Correspondence Series, 2002

Old Dominion University Art Gallery
Norfolk, Virginia
August-September, 2002

The Correspondence Series is a partial transcription of the correspondence between American President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Words and phrases indicative of the tone and position of either leader have been lifted from the body of the letters and transcribed into Morse Code. The resulting sequence of dots and dashes (red for Khrushchev’s words; blue for Kennedy’s) constitute abstract compositions, but ones that indicate something of the secrecy and tensions of the Cold War era.

Between October 22nd and 28th the two leaders exchanged ten tense letters. Those letters are presented here as sets with Premier Khrushchev’s public announcement on October 28th and Prime Minister Castro’s reaction to that announcement presented as individual compositions. It should be noted that the syntax for Morse Coding has been strictly observed.

The series was created for Red Scare, a solo exhibition at the Old Dominion University Gallery in Norfolk, Virginia in September, 2002. The series was time/site specific as Norfolk is home to the US Navy and the exhibition occurred on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Below is part of correspondence from which the text used to create the abstractions where taken.

I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command.
Kennedy, 22 Oct 62

United States has openly taken path of gross violation of Charter of United Nations, path of violation of international norms of freedom of navigation on high seas, path of aggressive actions both against Cuba and against Soviet Union. Khrushchev, 23 Oct 62

the steps which started the current chain of events was the action of your Government in secretly furnishing offensive weapons to Cuba.
Kennedy, 23 Oct 62

Having presented these conditions to us, Mr. President, you have thrown down the gauntlet.
Khrushchev, 24 Oct 62

This Government received the most explicit assurance from your Government and its representatives, both publicly and privately, that no offensive weapons were being sent to Cuba.
Kennedy, 25 Oct 62

You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity of the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will disappear. Khrushchev, 26 Oct 62

You have placed destructive missile weapons, which you call offensive, in Turkey, literally next to us.
Khrushchev, 27 Oct 62

We, on our part, would agree–upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations, to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments (a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against the invasion of Cuba.
Kennedy, 27 Oct 62
The Soviet government, in addition to previously issued instructions on the cessation of further work at the building sites for the weapons, has issued a new order on the dismantling of the weapons which you describe as ‘offensive,’ and their crating and return to the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev on Radio Moscow, 28 Oct 62

I think that you and I, with our heavy responsibilities for the maintenance of peace, were aware that developments were approaching a point where events could have become unmanageable.
Kennedy, 28 Oct 62

I express my satisfaction and thank you for the sense of proportion you have displayed and for realization of the responsibility which now devolves on you for the preservation of the peace of the world.

“son of a bitch, bastard, asshole.”
Castro referring to Khrushchev, 28 Oct 62