do I support “A Bad Sign”? It’s hard for me to say. I absolutely support Jessie to death. Their artistic practice is awe-inspiring. I can only dream I had that same level of commitment to concepts and execution.

But just for the hell of it, maybe I choose not to support the work. Hear me out, then. This is not a letter of support.

You don’t need any support of this kind, Jessie; you’re mid-career. I love you forever.


Kaino Wennerstrand
artist friend
July 1, 2023