ANT v ART is a collaborative writing/drawing project between London born arts writer Altair Roelants and Vancouver artist Angela Gooliaff.

ANT v ART subverts the language of contemporary art criticism by reappropriating its terms of address through a two-way writing and drawing exchange (v) between critic (ART) and artist (ANT). This is conducted via a correspondence played out in the postal system rather than using the much socially preferred speed of digital communication.


The written component of ANT v ART comprises a range of texts by Altair Roelants making observations about the contemporary art world. Roelants draws upon conceptual, performative and poetic models, specifically for their ability to critique and challenge popular art terminology through the use of often playful, subversive and visual language. Alongside being an alternative format of writing for arts criticism to the status quo of the article or essay.


The visual arts element of ANT v ART will be direct responses to Roelants’ written text via drawings made by Angela Gooliaff. Known for her obsessive repetition of an ant, the artist’s drawings create forms and shapes through the aggregating ants. The image component of ANT v ART will be constructed through these drawn patterns of ants that formulate a, potentially humorous, language of their own. This act simultaneously renders the critical text useless – as it’s no longer legible – while affirming it through the artistic process, which paradoxically turns it into an art object.


Gooliaff’s drawn responses will be mailed to Roelants who, on receiving the work, will then compose another text for Gooliaff. Roelants can choose to respond to Gooliaff’s drawing or begin a new discussion. Similar to written correspondences between other past artists and critics, one can freely choose the next course of the conversation.

An integral part of this process is that the critic/artist dialogue will be carried out within the postal service. Using the written format to physically perform, and highlight, the exchange between critic and artist, that, in this instance, is two-way and cyclic —as the letter requires a specific recipient and elicits a response. This approach will also act to mark out, and question, the international distance that is so often obsolete now when making critical judgements.

As the project evolves, the written and drawn works will form a synchronised critic/artist ‘text’.

ANT v ART is a reflection of both Roelants’s exploration of the behaviour of art language and the critic, and Gooliaff’s practice in which she feels pressured to speak the alien language of “Art Speak” — a pressure to perform for the gallery, curators and critic, rather than focusing on making and challenging her own practice. Alongside the artist’s shared belief in the need to find a language that is closer to the creative act of art making itself.

ANT v ART was initiated following conversations between Roelants and Gooliaff during their time together as Artists in Residence at DRAWInternational, France in June 2014.

Follow the exchange, click below:

Letter Exchange #1 

Letter Exchange #2

Letter Exchange #3