Dear all,

Vous vous demandez ce qu’est Dear ? Considérez dans ce cas que c’est un lieu de rendez-vous où critiques, journalistes, penseurs contemporains et artistes se rencontrent ; un lieu où le temps est compté et où les archives s’altèrent. Ce site internet rend public leurs correspondances, en publiant automatiquement le contenu brut de leurs emails.

À propos de Dear

Trop souvent « traduites », appauvries, par l’exercice contraint de l’entretien ou des propos rapportés, les relations privilégiées qu’établissent critiques et artistes tout au long du processus de création semblent dissimulées derrière un masque froid.
Créé au printemps 2015, Dear entend mettre en lumière ces correspondances invisibles par un échange épistolaire publique et sans filtre ; avec la volonté de mettre à l’épreuve, par l’exigence d’un dialogue soutenu, le processus de production lui-même.
Par l’urgence qu’entraine l’absence d’échanges, laissant s’éloigner, jour après jour, le message précédent ; par la mise en page automatique d’un contenu brut envoyé par email, et par la disparition progressive, immuable des données et des reflexions d’hier ; Dear vise à engager le dialogue décomplexé d’un artiste et d’un critique, afin de construire, à deux, une reflexion commune.


Dear est une initiative de l’association Simon Bolivar, composée de Cédric Aurelle, Marie Descourtieux, Gilles Drouault, Caroline Ferreira, Emmanuelle Lequeux et Claire Moulène.
Développement de la plateforme : Clément Ducerf.
Élaboration du projet : Adel Cersaque.

Dear bénéficie d’une bourse du DICREAM.

Dear all,

If you do wonder what is Dear, you might as well think of it as a meeting place, where critics, journalists, contemporary thinkers and artists gather ; a place where time is counted and archives alterable. This website is the public display of their live correspondences, automatically publishing the raw content of their emails.

About Dear

Too often “translated”, impoverished by the constrained practice of the interview, the exclusive relationship between critics and artists seem to be concealed behind a cold mask.
Created in spring 2015, Dear aims to shine a light on these hidden activities through a public, unrevised correspondence; with the will to challenge, by a constant dialogue, the process of production itself.
With the urgency of preventing time from setting apart one message from the other; through the automated formatting of a raw email content, and as material and past considerations progressively vanish, Dear intends to initiate an upfront dialogue between an artist and a critic, in order to put together a common reflexion.


Dear is the joint initiative of the Association Simon Bolivar:
Cédric Aurelle, Marie Descourtieux, Gilles Drouault, Caroline Ferreira, Emmanuelle Lequeux and Claire Moulène.
Development of the platform: Clément Ducerf.
Created by Adel Cersaque.

Dear received a grant from the DICREAM.

Ellie Ga

Tour à tour historienne, exploratrice, archéologue et essayiste, Ellie Ga mène différentes recherches scientifiques et enquêtes de terrain afin de déceler les interstices et manques qui jalonnent la structure de l'histoire. Ses œuvres se construisent dans une oscillation permanente entre faits historiques avérés et conjectures fabuleuses. En savoir plus sur Ellie.

Hello Caroline,

For sure it’s exciting to feel I am developing something of a life’s work as one project flows into the next. Chance encounters and conversations, my failures as a documentarian, the nagging obsessions—like with the origins of words, all of this is like the rudder, le gouvernail, le safran that directs my investigations. But I am also very careful not to be too much in love with my own process. I find smugness in essayistic-art so boring and a viewer can smell it straight away!

I guess most people in the art context associate la derive with the DeBord and the Situationists and psychogeography. I associate the word dérive with my experience aboard the French scientific-expedition boat Tara where we literally drifted through the polar pack ice for months and months and months. The experience of drifting on that boat changed my life.

It’s important for me to make a distinction between twists and turns that are part of the backstory of making my projects and the dérive I want to create as a narrative experience for an audience. This is probably why it takes me so long (for art-world standards) to resolve my works…2-3 years. It takes a while for me to transform these experiences into works of art that can speak to a wider audience.

I’m deep in editing at the moment. I could go on getting more and more material. But eventually one needs to draw a square or a circle around oneself and one’s material and say, « That’s it. These are the parameters with which I must make something.” When parameters gets introduced, that’s when things start getting creative.

I’ve been struggling to find a link to send to you. All I’ve been looking at lately are Swedish cartoons! But to continue our trend of signing off with a bit of folk music, here is one of my favorites from Dave Van Ronk who taught Bob Dylan a hell of a lot:

My dear Ellie,

Are you enjoying Stockholm ? I hope you are settling well. I’m sure you’re going to have a great time there!

Sorry for the slow reply, i’ve been quite busy, will tell you about it.

There are no connections in my mind whatsoever between the two « grève » actually. The weird thing is grève when I hear it and it’s about tide, I think it’s a beautiful word, very poetic and when I think strike, no more!

What I found so interesting in your practice, is that it’s a totally ongoing practice, I love the way you seem to always start with an idea you got from your last project, and from that point, you go to the next like a « dérive » as we would say in France, a beautiful one obviously. So from the Tara boat in the North Pole when you saw at the end of your journey a lighthouse, to Alexandria lighthouse to now beachcombers and the Greek island of Symi. It’s like you are following a path that’s opening before you and leads you to new things. I wonder how you see that for yourself, is that weird or exciting ?!

Also what will be your next steps for finishing the project ? Are you going to travel again or are you done, at least for the time being ?

To finish, we were listening folk music and Bonnie Prince Billy, the new Bon Iver album has just been released, it’s not so much folk anymore but i love it nevertheless:


Funny I was just listening to some new Bonnie Prince Billy on my friend’s radio show out of St.Louis:
thanks for your email, Ellie, i will answer shortly but i firstly wanted to
send you this beautiful song by Bonnie Prince Billy, Ebb Tide!


Dear Caroline,

Hello from Stockholm! I arrived yesterday. I’ll miss London, even if I wasn’t so good at making friends there. I’ll miss the daily interactions my son and I had with people on Bethnal Green Road. I’ll miss the different styles of architecture all piled on top of each other. But I won’t miss all the BREXIT rethoric, that’s for sure.

I didn’t know that grève was also a word to describe the tide. Is there any connection that comes to mind to you between the two grève? Between the strike and the tide?
Thanks for the Stevenson Ebb-Tide reference. I wonder if Stevenson picked up the word beachcomber from Melville’s use of it in his early novel Omoo which, like Ebb-Tide, is also set in Tahiti. The word at the time very much seems associated with the South Pacific Islands and European castaways living outside of society. As I mentioned in my last email, tt really started as a pejorative word for a kind of plundering!

Tracing the origins of launching messages in bottles has proven much more elusive. Before Melville and Stevenson’s novels, Edgar Allan Poe wrote the novella MS. Found in a Bottle. It’s thought that this novella popularized the practice in the US. Poe might have been influenced by the American oceanographer Lieutenant Michael Maury’s scientific project of launching bottles to trace the trade winds of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, Poe wrote a review of the Maury’s publication based on those experiments.

Internet searches will bring up Theophrastus, an ancient Greek botanist and ‘meteorologist’, as the first one to launch a message in a bottle to chart the flow of the Mediterranean. There’s no text to support this and most of his writings to have survived are about plants and the weather. I didn’t mention him in the ‘film-report’ but he’s starting to pop up more in my research.

I’d love to know how it all started, this custom of launching messages in bottles. From what I’ve gleaned, it’s exclusively a Western tradition. Friends of mine from Lebanon and Syria, a region with nautical traditions as ancient as Greece, tell me that launching messages in bottles doesn’t exist at all in the culture, though there are other traditions of leaving messages for people to find—in trees for example.

In Japan, there is a beautiful episode from the 13th century epic poem Tale of Heike that describes a poet who has been sent into exile. He writes his poems on wooden tablets (stupa) and launches them to sea in the hope that his family will find them. Which they do, and the family brings the wooden tablets to the Emperor. The Emperor is so impressed by the poems’ journeys, that he sets the poet free. It’s this story of an exiled poet who turns to the sea for hope in desperate circumstances that resounds most with I’ve been thinking about as I make this new work.

But in general, yeah I agree it is really astounding that people still launch them and people still hope to find them. And if they do find a message in a bottle they use social media to find the sender!
And to answer your question:

The Greek island named Symi is where bottles often wash up on shore, though most are found at sea by fisherman bring them to the monastery. The messages are addressed to the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of the island. The bottle also contains a little money to help it get to the monastery quicker. I first heard about this phenomenon while I was in Alexandria working on my project about the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. My Virgil, or guide, during those months was a friend who is a Greek-Alexandrian marine archaeologist. We were in a taxi and I was telling her that I thought my next project would be about messages in bottles. She laughed and then described attending a marine archaeology conference in Cyprus. An Israeli archaeologist came up to her, knowing she was Greek, and said “Can you translate this letter for me? I found it on the beach in Israel and it’s written in Greek.” The letter was from a woman to the Archangel Michael in Symi (he is called Panormitis, after the harbor where the monastery was built). And in the letter she thanks Panormitis for her health and her children’s good grades in school. But what she really wants is for Panormitis to tell her whether this man she is dating is good for her. She promises to bring Panormitis gold jewelry if he shows her a sign of approval.

So my friend in Alexandria asked a priest and he said indeed it was true, this was a tradition of sending messages in bottles to Symi. No one knows why this started or for how long it’s been going on. Four years after I first heard this story, I finally travelled to Symi to see the monastery’s collection of messages in bottles. That was last November. And it turns out that the monastery, the archangel, the bottles, is one aspect of the story I want to tell about Symi.


My dear Ellie,

Thanks a lot for your message. And sorry I missed your birthday :-(

When I watched your film about your project and heard this word
« beachcomber », i had not clue what it meant actually.
I just googled it to find a French translation and on the French Wikipedia,
they say the translation is « batteurs de grève » which is at the same time
quite beautiful (grève means strike but is also a beautiful word for tide)
and not understandable at all for French speakers i guess – you would say
to someone « je suis un batteur de grève » i can easily imagine the look of
perplexity on their face!

Wikipedia says also that the « batteur de grève » is a classical figure in
the 19e century of the adventurer who is looking to get rich through their
exploration of the pacific. And they say that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote
a book about one – « Ebb-tide » (never heard of that book).
We are quite far from your definition of beachcombing but i guess the
common point is that both are looking for treasures!
And the funny thing as well, is I just read the description of
the »Ebb-tide » story and it’s about three beggars in Papeete who steal a
ship with a cargo of champagne but at the end realise that it’s not
champagne but water!
So it’s not messages in bottle but still a story of bottles carrying in a
way a lot of hope!

I was wondering how you came upon that subject and also heard of this
island in Greece with this saint apparently whom you can send messages in
bottles ? Once agin you would think that this « practice » would be completly
extinct by now and I found it quite incredible to see that it’s not!


Hi Caroline,

Sorry it has taken me a couple of weeks to respond. I’ve been packing up the apartment, getting ready for the move to Stockholm.

I received your email on my birthday. I was in Zandvoort (Holland) visiting a 70 year old man who has a collection of over 600 messages in bottles found on the beach during the past 20 years. The messages travel on the North Sea and are usually launched from people in the UK or from fishing boats and oil tankers.

Thanks for the link to the BBC story about the Lego toy container spill. I know that story and considered going to Cornwall to interview some of the beachcombers there. To be honest all the beachcombers I keep interviewing are men and I partly wanted to go to talk with a female beachcomber!

For sure, one can’t overlook the irony of tiny nautical-themed toys washing up on the beach. I think this BBC story is a good example of what has attracted me to the beachcombing ‘scene’—there are so many ways to interpret these stories. As you mention, there is a healthy does of irony and nostalgia. There is also the environmental tragedy of all this plastic being spilled in the ocean. There’s also a scientific dimension to it, because massive containers spills, like the Lego spill, provide oceanographers data about ocean circulation patterns. It would be too expensive to launch so many GPS-enabled drifters into the ocean at one time, so for certain oceanographers a container spill provides a way to gather data—as long as there is someone on the beach to report the finds! Early oceanographers did indeed use messages in bottles to chart drift patterns in the ocean. The article mentions oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer. His work has had a significant impact on how I’ve gone about my research.

Thus far, I’ve never encountered the noun Beachcomber in any other language but English. I took it for granted that the noun exists in other languages. For example, it’s not a term you find in French or Italian or Greek. One can peigne la plage but it’s not used as a name for a person. But my beachcomber in Zandvoort told me that indeed there is a noun for it in Dutch! Jutter. I’ll have to listen to my interview but it had something to do with hands and stealing. In English too beachcombing was a pejorative word for someone who lived on the beach, who stood a part from society and picked things from the beach to survive. Sometimes a beachcomber would lure ships to shore to pillage from the shipwrecked ships. In English, the first use of the word seems to be in an early novel by Herman Melville to describe these people.

Nowadays, the beachcomber is usually a hobbyist. But there are still codes of ethics among beachcombers about what not to take and about cleaning up the beach while also searching for treasures. It’s true; there is something so sweet and anachronistic about someone collecting and launching messages in bottles. So I’ve been trying to extend the metaphor a little and think about the message in a bottle as a symbol of what people find washed up on the beach and the responsibility they often feel for what they find. That’s the core of what I’m after. Anything that washes up on the shore is a message. The key is to be able to stop and recognize that there is a message inside and to interpret what the bottle contains.

Okay, back to packing boxes.



Dear Ellie,

I’m super happy to start this conversation with you. I hope you are well.

I’m coming back from two weeks holidays in Crete, in a very remote place and it feels strange to be back in town with so many people around.

It was a nice coincidence to be introduced to your new research on messages in bottles sent at sea and beachcombers, right before going on holidays in this place where the sea is so present and essential.

I was again impressed by how you manage to plunge directly into a subject and extend it towards so many directions while staying within it at the same time.
I wasn’t really aware of this beach combing practice that i discovered watching the film you sent me but i find it very touching and at the opposite of our digital and globalized world.
I was reading this article about these 4.8 million Lego pieces fallen at sea in 1997 and that keep coming back on the shore following the oceans and tides.
The strange thing is that many of these Lego pieces were nautical-themed, so ironic, is it ?

I don’t know if you see things like that, but i find that this new research carries a lot of nostalgia and at the same time irony in it. Do you see that as well ?

All best,