What is it? (Looking at Robyn and Margaret’s Salon)

So far the critical response to my loosely gendered experiments have been pretty accurate, “Stop thinking you’re fooling us and show us something.” I think the question resonating at the moment is how the aggression and frustration can become manifest. And why? I’m not sure what or who I’m angry at, and that is not the point. Perhaps the difficulty of the work is that it suffers three-fold: Two artists try to find their feet in a dance that they have little experience of; An angry and frustrated forty-year-old tries to convince others of a spectral world that he scarcely believes himself; the audience for any spectacle bring so much interference with them they refuse and are not encouraged to look or think (or be confronted or moved).

It is fair to say that at the moment there are only a handful of actual audience members, mainly Robyn and Margaret themselves. This is OK by both of us, but the relationship must spread, or be given the opportunity to spread by an approach. We have both felt that the strongest performances so far, have been those shared with the audience; performances where the struts and gaps are on display and allow the audience room to settle within.

Categories: Written

Created: 16th February 2018

Post-truth fiction #1 – Initial Feedback


We asked you to write down your ideas & questions in the application for Post-truth fiction #1. Have they changed since the workshop & conference? Please specify:

I looked back at the application I made to PTF#1 and find my questions in a pretty similar place. Perhaps because the 4 days reiterated these concerns again and again, and highlighted their significance for the course. The core question being “How can we cultivate failure within narrative?” This question, in variant forms, seemed to sit at the tip of many tongues. I was pleasantly surprised how many participants shared a non-solutionist attitude to the questions posed in the week. Everyone seemed to be generating more and more questions, and thinking about how to break things rather than fix them…

To what extent did Post-truth fiction #1 match your expectations?

…The frustration of the week seemed to be an inability for us to break anything. Although there was constant encouragement to rethink the question, we were given little time or resources to truly break anything. The 4 days were packed with activities. These activities could only really be appreciated in a passive way, they rarely offered opportunity to subvert beyond simple remits of aesthetic choice. Perhaps the problem lay in the question posed. The question of the course set up a high degree of risk. A lot of big ideas seemed to be at stake – authorship, global knowledge, truth(!) – yet without a level of risk being taken on by the conference, we could not deconstruct the underlying structure. This was inevitable for the first realisation of the course, but going forward the university will need to offer an opportunity of risk that matches equally the value of the issues at stake. Exposure to the full structure would be essential (from the choice of educators, administration, resources, etc.), in order that the participants can truly look at what is available for subversion. If at any point the institution chooses to frame/box the project in an opaque way, the course will only succeed in reinforcing the values it attempts to break. Trying to teach alternate strategies of fiction, then framing them within a pre-existing success structure will only reiterate that structure. Failure must be an option.

What are your thoughts on the future of authorship?

Despite some interesting conversations with people working in a variety of literary fields, I was under no impression that anyone had a view on the future of authorship that hasn’t existed since Modernism (with many historical examples going before). In some ways, what became evident were larger concerns about attribution. Positive and negative ideas came forward about how we should be accountable for authorship. Thinking about this now, I wonder if my own concern is how authorship can retain a connection to personality. That personality must work hard to avoid being co-opted for third-party corruption, however, if this work of personality involves strategies of deception (and invisibility) how do we keep identities that are useful? Abandoning authorship also means abandoning accountability to an extent, a strategy that has worked well for those wishing to retain power. The loss of authorship within the knowledge economy has meant greater access to ideas and resources, however it has also lead to the diminishment of intellectual authority in journalism and education.

What are your thoughts on working as a collective?

Working as a collective (with a suitable framework of transparency) is, in my opinion, the best approach to these questions. But the image of this collective must be constantly scrutinised to ensure it is beneficial. Within a course structure it is important to break a dependence on grading and isolating work. Collective thought can be hard to retain when students are trapped in an individual assessment process. The output for education often encourages collective publication. It’s optional I know, and it is easy to dismiss it and not take part as everyone rates themselves against others.

Do you have any recommendations for us towards creating the MA Writing?

This is mottled together from the rough notes during my visit. I apologise in advance that they are sometimes patronising, esoteric, not particularly helpful, and idealistic…

My responses to the questions posed by the post truth fictions forum are based on the assumption that there is one overall issue at stake: That there is a conflict between systematic/utilitarian concepts of narrative – large-scale economic and political narratives, based on statistical research, and used to promote, manipulate or repress behaviour – and decentralised, micro-narratives used by individuals and communities to disseminate experiences and knowledge, resisting interpretation and appropriation by the system and allowing themselves to be co-opted and redefined by each interpreter without a consistent authority. In simpler terms, there are stories told by us, and stories told to us, and the authenticity of these stories weighs on our authority to interpret and redefine them at will.

From this assumption we can ascertain that it is of interest to teach people how to generate or understand the voice described in the latter, as there are already many courses and jobs that will teach you the former voice. Although I am suspicious of the idea of an overtly political course (i.e. anti-capitalist, anti-algorithm, anti-right, anti-Trump), it makes sense to counter the reduced and unilateral fictions that less progressive groups often propose, but only as a furtherment of true aesthetic practice and open-ended rhetoric. We don’t want to just beat the drum for what could be a short-lived reaction against short-lived enemies.

a. The Spiritual/The Other

Where is the other in the new narratives? In its most basic definition, the other is that which cannot be sublimated. But it can perhaps be called upon to operate; it can be activated. There is something about the religious/spiritual narrative that warrants research within the course. Again, I can’t help think that at the heart of the course enquiry is a dichotomy between hegemonic encoding (the language of capital) and non-linear rhizomatic methods. The second can be broadly understood as de-politicised, or, at least, always rendered unstable in order to prevent any single form retaining traction that would enable a hegemony to solidify. The rhizomatic story can come from, go to, and end anywhere. In fact, this is an important aspect of traditional story dissemination, its fluidity and inbuilt necessity to change and adapt. Music, dialect and faith all share this ability to transfer in a consistent state of difference. Perhaps there is something about the relationship between traditions of the other and its dissemination that could help inform new ways of approaching the courses output.

b. Trans-

Trans- is a useful prefix, an adjuster to any existing binary, and in this adjustment lies its own autonomy. The trans- position could be seen as one of perpetual doubt. The gender issue is not going away and is something that should be addressed by all progressive education. I don’t mean just the covering of socio-political aspects of gender. Although the rights and position of non-binary and unrepresented sexualities and gender identities is important, what is important in the context of the course is the example of ways of living outside of pre-defined identifiers. Artists should be aware of how they can question the social formation of their authority so that they can play with it and sometimes negate it. This is a dangerous method as it can put an institution at risk of accusations of appropriation (I’m thinking students attempting to think of themselves as racially or sexually different than how they currently identify). However, it must be dealt with, and approached properly can stop the student generating work that reinforces current oppressive doctrine.

c. Performativity

All truths could be seen as acts of performativity. When we speak of a truth in relation to the truth, or your truth or my truth, we are listing examples of each performative occurrence of truth. I like that we can introduce the ideas of performance in exploration of the ideas of performativity, despite their relationship being complex. In fact, it is the complexity of this relationship that constitutes a ‘good enough’ model for arts education. That we must act and say separately allows us some defence from the saying act (which is a false act – the one that attempts to make us believe that saying and doing are the same, therefore statistically comparable). I was thinking about this when attending a workshop by Anthony Howell of The Theatre of Mistakes. During the workshop, which was physical and improvisational, he espoused his philosophy in regard to performance. As a participant, the connection between the acting and the saying seemed sometimes arbitrary, confusing but often insightful. Whether Anthony intended this or not, the connection between theory and action created a third voice that informed both independently. For example, a gesture that I created could be undermined by a slap from another performer, or the insertion of an unexpected phrase or comment. Thanks to the current restrictions of digital technology, the performative still offers a more genuine way to activate narrative. Think theatre rather than film. I think the course should be mostly performative to avoid easy/limited narrative construction. Spoken word, theatre, improv, group dialogues, dinners, speeches, events, and many other examples, create multiple threads of narrative, making the course a representation of its own method. Mia You’s performative workshop received particular praise from people.

d. Visibility/Invisibility

In addition to the performative I’ve been thinking about visibility in my own practice. The visible needs to be separated into two basic aspects: to see and to not see something, and to be seen or to not be seen. In addition there is also the time-based aspect, to become seen and (inevitably and somewhat complicated) to become unseen (referred to separately below as absence). The second is at the heart of resistance, because the nature of a statistical approach is to make things seen and retain them as seen. This is the absurd and damning condition of contemporary bad-knowledge. To retain something as seen is to attempt to hold fact, this is essential to any form of capital as it is the requirement of value association. But away from the philosophy of seeing, we can look at the aspects of visibility as inherent strategies in the handbook of narrative. Performance must operate the visible/invisible double-act.

e. Absence

Absence is an extension of the becoming unseen aspect of visibility. This tool has become incredibly powerful and misunderstood. It lies in direct confrontation to any of the activated approaches from all sides. We must always be seen/unseen, in ways that make us present. To not be present is, on one side, to not have an opportunity to take part in consumption, on another side, to not be able to voice opposition. To be present is to be witnessed and not be dead, because without a potential for subsequent witness (religious or even evolutionary) we die now. To be present helps an inter-spiritual platform like Facebook to form meaningful identity for all its users. So to be absent is to take oneself out of all forms off opportunity, provided by oppressor and benefactor.

But, in this context, how does absence work? I don’t have an answer beyond the list of things that we do already or are available to us: Loneliness, lying, transformation and disguise, being silent, just not turning up. Basically anything that threatens your ability to be present, and threatens your ability to be witnessed, can take you into the terrifying and powerful region of absence. This is very difficult for education because of the systems of marking and recognition. However, if students are graded in a more holistic way, they could be encouraged to avoid excessive production or archive in favour of decisions of what to provide and what to deny. A student that has shown commitment to a process throughout but avoids anything on paper needs recognition on their terms.

f. Nonsense

Everyone likes nonsense. Nonsense, in its purist form, is the husk-like form of absence. By relinquishing the ability of understanding through the enacting of a recognisable activity (speech, literature, film), we can remove the presence of meaning. Nonsense beyond play is hugely frustrating and counter-productive, which is good. Nonsense has not always been taken beyond the position of play, perhaps because it can’t work outside of it. But in the process of an art practice it always works. The sadness felt at the co-option of the avant-garde (such as Surrealism in Jameson’s eyes, or punk for more contemporary thinkers), is often a sadness at the loss of what it could have become. In fact, like many of the ideas above, nonsense is an always-becoming. A regular dose of nonsense should be injected into the practices of students, and I don’t just mean the absurd administration of a modern institution!

Do you have any other recommendations / comments for the next editions of Post-truth fiction?

I would hope that we could expect a radical shift from the lecture/workshop format to opportunities to develop ways of practicing. Deciding a lecture format could be more beneficial than receiving one. Also, more time to breathe would be as fruitful as a full timetable, not just discussion but some sort of activities that provide us platforms to interact. Perhaps participants could be asked to prepare something in advance for discussion or as an activity?

Anyway, thanks for reading this and I hope to talk more soon.

Rough it out revolutionaries!

Margaret x

Categories: Chelsea | Written

Created: 16th July 2017
Edited: 27th January 2018

Language Game[s] Workshop – 20th and 21st April 2017

[Left: Language Experiment (with Rosie Abbey and Harry King-Riches), right: He is no longer heard in an historic. Both for the Language Game[s] publication, April 2017]

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Language Game[s] (Apr 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 26th May 2017

A Side B Side Vol: I [2016]


A side

The Birds Flock [2011]

B side

IO (New Letter) [2008]
Willed [2008]
The. out of the you. [2007]

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Written

Created: 16th May 2017

An Abstract Regarding Self-censorship and Victimhood in Art Practice

[Presented at the Decolonising Art Practice: Self-Censorship and Criticality key event at Chelsea College of Arts, 15th May 2017]

Self-censorship, or rather, criticality of your own linguistic behaviours, is not just a confidence killer inherited from my mother. It can operate as a means of critiquing the powers that speak through you (including my mother). Resistance to your internal instinctual logic is essential. We are tools of others, and the languages we inherit are not inherited in an entirely ego-survivalist manner. These languages are often not intended to benefit an evolution of knowledge but line the pockets of others. The means of externally manipulating our internal voices are perpetually consolidated by those who seek power. Think of the many ownership of language issues: Resistance to access to literacy by the church or state, translators of the bible burnt as heretics, native languages suppressed or overwritten, rising fees for education and the automation of Internet comment moderation.

Language defines our individuality. It genders our clothing and mannerisms, puts a value on our position in society, feeds us information on what is funny, clever, worth buying, how to eat, behave in public, behave in private, how to emotionally or sexually relate to others and even creates the categories that these are judged by. When we accept that this powerful human technology exerts a massive force on our behaviour we must ask ourselves how we can, sometimes, resist it.

Resistance is an important part of protest in collective thought. We are constantly bombarded in our day-to-day academic life by opportunities to discuss or enact resistance with others. These political acts vary in their intention or effectivity, and any criticism of these group behaviours must be dealt with case by case and at another time. But what remains important is the relationship you are able to deform with your internal voices, the ways in which you can mess with the monologue to act freely. Free expression is not as simple as a lack of inhibition and does not materialise at the removal of self-censorship. Self-censorship is an important tool of the individual and must be targeted with insight to allow a voice of dysmorphic difference to occur. In other words, we must always resist the urge to be free, as freedom is the progeny of the few and is always offered to us tethered and at a price.

The status of abused individuality is a method of resistance. This is different to the empowerment of the individual, where the marginalised cultivate alternate currencies. Alternate currencies are still methods of value, and will serve to enforce the competition of hierarchical power, the one you can’t win. By calling out our status of victimhood without a progressive solution, we can create lumps of resistance of ourselves that cannot be manipulated for gain.

Within your art practice, it is important to censor the self through criticality, to hinder the working process and prevent the easing of the journey for external languages of power. You will work slower, and you will produce less, but at least nothing you do will make any sense.


The Economist, Language and technology: Voicing concerns, 16th July 2012

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Notes | Self-Censorship as Personality (May 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 11th December 2018

Self-Censorship as Personality [2017]

[Margaret Thomas performing Part 1: Nematodes in the Canteen at the Decolonising Art Practice: Self-Censorship and Criticality key event at Chelsea College of Arts, 15th May 2017]

Self-Censorship as Personality
Part 1: Nematodes in the Canteen

“And I said, after I’d got mine, that at the heart of it, censorship is displacement. Particularly self-censorship.”

“Are you up next? Yes, displacement. Of our fears or values?”

“I was thinking, more a displacement of purpose. Or value perhaps.”

“Self-censorship as a term is so dated.”

“Definitely. Censorship as a word. It feels like brown and orange VHS, and Soviet marker-pens taken to printed text. It’s a poor term for what constitutes a powerless will in some ontological landscape.”

“Conscious self-censorship is just old-fashioned fear, or stupidity.”

“Yes, more pitiful than malicious, a conceit of individual over-valuation. A more relevant self-censorship lies in a form of hereditary neuropathology. And this can be caused by less nefarious oversights. We build the lived life on trial and error.”

“We wish we did. We build it through miscalculations of potential dangers, misaligned fears generated by those who gain from fear. I am always the last in the line. Can this really be all that’s left?”

“Try the salad bar. Sadly, you’re right. Even without a left-handed principle, the source of the lived life is definitely out of our grasp. We’re given these complicated texts of self-representation to edit, and we feel exposed, and confused, unable. And this displacement starts to occur as we juggle our metaphors and conceal our embarrassed hope of a retained private truth.

‘Reeling about in a vertiginous stupor, we try
To be both operated and operator,
And catch and ride our voiced breath within its flexed muscular.’”

“And all we manage is an unconscious censorship. A clumsy rewrite. Dressing?”

“Yes please. And this unconscious censorship, internalised, develops sedimental strata, layer upon layer of hardened ident, fusing in places, erupting in others. That’s enough, thanks.”

“The metaphor is bunk.”

“I don’t have another. I think this is yours.”

“Thank you.”

“So the personal is developed from these sedimental layers of displaced purpose.”

“And then we get haunted.”

“Yes, of course, our presented form fills with ghosts. Ghosts that speak for us, held higher than our heads. We get that locked-in feeling, thrust forward, spit clagging at the edge of our mouths.”

“Are we ready? They are asking if we are ready? Does the future belong to ghosts?”

“When I looked down, I was amazed that my body was able to exist in such a narrow form, I cleared my throat [ahem] and tried to catch it speaking before I actually spoke, and I was lost like a dream, that fucking dream, the voiceless never exists in real life, never in these operations. Reeling out beyond the point of winding back, they said. My words fell from the air and rattled across the corrugated roof.”

“I think they’ve run out of chips.”



Part 2: Fisted by the Truth

[Gold starts]

“Are you easing its movement? Is the flow of data unimpeded, unhindered, unresisted? Is it a connectivity unavailable to I alone. An offering of light maybe?”

“And who would that be? This pipe, from my innards…”

“Through your innards.”

“Through my innards. Displaying without displacement.”

[Pause – Pink continues]

“What messages are you displaying? What character can you tell? What information encodes your folds of silk?”

“None. I know. But be fair, I was sure I felt that I felt the formation. But I know now that there wasn’t one. Deep down it wasn’t deep down, just a flow through me, with a false impression added of a genesis and archive. I can see it now, this false impression, cuckolding me, raising this songbird as my own, despite us not sharing a note. It allowed this politic to access all of my sense and insensed. It is bloody information without formation.”

“I saw a light, coming from your gullet, I wondered why it was uncoloured?”

“Okay. Yes, I was naïve, I didn’t use my judgement, I didn’t hinder the truth with a me or a my.”

“How could you forget to be abused? What were you thinking? The arm inside wants to move through your tract from anus to mouth without editorialism. If you don’t hinder, it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t want the complication of abuse. You must make it an abuser.”

“I’m scared of pain, I can’t lie about it. I only wanted to be a sleeve, tenderly hold its wrist and cloak its length.”

“You must be a victim, and it must be an abuser.”

“Yes. I’ll twist my dry gut, place my liver in its path. Grip with my sphincters as hard as I can, create friction, chafe its shaft and restrict its muscle.”

“Abuse creates a new definition of the body, don’t let it dismiss you as a sleeve. We want to find your innate censor. Don’t you dare speak with an unexplained language. Make you take it.”

“I am not easing movement anymore. I exhale loudly, and grated black blood flecks the sheet. Breathe again. Allow a little more inside and stop. More and stop. More aaand stop. More aaand stop. More aaand stop! More aaand stop! More aaand stop! Until it puts me down.”

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Puppet Show | Self-Censorship as Personality (May 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 23rd January 2018

Tranny Faced

[Left to right: Margaret LXXVIII: Her Vetoed Disgrace (2017), Margaret LXXIX: In Peristalsis (2017), Margaret LXXX: The Sudden (2017), Margaret LXXXI: In Torpitude (2017)]

“I grimaced as she grimaced, it looked weird, it felt good. I actually don’t know if she ever grimaced that way, but it seemed right, and now I grimace every time.”

“But if it doesn’t come from her, where does it come from? Where do any of these expressions come from? Messerschmidt’s bowels get visited in the night by twisting fiery punishment, commanding his face and hand.”

“My bowels get visited by a seven inch dildo. It’s some way that you are supposed to receive that, the way it should be received, with firm retention and violent rejection. It’s the awareness of the bowel and the throat as being part of the same long tube, the mouth and the sphincter mimicking each other, pouting and puckering in an attempt to outdo the other.”

“And her? You’re all mirror no? Stuck in that loop.”

“Yes, that’s true, I need the loop. That is the crutch, the enabler, sadly. But I am the one who holds her there, retains her at that point of understanding through satiety. Lips to anus, I turn my microphone to the speaker and try to talk and hear at the same time. That’s how you become her, you have to speak and listen at the same time, a feedback loop that retains the force of becoming and holds back the force of become.”

“And what about her flesh? I’ve eaten thanks. I’ve eaten a lot of things, not all of them good.”

“I miss her, I really do. But how would that situation have been resolved? Possession? Amnesia? She is dead, I am not. She is in time, she’s not a catalyst. All things burn up, transformed by the body, its uneasy spirit.”


Categories: Chelsea | Façade | PARC instagram takeover (Feb 2017) | Trans- | Written

Created: 13th February 2017
Edited: 2nd March 2017

Time Passes (2015) by Ane Hjort Guttu

On a third viewing I am still unsure what draws me to this film so much. Perhaps this uncertainty is caused by the film’s cinematic detachment. It feels pre-Internet in its tone and style, and it doesn’t necessarily develop questions outside of its context. This maybe counter to Ane’s intentions but I found myself evaluating the film as an insular dynamic, not reading its politic on a wider scale. Perhaps this is because I am not Norwegian, yet the characters and events of the film did not feel very different from my own art college experiences. To me, the film felt more like a fairy-tale, complete in itself yet somehow able to comment on reality without direct analogy. Damla’s relationship with the Roma beggar Bianca is both believable and unbelievable in equal measure (as any cinematic dynamic should be), and, although the art students and lecturers could easily be discussing their art practice here in this room, they are shot and edited with a filmic eye, rendering and mediating them to story-serving caricatures. Time Passes feels like a film in the way life (and education) can often feel like a film. The effect seems to heighten the internal frustration of Damla. Being a young art student is a time when life feels like a film and everyone, including yourself, like actors talking and thinking in a mixture of scripted lines and improv. It is a time when metafiction feels less like a style of literature and more like the experience of being alive. When I watch Time Passes, the characters seem defined as fictions, their world is unreal in its manner, yet the whole thing seems perfectly believable in its abstract dilemma.

This certainly doesn’t mean to say that the film denies any implicit interpretations. The fact that the two main roles are female and the dismissive voices are generally male gives us plenty of fuel for discussion about masculine and feminine artistic traits (the male painter – a grotesque reminder of old-fashioned masculine ‘power-painter’ ideologies – and the cringingly well-meaning yet inert tutor, versus the more empathetic views of Damla’s female peer). Feminist discussion is also readily available in the marginalised voice of a Romanian beggar pushed to the foreground. There are also nods toward post-Marxian understandings of time and value (note the Adorno volume in Damla’s book shelf), and the status of affluent north European countries and the disoriented generations spawned by them. However, the film is definitely more Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise) than Godard (Week-end), and any sense of direct politic is, as far as I can tell, carefully avoided. What we are given instead is a simple relationship conundrum that is left to the viewer personally to resolve.

Categories: Chelsea | Written

Created: 5th February 2017

Telling Stories in the Dark

[Response to NoNothing Salons in the Dark: Collaborative Storytelling, developed by Oreet Ashery between November 2016 and January 2017]

As part of her Chelsea residency, Oreet Ashery took cardboard and black sheets to the windows and doors of Babak’s Bar & Grill and invited James, Emily, Mark, Chiara and myself to sit in a circle and generate a story. In three sessions we experimented with a form of sensory-deprived improv, resulting in dreamlike narratives. We are yet to decide the editorial format for the recordings taken during the sessions, but the experience of writing from the Broca allowed a better understanding of the creative process.

I have always had a very pragmatic sense of art creation, I don’t believe in divine inspiration. I feel that language gives us one of our best experiences of the what and how of making art. Language production, and its subsequent conscious thought, takes place in a vague circuitous area somewhere between our collection of short and long term memories; the perlocutionary act and our reaction to that act, feeding back into a word flow. Think of starting the sentence, “That will be three pounds fifty madam”, on autopilot whilst running the ticket office of your local theatre, then realising as you are saying it that the person in front of you is male and owns the theatre. The sentence will adjust even as it leaves your mouth in tone, and even if it remains significantly identical its content may gain irony by its conclusion.

When we write, we exercise a form of locutionary acts where the receiver can be seen as the page forming in front of us. Writers rarely start a page with a predefined knowledge of what it will consist of; sentences form and are reacted to in a dialogue with the page. This dialogue involves the format of production, the person slurping coffee next to you, the whir of the fridge, the food in your belly, the paper, the pen, the keyboard, the fear. These influences are concentrated on the cursor or nib. As the words form on the page, or are structured by the hugely influential framework of the computer user interface, our understanding of where we are going adjusts continually in a conversational loop.

Generating a narrative as a collaboration is a more recognisable form of conversation, yet by removing the visual feedback we can rarify the dialogue to something mimicking the writing process. During Oreet’s sessions I found myself deliberately clearing my mind like a new sheet of paper and allowing the literary images to appear from whichever source was talking. I tried to replicate the same atmosphere in my mind that I have used when writing poetry, allowing the continuous mental hubbub to freely rattle and coalesce with as little interference from grammar or intention as possible. It’s a difficult process, you hold too tightly to some images, ignore others that contradict your expectation, and you curse some words that leave your own lips. Oreet’s sessions were a single draft process, no delete key, and the story continued without our complete control. It reminded me of writing music within a band; the jamming process, when you all explore an idea proposed by a vocal line, guitar riff, bass line or drum beat, taking it as far as it will go before it becomes repetitive or falls apart.

NoNothing Salons in the Dark: Collaborative Storytelling will be available in published form from the summer of 2017.

Categories: Chelsea | Written

Created: 3rd February 2017
Edited: 21st May 2017

Letter to Ane Hjort Guttu regarding Time Passes

[Written on 30th August 2015 after seeing Time Passes (2015) at The South London Gallery]

Dear Ane,

I went to the Hirschhorn exhibition yesterday at the South London Gallery and was lucky to explore upstairs. We sat and chuckled at the antics and wisdom of the boy with the unsinkable spirit [Freedom Requires Free People (2011)] before moving to Time Passes (2015). I often moan that narrative film in galleries should be shown within set schedules. It is so frustrating when you enter halfway through a piece and have to edit it together in your head. Fortunately we hit Time Passes at its beginning and were glued. I wrote a text to someone after: “Hirschhorn Shmirschhorn, this is the best film about art I’ve ever seen.” Over coffee both my friend and I gushed with ideas triggered by the film. And questions. Hence this email. Firstly we were at a loss to decide whether (or to what extent) the film was scripted. The acting was so cool, the lines delivered with such ease, that we assumed it was a documentary, but doubted ourselves because of its ‘too perfect’ condition. Either way the story cleanly lays out the exact experience shared by myself and countless friends and acquaintances during our art education; that period of time where validity, authority and understanding reach a sort of self-cancelling crisis. The position of the undergraduate art student is a significant period in the Western cultural dialogue. Regardless of subsequent engagement with Art this time resonates. After graduation I found the questions of institutional art left me disorientated and unable to make anything for over a decade.

The archetypes of the film were so clear and believable to both of us. I found myself thinking that there was The Female, The Male and The Beggar. To me, The Female represented its exact eponym, the female artist. Without sounding like some simpering male apologist, and this should be taken with the sincerity it is written, the female artist represents such a radical and relevant practitioner these days that I find myself slightly disappointed by anything produced by a man. Hirschhorn, as a nearby example, failed to move me at all with his mess of polystyrene and tape. Whatever humour the room may have had was nullified by the giant, unnecessary quote from Gramsci, as patronising as it was banal. Dramla’s [sic] predicament expressed a truism of art-creation in the legacy of undeveloped ideologies. I assumed the Adorno book was intentionally placed on her shelf. Revolutionary twentieth-century ideas surrounding the context of Art practice, feminism, orientalism, cultural theory, seem suppressed in all but those that make the effort. Their influence seem to remain only in the burgeoning questions of the female artist. The second archetype, The Male, fails to develop as a destabilised figure. The autism that effects young male artists, myself included, mires him in a blindness to misunderstanding. When the young male artist describes his works he talks in such a recognisable rhetoric. His assumption is that the audience for his work will always understand the intention of his work, that it somehow remains evident in all, that it is a truth. The critics within her seminar group and her tutor, look for intention where there is none. If I was to step further than I feel you may have intended, I would say the black student’s comments (in English) that he is concerned with difference appear comical; how could any male, black or white, understand the apolitical stance of this female? And they try. They continually interrogate the politic of the project she has embarked upon. Yet Dramla is unable/unwilling to convince them of the functionless practice of the work. I guess it would seem arrogant for her, and yet it highlights its purity as a work of art. The work has no function. At best it meditates. The Male paints because the symbolic seems enough, The Female doesn’t because it’s not. Then there is the third archetype, The Beggar, literally sitting beside both. The Beggar is genderless in the political sense that the first two are gendered. Her position as female is a reality of loss or hope, towards children, kindness, health. It’s ageless and genderless [this letter ends unfinished]

Categories: Chelsea | Written

Created: 24th January 2017
Edited: 3rd February 2017