Watch Benedict Cumberbatch Channel an Exasperated Sol LeWitt

The beloved actor dramatizes a storied artistic friendship.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch at Comic-Con International 2016. Courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

You may not see anything as remarkable this week as Benedict Cumberbatch’s reading of a letter by Sol LeWitt to fellow-artist Eva Hesse.

The Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe–winning actor dramatizes LeWitt’s free-associative wordplay in a full six-minute reading recently organized by publishing house Canongate Books for Letters Live, a London event in which actors read the missives of historical figures.

“DO” is the theme of LeWitt’s letter, from a Minimalist elder to his Post-Minimalist colleague, eight years his junior and tormented with self-doubt, judging by LeWitt’s letter, written to Hesse in 1965, while she was on a residency in Germany.

The friendship between the two artists was even celebrated in the recent exhibition “Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt,” organized by the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. As the curators point out, their close alliance blossomed despite contrasting practices: LeWitt’s devoted to Conceptualism, Hesse’s driven by the body.

In the letter, LeWitt urges Hesse to free herself from her inhibitions in favor of action:

Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

The letter is such a hit that actor Andrew Scott read the same one at a similar event in March.


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