By Laura Havlin
On February 11, 2010, fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen committed suicide at his London home. Shortly after, but drowned by much of the tabloid furore that surrounded the designer’s death, it was reported that McQueen had written a suicide note on the back of a catalogue of work by an artist he had never met, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz. The then most recent catalogue of Lenkiewicz’ work, titled The Decent Of Man, depicts ominous mythical figures, religious and fictional references with dark, heavily gothic undertones. In addition, and perhaps more curiously, the back of the publication accompanying this body of work featured an empty sepia rectangle. It was left intentionally empty as part of the layout, finally filled with content by McQueen. In conversation with Laura Havlin, the artist considers this coincidence publicly for the first time.
McQueen wrote his suicide note on the back of your last catalogue of work, The Decent of Man. Do you think this was a coincidence?
I was aware that Alexander McQueen was interested in the drawings as he had been introduced to them and requested a catalogue. It was with great surprise and sadness that I heard he had taken his life as he was greatly admired by so many for his integrity and illuminating imagination. I reflected afterwards on the press coverage of this coincidence. On the book’s cover there was an image of Moses riding a tank called “His energy was not dimmed nor his natural force abated.” This was a description of the aged Old Testament visionary before he died racing across borders without demarcation. The back of the book was a large blank empty space without content left empty as if to receive something—Derrida may have put it as the place or space for iterable content.
It is impossible to speculate on the reasons behind a person’s actions and I would prefer to not make any assumptions in such a sensitive context. My personal intuition is he simply may have written on the book’s inviting empty space because it was at hand or happened to be convenient. It may have been a coincidence that within the content of the book it was possible to contextualize meditations on death and the final demarcation between being and nothingness. I would prefer to think McQueen’s interest in the drawings were just a part of his unbounded curiosity for many things during the courageous life he lived.
I find it interesting that people resort to writing as the final act in the absence of others creating a mark which is meant to be read in the knowledge of one’s absolute absence to be read and re-read by the other who ever this may be. Part of McQueen’s concerns he wrote about were the animals, his dogs, and the care of them—the animal rather than the man as a content of another other.