ART WORK Magazine
Dougal Verinder-Gedge Jamila Prowse Kai-Isaiah Jamal Lorén Elhili Maria Fusco
Naomi Accardi Rehana Zaman Rene Matić Rhea Dillon Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan Sinéad O’Dwyer
FOUNDER / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Róisín Tapponi PUBLISHERS / ONLINE PLATFORMS Issuu CONTRIBUTORS Dougal Verinder-Gedge Jamila Prowse Kai-Isaiah Jamal Lorén Elhili Maria Fusco Naomi Accardi Rehana Zaman Rene Matić Rhea Dillon Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan Sinéad O’Dwyer ART DIRECTION & DESIGN DATEAGLE STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHERS Yousef Hilmy Ottilie Landmark Pamila Payne CONTACT email@example.com @magazineartwork ARTWORK Magazine © 2020 ISSN 2732-4761 Reproduction without permission is prohibited ARTWORK Magazine is published twice a year. The viwes expressed in its pages are not necessarily those of ARTWORK Magazine. The magazine does not take respibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photographs. While every effort has been made to identify copyright holders, some omissions may occur. EDITOR’S LETTER To names one’s archive is a perilous matter; it can suggest that these texts ‘belong’ together, and that the belonging is a mark of one’s own presence — Sarah Ahmad My encounters with magazines and journals have always been opportune sites for change. It started with fashion magazines—when I first moved to the UK, I remember standing in the big Tesco in Croydon begging my mum for an issue of British Vogue. What do ye want that for? The images rewarded me with an imagination, I became open to the possibility of obtaining a reality far removed from my own. More than that, I was mesmerised by how the pages yielded the power to bind together so many voices (within limits—the lack of diversity in fashion zines was un-conceptualised at the time). I was nine years old and my generation of bloggers soon sprouted tour-de-force fashion entrepreneurs—Elise By Olsen, Tavi Gevinson, Susie Bubble. I could not believe it—beyond purchasing a magazine, I could use my own words to access this world? The Condé Nast or Vice logo weren’t signs anymore, my own voice signified endless possibilities. Recognising that, I disciplined my skill by writing my own critical fashion blog which ran weekly for five years (an embarrassing past, although I believe my 13 year old self is still up somewhere on an i-D article running ‘Top 5 Bloggers to Watch’).
Issue One July 2020 I reached out to my local paper asking why there wasn’t a fashion section. By the age of 13 I was a ‘Fashion Editor’ and received writing commissions thereon in. Fast-forward a year or so and my tastes changed, I dropped fashion and started collecting obscure independent art magazines (many out of print today, but still archived/hoarded in the garage) and journals such as Third Text, n.paradoxa and The Happy Hypocrite (I am honoured to have founder Maria Fusco contribute to this first issue). I started writing for the magazines that I was reading. When I was 19 I materialised Habibi Collective and continue to straddle journalism, film curation and academia on an independent and institutional, local and international scale. I have never received a formal art education and none of my family are interested in the arts. Half are nestled in rural Ireland and the other half are Iraqi immigrants scattered everywhere, life and limited resources taught me how to hustle more than art school ever could—for that I am grateful. With my curatorial work, I run a strict politics of production. I will not bore you with my practice here, but the idea for this publication came from a place of anger at the way things are run. For years I have worked in the heart of media outlets in the UK and internationally, as staff writer and on freelance retainer, and there is little integrity. Similarly, I noticed that many well-meaning independent magazines took these large-scale media capitalist corporations as editorial models. I was talking with editors who were versed on primitive accumulation, yet expected free labour from commissioned writers and advertised unpaid internships. In response, I scribbled down a quick manifesto: Biannual critical art magazine by and for marginalised writers, artists + practices slow-writing + attention to quality, no copy-writing or fast-paced production pay for contributors, recognising the value of experimental art-writing every text must have an opinion, no artistic or political censorship experimentation outside formal boundaries of text + image collaboratively-driven, decentralisation or production + master narratives Thinking about my magazines in the garage, I constantly ask(ed) myself: How do I run a publication like this and make it sustainable? I still don’t have an answer. As well as anger, everything you will read in this issue came from a place of deep love. In November 2019, I curated a list of my favourite artists working right now and reached out to them. I am so ecstatic that most of them persevered with me, through thick, thin and a pandemic. It has been an honour to develop these texts in such close tandem with so many gifted people, many of whom I am honoured to call my friends. I want ART WORK to be a high-quality critical art magazine from the margins and I can say proudly that Issue One fulfils this vision. I would like to thank all of you for reading this, for buying the magazine—I truly appreciate it and hope you’re here with me for the long-run. Thank you to the huge crowd who danced at the fundraiser party at SET Dalston, DJs Chooc, Sara, James and Chloe and to everyone who donated on the online fundraiser. Thank you to Martin and Vanessa for being my designers, my aesthetes and eyes and Asel for your preliminary designs. Thank you to those who tuned into my passionate outbursts (for want of a better word), my family for asking how’s the magazine thing going? and everyone else who has supported me along the way. From a place of anger and love — as always,
ART WORK Magazine
Editor’s letter ZERO Dougal Verinder-Gedge TWO Jamila Prowse
Naomi Accardi Rehana Zaman
Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan FIFTYEIGHT Sinéad O’Dwyer
The memories. You haven’t heard or seen or smelt them in decades. This place is cursed. It’s inhabitants are scared of the dark and keep coming here to stay. It’s inhabitants are very strange and aggressive. They dance and shout like banshees.
You never know who or what is behind those curtains. They could be your neighbours, or your ex-girlfriends. You never know who is be hind those curtains. They could be you, or they could be me. I was visiting my ex-girlfriend’s parents. They had moved, they were living in a shed. The shed was made of cardboard and the place was pitch black. I felt scared and ill. I felt as if the place was haunted. I decided to take a walk in the dark. I felt scared and wanted to run. I remember feeling very scared. I don’t know why. I just remember being in a very strange place.
I turn on the TV. I see a man. He has a beard and wears a black coat. He is looking at me as if I am some kind of threat. I turn the TV off. These are what the memories are like. I can only describe these strong and vivid memories to you. These are the memo ries that I can still remember. I could have been in any one of these rooms. I could be you. I could be anyone. I could be anyone who wants to be remembered. I am just a young man in a strange place. I don t know why I am doing this.
I look at the time. It is now. I am sure it is too late. The rain stops. The wind is chilling my room. I am dreaming. I don’t remember any of this. I just sit here and look at the screen. I am looking at something else. A book. A book about bees. I could be reading a book about bees. Nothing to remember. I just sit here and look at the screen. Far too many years have passed.
I close my eyes. The room is cold. The room is feverish. The head of the bed creaks. I could wake up from my dreams. I jump off the bed and run to the bathroom. The water is cold, I grit my teeth. I don’t want to urinate. I don’t like the smell of urine. It is not good. I want to feel. I run to the mirror. I look in the mirror. My reflection is in the bowl of the toilet. I give in to the urge to urinate. I pull my shirt up to my face and trace my naked body. It is too late. I am na ked. I am escaping from a world of my own making. I turn on the light. I see a face. A young man. He is staring at me. I don’t know his name. He is staring at my tits. They are red and swollen. I remember looking at my naked body in the mirror. I ran to the bathroom. I ran out of the bathroom and into the cold night.
I am in a forgotten city. I never really existed. I only existed for this moment. I am dreaming. I am escaping from my own self. I am escaping from the memory walls I have constructed to escape my own self. I am escaping from my own self. I am escaping to the place I was never really meant to go. I am escaping to a place where I am not wanted. I am fleeing from my own self. I reach the front desk. The receptionist greets me with a smile. He asks me if I am sure I am dreaming. I tell him I am not sure. He asks me if I have ever been to a strange place before. I tell him I have never. He asks me what place it is. I tell him The Daily Stormer. The book is on the coffee table. I open the book. There is a black and white photograph of a young man in a red and white striped outfit. I trace the words on the page. I trace the words ‘Death by Keelhaul’. I trace the last two letters of the book. I trace the final two letters ‘Yours’. I remove the book and put it on the table. I lay it on the bed. I look at the black and white photograph. I trace the tear ducts under the eyes. I trace the absent, frilly breasts. I trace the absent, frilly arms. I trace the absent, frilly legs. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly hair. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly tongue. I trace the absent, frilly nose. I trace the absent, frilly ears. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly hair. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly ears. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet.
Recently, I have been training and teaching AI to recognise my face.I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly hair. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly tongue. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly hair. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly foot. I trace the absent, frilly fingers. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly toes. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly mouth. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly tail. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent, frilly eyes. I trace the absent, frilly feet. I trace the absent,
Recently, I have been involved with training and teaching AI to recognise my face. I gifted a computer programme two-thousand seven-hundred photos of my face, taken over the past 5 years. I felt the delight and joy of seeing my own flesh transported to a previously unseen version of myself, conceived by a laptop. I think of AI as a character-building exercise. I am giving my physical self to a non-existent entity which seeks out my eyes, mouth and hair, to then rebuild me, a young man, into a new environment. The AI body has no perception of its body. The body has been created to act. Instead, the body has been created to ‘act’ as if it is looking at me, or you, or anyone who wants to stare back at it. This is strange. Ego is traumatised into the realms of instantaneous data, against slow growth. Technology is characteristically instant, where as this need and desire for the human-made computer to discern speech, faces, and more; seems both existential as well as a possible ‘ego-trip’ for humankind. I have every right to be frightened. ‘Frightened’. What does it mean to be ‘frightened’ by AI? I could revisit existentialist philosophy? The properties of a self-programmed world are interconnected so much that the infinite signifiers of life garner one to feel disconnected from existence itself. AI cannot be exhausted: as it learns, it self-per- petually produces more output. It invents a stockpile of algorithms, a never ending stream of self-portraiture (until a physical human tells it to terminate its chain of perpetual birthsand rebirths). GAN systems function by taking one image - the system creates advances to generate multiple composites of the original image. Re-imaging the self, AI could be seen as a mutation of identity, of ’self’. This image forever grows in scale. Both up and down. Both left and right. These images produce both accurate and inaccurate images of the self. With anomalies, you could suggest new-found ‘beauty’, but this is besides the point. Metaphorically, the situation takes on the identity of a cell spreading across a petri-dish. However, instead of the cylindrical properties of a dish, GAN is restricted to the silicon chip within a computer.
The Quiet Revolution of the Self- Arts, ‘The Social Model holds that a Isolated person isn’t “disabled” because of their impairment, health condition, Listen to the audio version here or the ways in which they may differ from what is commonly considered the At the time of writing this on Thursday medical “norm”; rather it is the physical 16th April 2020, the UK has now been and attitudinal barriers in society – under government-ordered lockdown prejudice, lack of access adjustments for 25 days, as a response to the and systemic exclusion – that disable outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide. I people.’ By using the term disabled have been predominantly housebound people I am acknowledging this social for 39 days, other than a roughly weekly model, to express that ‘it is on society walk down to the riverbank by my flat to make changes, not on the disabled or to the local supermarket, a round person’, while non-disabled will refer to trip of approximately 1.9km. Since May those who are not restricted by these last year I have been intermittently physical and attitudinal barriers. housebound as a result of worsening mental health conditions I have had for most of my life. Though I was familiar with battling general anxiety and depression, I started to experience regular panic attacks followed by long stretches of low mood, agoraphobia and an overall inability to leave the house. I was signed off twice from my day job as an Assistant Producer at an arts organisation, before resigning and leaving my rented flat in North London due to the pressure of independent living while balancing new and relentless bouts of unmanageable mental health. For a significant number of non-disabled people the current global pandemic will be their first experience of having to stay at home for an extended duration, and yet the reality of being self-isolated is not a new phenomenon. Chronic illness, disability and ongoing health conditions (including mental health) can dramatically alter a person’s life, without forewarning, much in a similar vein to how people found their lives restructured by a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Throughout this essay I subscribe to the definition of disability proposed by the Social Model of Disability. As stated by Shape
In a recent article for Grazia, artist Mimi Butlin outlines how as someone who lives with chronic illness she had been facing self-isolation long before the COVID-19 outbreak. Butlin, like many other people from disabled and chronically ill communities, found her life significantly altered due to chronic illness. She recounts not being able to pursue the career she’d imagined, and experiencing depression as a result of the loneliness of being housebound, watching from a distance as her friends
A call to remove the physical and attitudinal barriers which exclude disabled and chronically ill people facing self-isolation, has previously been spearheaded by activists and cultural makers. A thinker who has long been advocating the restructuring of society to actively consider those living with chronic illness and self-isolation is Johanna Hedva, whose Sick Woman Theory, first developed in late 2014, considers what modes of protest are afforded to people unable to leave the house. The founding principles of Hedva’s theory were catalysed around the Black Lives Matter protests. Hedva expresses they would have been in attendance of the protests, had it not been for a chronic condition which rendered them ‘unable to walk, drive, do [their] job, sometimes speak or understand language, take a bath without assistance, and leave the bed’ for extended periods of time. This form of protest, of marching in the streets, was presently inaccessible to Hedva. Hedva acknowledges, too, that people especially impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement ‘might not be able to be present for the marches because they were imprisoned by a job, the threat of being fired from their job if they marched, or literal incarceration, and of course the threat of violence and police brutality – but also because of illness or disability, or because they were caring for someone with an illness or disability.’ In light of this thought, of all the many people engaged in private acts of protest, Hedva came up with Sick Woman Theory, partially in response to Hannah Arendt’s definition of the political as ‘any action that is performed in public’. For Hedva, this definition is exclusionary. As Hedva writes, if ‘being present in public is what is required to be political,
continued to lead active social lives. Butlin identifies that prior to COVID-19 there weren’t any online resources or encouraging articles around how to survive isolation. Seemingly overnight, a world which was largely inaccessible to anyone in self-isolation, suddenly went online in droves. From VR museum exhibitions, a shift to flexible and home working, and socialising using an abundance of video chat technology, activities which were once out of reach to those who are housebound became indispensable. The point Butlin stresses is one being made by many disabled and chronically ill people at the present moment: with a high percentage of society living in varying degrees of selfisolation, where was the call for change around making work, leisure and culture available to people unable to leave the house prior to this moment? Indeed, what’s become apparent is that it takes a global crisis which forces non-disabled people to stay home en masse for real, impactful structural change to occur.
then whole swathes of the population can be deemed a-political – simply because they are not physically able to get their bodies into the street.’ Hedva goes on to problematise Arendt’s binary between public and private, noting that by this vein of thinking, anything that is done in private will not have political implications. Arendt was concerned that by claiming that everything can be political, ‘then nothing will be’; it would undermine the very notion. But as Hedva crucially highlights, there is great political significance behind the choices we make in private: ‘Because of course, everything you do in private is political: who you have sex with, how long your showers are, if you have access to clean water for a shower at all, and so on.’ What I’m predominantly interested in is the private, and sometimes quiet, forms of revolution that have been taking place within the arts prior to COVID-19. Far be it for cultural institutions with funding to practice what they preach, and actually put over-discussed equality initiatives into action; independent artists, curators and writers have long been championing real change from the sidelines. The White Pube (TWP) are routinely cited within the arts as a signifier for progressive change, and for good reason. Self proclaimed as ‘the opposite of old white men with posh accents’, founders Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad have been publishing art reviews since 2015 which they describe as ’simply the two of us thinking out loud from our respective childhood bedrooms in Liverpool and London’. The reason TWP has likely become somewhat of a household name, and indicator of institutions opening out their ways of working, is because de la Puente and Muhammad have managed to infiltrate the centre
of art and culture. While maintaining a website, predominantly funded through Patreon donations (a membership platform where people can sign up to provide regular donations to artists and creators, helping them get paid for content they might otherwise provide for free), TWP have transitioned into being commissioned and undertaking writing residencies for leading cultural institutions. Written in their colloquial, unapologetically honest, and digitally native tongue, TWP have shifted a trend in art writing to be far more aligned with the perceptions of an audience member walking in off the street, than the stuffy, canonical, overly academic language often associated with art history. The reason I bring up TWP in this context is due to their alignment with the private revolution of Hedva’s Sick Woman Theory. Running TWP from their bedrooms, de la Puente and Muhammad are engaged in a cultural output that takes the political beliefs and identities formed in the home, and translates them through the online sphere to the bedrooms of people across the world. From the offset TWP is an initiative with concerns around accessibility built in. The reviews and essays are readily available, in a dialogue that is easily understood even by someone with no arts background. By uploading each text with an accompanying soundcloud link of the text being read aloud, de la Puente and Muhammad are actively thinking through the way their audience is engaging with their work: navigable for someone who is visually impaired, as well as anyone who finds reading long texts challenging (such as due to chronic fatigue or experiencing chronic headaches). Additionally, TWP runs a regular online residency which commissions artists for TWP
TWP’s artist in residence at the start of 2020 was Bella Milroy, who uses ‘her personal perspective as a framework for a wider reflection of contemporary living’. Bella ‘makes work about making work (and being disabled) and not being able to make work (and being disabled).’ For Milroy’s residency, entitled MOBSHOP, she spoke with disabled and chronically ill people about Mobility Shops, Mobility Aids and devices designed for disabled and chronically ill people. Offered as a sort of reimagining of Mobility Shops, a thinking through of the Mobility Shop of dreams, Milroy along with her guests Claudia Rose Walder, Nina Tame and Jameisha Prescod, demonstrated the kind of political and revolutionary thought that can occur indoors. Milroy’s practice has long been engaged in forms of indoor revolution. Throughout 2019 Milroy programmed a series of workshops at Bootle library in Merseyside titled Soft Sanctuary, which celebrated the public library as a place to relax, feel safe and
looked after. With writing and poetry, collaborative weaving, a mental health colouring book and free lunchtime meals, Milroy privileged the importance of quiet and slow forms of collectivity, of coming together in a way which is undemanding and open to people from different walks of life. Simultaneously, Soft Sanctuary draws attention to the revolutionary space
homepage, feeding the money they earn through a monthly advice column on Dazed directly into helping artists get paid.
of public libraries—one of the sole most of the people around me adhere remaining free public spaces which to). Socialising, and daily tasks such as does not necessitate consumerism. food shopping, cooking and cleaning, also take a more significant toll. If I Arts programming that seeks to alleviate spend an afternoon travelling across the physical and attitudinal barriers in London to have lunch with a friend, the society that disable people has to impact on my energy, and in turn my simultaneously consider audience mental health, can be severe. When I’m engagement alongside the expectations lower on energy I am more susceptible and pace of labour placed on artists to having panic attacks, which in turn and arts professionals. The pressurised reduces my energy supply dramatically working environment commonplace and can leave me bed bound for in the arts today is self-proclaimed several days to weeks. I do not make as fast-paced, is characterised by set this comparison so as to minimise the outcomes, and focused on a public lived experience of people with chronic output designed to increase audience illness. It is true, also, that mental health numbers and revenue for an institution. can worsen as a result of chronic In Sick Woman Theory Hedva outlines illness and disability, particularly if one what is meant by the term chronic is socially isolated or restricted in what illness. ‘A chronic illness is an illness they are able to. What this comparison that lasts a lifetime, in other words it illuminates, is that there are an array does not get better. There is no cure.’ of chronic illnesses, disabilities and Hedva goes on to explain that those ongoing health problems (including with a chronic illness are likely to have a mental health) which can alter a limited reserve of energy. Non-disabled person’s ability to enact daily tasks, people can ‘spend and spend [energy] even if these tasks are something one without consequence’, while ‘For those was previously accustomed to carrying of us with limited funds, we have to out with little difficulty or repercussion. ration […]: we often run out before lunch.’ Certainly, this echoes Butlin, It is also worth noting here, that who now works as an illustrator, and depression and anxiety (which can highlights that she seldom manages to cause low energy and a weakened draw for a few hours a day. immune system) have some crossover of symptoms with chronic fatigue While I do not have a chronic illness, syndrome or ME (for which there is not there are parallels between how a specific test, but is diagnosed based on mental illness can leave you with a your symptoms, and by ruling out other short supply of energy to spend. In my conditions that could be causing your experience, though I have had mental symptoms). While I have more recently health issues for much of my life dating been suspected of having chronic back to childhood, the past eighteen fatigue syndrome, this is not something months of worsened anxiety, panic my GP is particularly equipped or disorder and depression has made willing (in my experience) to investigate daily tasks, that were once possible further. Chronic illness can, in many for me, inaccessible. I quickly run out cases, take a long and strenuous time of energy during the day, and can only to diagnose, with frequent tests and work in short spurts at home throughout misdiagnosis commonplace, and while the week (as opposed to a 9-5 structure a medical diagnosis can provide relief
The working environment in the arts can be strenuous for arts professionals more widely, even those without specific barriers to working. The commonality of art-world-burnout is being increasingly discussed by those at the forefront of the sector. Helena Reckitt, in her 2016 essay “Support Acts: Curating, Caring and Social Reproduction” suggests that curators, ‘through over-identifying their work, and instrumentalizing their personal relationships and energies, risk self-exploitation and burn out’. Burn out is something that I am all too familiar with, and which was at the core of my deteriorating mental health in 2019. A period in which I was working a four-day week job in an arts institution to make ends meet, while working freelance as a curator, and taking annual leave (much needed rest time) in order to plan, install and manage independent exhibitions. This unsustainable working pattern is not uncommon, and something I have witnessed countless times in my three years of working in the arts since graduating from my Bachelors. The pressure to sustain a consistent portfolio of work, as well as the commonality of arts jobs hiring on a basis of quantifiable years worked, combined with the precarious gig economy and underfunding of the sector, means individuals are likely to push themselves beyond their limits in order to do something as seemingly simple as keep working. Curator Eva Rowson, in a 2018 essay for AQNB,
“How Do We Keep It Going?” raises a question around how programming that is primarily focused on visible outcomes, undermines the potential for spaces to test ideas, foster communities, and be creative without anticipating where it will lead. Rowson writes: If we imagine our programmes becoming less about always being visible and more about protecting space for ourselves and others to test things, take risks, learn, fail, and relearn as we go along, then we need to shift institutions and funders away from the need to have clear outcomes in order to prove what they’re doing is “productive”. — Eva Rowson, “How Do We Keep It Going?”, AQNB Something that Reckitt highlights, is that ‘discussions of curatorial labour regularly emphasize the link between curating and care, and the etymological roots of “curating” in the Latin word curare for caring.’ Yet what is key here, as Reckitt stresses, is that there needs to be a shift from that care being extended to objects, to instead prioritising an investment in the wellbeing of artists, in fostering and nurturing lasting creative relationships, and extending that care to ourselves so as to avoid art-worldburnout. Simultaneously, we must put forward a definition of care which is not at odds with, does not co-opt, the lived daily experience and language of disabled communities, but instead expands the notion of care in the arts to a consideration of how to support disabled and chronically ill artists in making work. Returning to Milroy’s residency for The White Pube, what struck me about their approach is that partway through Milroy’s residency she took to Instagram to express the supportive nature of TWP’s
and clarity for some, it is not necessarily helpful for everyone. The point being, that there are many different health conditions and factors which can make it difficult to carry out a “normal” life. Having a minimised reserve of energy, then, has significant implications for work, income and how forms of labour are enacted in society.
commission. Instead of adhering to their usual format of having one artist per month, TWP restructured Milroy’s residency to take place across January and February, to make space for working practices that were more sustainable for her. This model of building the structure of a residency around the needs of the artist recognises that a person centred environment is one that fosters creative experimentation. As a supportive structure, which is designed to encourage the development of an artist’s practice, residencies should be tailored around the individual, so as to ensure the outcome of the residency is not prioritised at the expense of the artist’s wellbeing. Though I cannot speak for the intricacies of Milroy and TWP’s relationship, I feel that we should begin our working relationships in the arts from a point of asking artists how they work best, the ways they can be supported in making, and understanding what is achievable for them. This opens up a dialogue that can be returned to throughout a project in case anything changes or becomes too demanding, instead of outlining a set of specific outcomes to reach by the end of a residency or commission. It must be noted that inclusive organisations, working with disabled artists, regularly re-write and re-program structures around time, consent, focus and energy. Check-ins are a vital form of inclusive collaboration and working environments. This approach to collaborative working is in line with the ‘nothing about me without me’ model taught by Brighton University’s Inclusive Arts Practice MA, which designs programmes in collaboration and dialogue with the people they are made for, placing participants at the centre of the decision-making and conversations which directly impact
them. The shift I would like to see occur is a move from the cookie cutter, one-fits-all approach of commissioning structures to an intrinsically flexible, human centred approach, which tailors ways of working around an individual. After all, art making is a uniquely personal profession, with different environments and working practices fostering different creative results for each person.
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TWP are not alone in rethinking art making as being less focused on a specific outcome, and more focused on the time and investment you put into thinking, collaborating, creating, facilitating discussion and nurturing relationships. In fact, there is an approach that is emerging within younger curators, the next generation of practitioners, who upon entering the sector are recognising the need
hyperlinks to the artistic content, is featured on the previous page). The online resource continues to foster belief systems intrinsic to Pear Forum: the notion that holding informal space for conversation, thought, peer review and support is just as valuable as the more visible models of making. Moving away from art making which is geared towards a public, towards consumption and audience numbers, is also fundamentally a response to the capitalist underpinnings of the sector. Capitalism necessitates that we exist as productive bodies, feeding into the endless cycle of capital and commerce, fuelling the very beast that is a capitalist world. The art world is no different in this sense, where pressure around funding and income has translated into the positioning of artists and audience members as commodities. This moves away from the intrinsically revolutionary and boundary pushing form that is creativity; the very notion that not everything a person does has to be productive, we can prioritise spaces where our mind is free to roam, to imagine alternative potentialities. Returning to the words of Hedva, who in Sick Woman Theory states, ‘The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself,’ finding space for yourself, for community, for looking after one another, space to stop in a world that demands you are productive, is in itself anti-capitalist. Hedva, whose words are always a pillar of reassurance in difficult times, wrote about COVID-19 for Get Well Soon!, a project by Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain: Many thought the revolution, when it came, would look how it’s looked before: a protest in the streets, some good
for structural change. Cairo Clarke, an independent curator and founder of SITE Projects, identified ‘a need for alternative modes of exhibition and dissemination of artistic practice’. SITE Projects was launched through a publication in September 2019, showcasing the work of artists whom Clarke had built a relationship with over the course of her career. The project stemmed from a place in which Clarke recognised the difficulty of sustaining a practice as a curator, with many people taking on multiple jobs and spreading themselves too thin in order to make ends meet. More recently, as a response to the government lockdown and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Clarke started in.oscillation an open submission resource of sound and text works, circulated daily through the SITE Projects website. With no specification around length, form, or topic, in.oscillation exists as a space for open, unmitigated creativity, believing fundamentally in the potential of art to lift spirits in difficult times. This coming together, of investing in collectivity and community instead of revenue, is something that has been echoed elsewhere in response to the COVID outbreak. In 2018 curator Amrita Dhallu developed a peer-led mentoring network through the artquest programme PEER FORUM, titled Pear Forum, as a space to explore ‘the potential and limitations of working through legacies of colonialism and its embodied impact’. Pear Forum responded to being unable to go ahead with their public showcase, by opting to create a digital collection compiled of artworks and links, titled Pear Forum Presents : Shout out to all the pears, in which different pathways to creative treasures are uncovered by clicking on illustrated pears, and photos of the artists. (The original poster, with
looting and riots, a coup, a mutiny. […] Now might be a good time to rethink what a revolution can look like. Perhaps it doesn’t look like a march of angry, abled bodies in the street. Perhaps it looks something more like the world standing still because all the bodies in it are exhausted—because care has to be prioritized before it’s too late. – Johanna Hedva, Get Well Soon! A point Butlin raises is that while this period of isolation is an opportunity to build empathy around the reality of being self isolated, non-disabled people currently required to stay home should not take for granted that their position is probable to be far removed from disabled and chronically ill communities. Non-disabled people are unlikely to face a prolonged and unending period of staying home, extending far beyond the curtailing of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, many chronically ill and disabled people may be experiencing pain and fatigue, making it difficult to work or move. Butlin expresses experiencing PTSD during the government lockdown, due to the resurfacing trauma of first becoming ill and isolated. Additionally, disabled and chronically ill people are facing ableist and life threatening legislation as part of the COVID-19 government bill. An increased ableist prioritisation of non-disabled people over those with preexisting conditions has included an NHS surgery in Wales sending chronically ill and disabled patients letters asking them to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ forms, or stating that they will not be offered a ventilator bed if they become ill with coronavirus, so that resources can be ‘targeted at the young and fit who have a greater chance of surviving infection’ (after the
letter went viral the surgery apologised, but the trauma of receiving one of these letters in the first place is undeniable). This does not even begin to scratch the surface of the ableist policies that the government continues to uphold, which have been devaluing the lives of disabled and chronically ill people long before the global pandemic. While I don’t have an answer for this, I would suggest that non-disabled people take them time to get clued up about the ableist policies carried out by the Conservative government and join disabled and chronically ill communities in fighting against the continuation of these intrinsically life-threatening policies. I will provide suggestions of people to follow and further reading at the end of this essay. I am writing this essay in a very specific social environment, where the relentless world we are used to has all but stalled in the face of a life-threatening virus. The streets outside are quiet. The flat where I live is situated under a flight path, and the planes that usually trundle routinely above my head have all but ceased. Cultural venues have shut their doors and people the world over are facing job losses, economic instability and the loss of loved ones. I don’t want this essay to sit as an attempt at reframing a global pandemic in a positive light. I cannot sit here and make conclusive closing remarks, nor do I wish to make any broad resounding statements that overlook the complexity and difficulty of the current moment we find ourselves in. I do think it’s important to recognise that the current state of the world has exposed the fragility and inequality of our social and economic structures, as well as intensifying the disparity between the different factions of society, including rich and poor, young and old, disabled and non-disabled
I’m still only in the early stages of understanding how communities affected by disability and chronic illness are impacted by the social structuring of the world, as well as deciphering what a world could look like that prioritises the care of all people. So, I will close on the words of Mimi Butlin and Johanna Hedva, both of whom have guided this essay.
We need able bodied people to remember what it was like when they were experiencing unemployment, when they were alone, when they were worried and scared for their health. Most crucially, they mustn’t forget what it was like when they were not in control of their lives because that’s what illness does. Let’s not stop all this accessibility that we’ve given to everyone in terms of working from home and virtual resources. I hope that the crisis will mean that friends and allies will visit us when they’re rejoicing about their freedom. I hope that it will no longer be us screaming about what we deserve and how society treats us. I hope that we will be prioritised when it comes to mainstream activism and we will be given more of a space. — Mimi Butlin, Grazia. What we’re watching happen with COVID-19 is what happens when care insists on itself, when the care of others becomes mandatory, when it takes up space and money and labor and energy. See how hard it is to do? The world isn’t built to give care freely and abundantly. It’s trying now, but look how alien a concept this is, how hard it is to make happen. It will take all of us—it will take all of us operating on the principle that if only some of us are well, none of us are. And that’s exactly why it’s revolutionary. Because care demands that we live as though we are all interconnected—which we are—it invalidates the myth of the individual’s autonomy. In care, we know our limits because they are the places where we meet each other. My limit is where you meet me, yours is where I find you, and, at this meeting place, we are linked, made of the same stuff, transforming into one because of the other. — Johanna Hedva, Get Well Soon!
people. Whatever world waits for us on the other side of this—hopefully a more collectivised, conscious, slow normal— we must acknowledge that for the many disabled and chronically ill people in selfisolation, life may largely stay the same (if not all the more dangerous given the Conservatives continuing ableist policies). If we can take one thing from the current restructuring of the world here over, it is that it has demonstrated the potential for reshaping how we work and experience culture in a way that doesn’t lock out those who are self-isolated.
Further Reading: -Abi Palmer, Sanatorium, (Penned in the Margins), 2020 -accessdocsforartists.com, created by Leah Clements, Alice Hattrick and Lizzy Rose, October 2018 -Alison Kafer, “Time for Disability Studies and a Future for Crips” in Feminist, Queer, Crip (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), -Anne Boyer, The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness, (Penguin books), 2019 -Audre Lorde, “A Burst of Light”, A Burst of Light: and Other Essays (Dover Publications Inc.), 2017 -Bella Milroy, “MOB-SHOP” (Podcast available on Soundcloud), JanuaryFebruary 2020 -Bella Milroy, “Reclaiming Lazy”, bellamilroy.com, May 2019 -Cairo Clarke, “in.oscillation”, siteprojects.co -Cairo Clarke, SITE 1st Edition, (SITE) 2019 -Carolyn Lazard, Accessibility in the Arts: A Promise and a Practice, 2019, commissioned by Recess, NY -Eva Rowson, ‘How do we keep it going?’, AQNB, 16 January 2018 -Gabrielle de la Puente, “Quarantine Part One”, The White Pube, April 2020 -Helena Reckitt, ‘Support Acts: Curating, Caring and Social Reproduction,’ Journal of Curatorial Studies, 5:1, 2016 -Johanna Hedva, Getwellsoon.labr.io, March 2020 -Johanna Hedva, “Sick Woman Theory”, in Mask Magazine, The Not Again Issue, January 2016 -Leah Clements, “On Being Crip”, Orlando 03: Beyond the Body, 2018 -Mimi Butlin, “Living Through Lockdown With A Chronic Illness”, in Grazia, April 2020
-Raju Rage, “Access Intimacy and Institutional Ableism: Raju Rage on the problem with ‘inclusion’”, Disability Arts Online, April 2020 -Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (New York: New York University Press, 2006) -Romily Alice, A Primer for Working with Disabled Group Members, (Sick Time Press), 2018 -Sara Ahmed, ‘Selfcare As Warfare’, Feministkilljoys.com -Shape Arts, “Social Model of Disability”, shapearts.org.uk -Staci Bu Shea, “Care in Times of Care”, Metropolis M, April 2020 -Taraneh Fazeli, “Notes for ‘Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying’ in conversation with the Canaries”, Temporary Art Review, May 2016 -Victoria Ann Lewis, “Crip” in Keywords for Disability Studies (New York: New York University Press, 2015) @alicehattrick @amritadhallu @bella.milroy @bighedva @cairoc @cantgoout_imsick @disabilityarts @evarowson @invalid__art @leah_r_clements @lizzyrosequartz @nina_tame @raisa_kabir_textiles_ @rocket_artists @romilyalice @shanfinnegan @shapearts @the_feeding_of_the_fox @thewhitepube
‘Because this is for all of you, my sisters. Even the ones I am yet to meet’ And my sister says, ‘This time it could be me, next time it could be someone else, close to you’. And I remember how you forget we all living under the same sky. forget that some of us cry ourselves to sleep for what happens to us beneath it. I remember that we gotta be close to you for you to care about us, whether tomorrow is our utopia or our right. Like we gotta get close to you, right up next to you — Like we gotta forget that kills us.
And my sister stops speaking, like trynna summon the life out of a lifeless destiny. And someone replies to her, ‘take your time baby’ and I want to reach into the screen and find any way to make the past, something that don’t creep up so fast, cos it don’t care for the future. You want us to forget how danger is sometimes sitting right next to us.
We gotta forget our proximity to you is the reason we dying.
It will never be a transgression or wrong, to live there, in the past for the present donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want you alive in its stomach. Today I have the flu, so my nose all blocked, canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t smell the fresh air but it feels like someone took someone else in the dusk of it. It feels right up close to me. You forgot that kills us.
Tell them that sometimes I wanna relive the past, just to know the security of us all being in it. Sometimes I wanna be without a mouthful of dead names. All I know is everything I am and love dying, so I forget how to live. My sister opens her mouth and nothing, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know if she is trying to speak, or remembering what is to breathe, and forgetting at the same time.
I never found a way to reach into the screen. I want to call all the black trans womxn I know, tell them the worst kinda thieves are the ones who take us from our own bodies. I cannot tell them there is nothing to fear I cannot tell them that fear can be forgotten, like names that turn in royal red confetti, like locking windows, and doors and gates.
My sister says ‘This time, I can stand before you, whereas the other scenarios we are in mourning’ and I realise I have run out of time to reach into the screen. I have run out of time for her to be standing that we are already mourning. That I watched the same video in both scenarios and I wish we all remained in the past. I realised I have run our of time to forget we are born into a new sky. I will come and find you with no more names in my full mouth. I will traces yours everywhere it can be, and have enough room to kiss your forehead. Enough of a hand, that is no longer a fist so I can hold onto hold yours and tell you, how sorry of this new sky, this heaven, that is no reward of dying and no compensation for not living. That we will not forget you. Whether you are close to us or not. I say your name And somewhere every second in the world stops. The wind blows back to your body And you breathe. I say your name, And the hands move backward, We are gifted more life and more time to be alive in it. I say your name, And we don’t run out of time.
Failing for you/Falling For you The curator/artist relationship bears such uncanny resemblance to the ecstatic high of falling in love. Falling for an artist is falling for their interior worlds. It is finding solace in the way they posture themselves. It’s an attachment to the dialogues, grounded in your shared social and emotional politics. It is finding yourself enamoured by the ways they process the world - how they articulate this, both verbally and non verbally. It’s the feeling of being seen within their vast references, their experiences and the manner with which they deliver these narratives. It also means feeling at times, intimidated by their intellectual capacity, their originality, their ability to author all of this into a strange universe. What I describe fits neatly into the definition of crushing on someone, something my close peers and I have discussed many times. It is also a brilliant point of reference to assess whether the relationship is one worth pursuing. The relationship I have with Nour Malas is one that fits into this ‘crushing’ logic. It is a relationship which moves beyond the threshold of believing in her work and wanting to facilitate its expression in the public sphere. It’s a dynamic that entangles us beyond the binary of curator and artist. One which reinforces the curatorial role as collaborative. Our entanglements span the practical, the spatial and the metaphysical. We’re friends, peers and avid supporters of each other’s work. There’s the shared Arab heritage and our rootedness in London. Nour is a Cancer and I am a Pisces - our water connection is a visceral one which floods to the surface of our dialogue. I hold rare bonds with water signs, we honour an existence that privileges a depth of feeling. Water signs make me feel less irrational about my intuitive or psychic gifts, and Nour is no exception to this. No other element is as invested in the ethereal realm and the valuing of this inner life to the waking world. Nour recalls that as a small child, she recognised the need to to turn inward for space. Space to make sense of herself in relation to her large family and to the overwhelming outside world. The solitary drive that is a recurrent in her approach to life and work was developed very early on. There is a distinct heartline to the work she began to produce whilst graduating in 2017 from the Art/History of Art double honours programme at Goldsmiths, where we met. Nour showed her works Pomegranate III, (2017) & Two Bodies, disconnected, (2016) in Feminisms x The Arab & Muslim Diapora. I have now made peace with that exhibition’s naive and categorising title, through understanding that category can be a necessary foundation to perform when first navigating the sticky world of representation. Nour’s contributions attempted a taboo contemplation of the female body, latex stretched across a circular frame with a precariously held, single pomegranate fruit at its centre. Nour’s contributions attempted a taboo contemplation of the female body, latex stretched across a circular frame with a precariously held single pomegranate fruit at its centre. The pomegranate fruit
loaded in symbolism ranging from feminine beauty, to fertility and blood. Two Bodies, disconnected, approached belonging through plural minimalist form. Our second project was due to open this summer. Inshallah, it will still happen this year. The pertinence of its corporeal contexts will be even more relatable in a world where fear of contact has become normalised. In February, I asked Nour if she would share her reading list with me: Eroticism- Georges Bataille On Identity- Amin Maalouf The Art of Being- Erich Fromm On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored- Erich Fromm Missing Out- Adam Phillips The Cultural Politics of Emotion- Sarah Ahmed Walking Through Fire- Nawal El Saadawi The Poetics of Space- Gaston Bachelard This list not only demonstrates Nour’s desire to reckon with herself, but also communicates her ability to complicate and exist fully in her feelings. In fact, Nour is so committed to inhabiting her feelings that she turns failed reciprocation by person, place or politics into an energy that fuels her practice. Disclosing to me on multiple occasions that she finds herself on fertile ground in moments of failed dynamism or unrequited romantic love, she metabolises it into an agent that drives her work flow. This calculation of one’s emotional states of existence is approached via social and cultural practices in Sara Ahmed’s The Cultural Politics of Emotion, one of the texts in Nour’s reading list. Nour came into contact with the text by way of her mother’s recommendation, and we discussed it over bowls of spaghetti pomodoro on a late January evening.
In a chapter titled The Affective Politics of Fear, Ahmed processes how responses to terrorism generate an economy of fear around the the brown body and Muslim figure, maintaining ‘it’ as threat under Western ideologies and therefor keeping ‘it’ oppressed. These are politics that are personal to both of us. We have a shared sense of responsibility towards these contexts - awareness of privilege, alongside the disconnection and discomfort in being held as authoritative voices. Questioning the legitimacy of our authority is a continuous dialogue we have, circling around the need to maintain visibility in certain circuits of the art world. We both hold a desire to remain mostly esoteric in our positions, on the peripheries of the art and social discourses which afford respite from such performances. Yet there is
Ahmed maps emotion as culturally significant, moving between different bodies and frames of language rather than merely sitting within an individual. She informs us that the word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin, emovere, referring to ‘to move, to move out’. To me, this is precisely what Nour’s work is enmeshed in; moving out of abstract and (at times) desperately possessive feelings, and into productive states of understanding something larger than her starting point.
an awareness that such clandestine behaviour might also be a disservice to the many hierarchies of privilege we both yearn to change.Nour’s practice gives me confidence and hope in the possibility of reaching beyond the limitations of identity politics. This is a label trap Nour could easily fall into, given that she is Syrian by way of Dubai and has been living in London since 2013. Whilst her emotionallyinvestigative work might occasionally stem from a plateau in romantic encounters, it by no means has any ending point there. What makes Nours work compelling is the microcosm of love and emotionality in the messiness of existence. The micro acts as a departure into the macro existence of our contemporary social conditions, both locally and globally. The question of fear is the perfect gateway into this inextricable realm of the personal as it mirrors the societal. Failed dynamism is reified in the state of global relations. It’s why identification and belonging continue to dominate cultural theory. From approaching fear as it is manufactured under the War on Terror, Nour and I have also discussed fear as a patriarchal tool of oppression -- something we landed on through a confrontation of our own fears within love entanglements. My own fear at the time stemmed from a feeling of uncertainty within a situationship, which I felt was oppressing my feminine power from its truest form of expression. Nour’s has been fear of missed opportunity, through the failures of what promised to be a romantic relationship that (if given the opportunity) could fulfill all the criteria we yearn for in romantic partnership. Yet these had both been prevented, due to what we read as fear of intimacy. It’s a state of sabotage that we recognised as operating in so many aspects of the social and the personal. It’s something that’s omnipresent in Nour’s work, manifesting in decisions of form and symbolism that might best be described through the term ‘uncertainty’. Ahmed notes that the word passive and passion share the same latin root. Nour is so prone to inhabiting passionate obsessive states that she could be read as submissive. This might make some uncomfortable, too acquiescent a position for a woman riding on the wave of 2020. Linking passivity to the societal fear of being emotional, Ahmed notes that vulnerability towards others is viewed as soft, a sign of weakness with proneness to injury. But it is within this openness to being shaped by another that Nour has tapped into an endless resource for investigating the relational, one which exposes itself in the antagonisms between her materials and the spaces they become tenants of. A preference for responding site specifically means Nour is always making sense of herself as ‘other’ or a ‘guest’, where failure to conform to the non verballed ‘rules of the house’ is a high stake, and vulnerability a necessary requisite. It’s a position that heightens the reality of co-existence as interruptive. Nour’s work is not seeking harmony, it is not searching for utopic relations; instead it seeks to occupy the difficulty of things. Because where collapse and failure occur there has to be continuation.
NM: I must say when we started these conversations, I never thought it would end finishing with a pandemic LE: Throughout our dialogue we’ve been addressing, dynamism, particularly in relation to intimacy. Your pull to this theory (which I’d love you to elucidate a little more) was an ability to assess why the rigour of push and pull in love/lust gives you a driving energy to place into your practice. NM: The topic of dynamism has been persistent throughout my practice especially as a lens to understand how people and society interact with each other. Although right now our relationship to physical contact has almost disappeared, I think the intimacy we find in conversations has heightened; talking has become more important than touching. To address what you mentioned about the ‘rigour of push and pull in love and lust’ and the role it plays in my life and in my practice, I want to reference Alain Badiou, who believes that love is something which is fundamentally against modern individualism. I often spot the contradictions in my actions and thoughts when thinking about individuality. I’m very attached to the collective culture that we embody in the Middle East, so there is also a push and pull with these two polar ways of living. Do I want to be an individualist, or a collectivist? Or do I have to make
a choice? I am curious about how you may answer these questions. LE: Connecting collectivity to a geographical space such as the Middle East and North Africa is so crucial to my response. When my feet are on Moroccan soil, I shed the individualist skin with ease. Community is not performed there, it is the way of life. London is for me what produces the polarity and it’s an impossible conflict to escape, it’s not a hospitable city. London actively produces structures that prevent community. Our homes and sustenance are the first resort of this. Hosting and nourishing one another in such restricted spaces, where we are forced to house share for economic reasons, along with the fact that good produce is hard to find affordably. It’s produced a culture that looks down on domesticity and instead prioritises the frivolity of paying to socialise. That’s why I particularly cherish the community of Mena artists that I have worked with and am surrounded by. There is no escaping the community in our culture, and as soon as we collaborate that feeling of home becomes pervasive. The collective also makes what we do less alienating. Having your voice present in this piece prevents my own from lording over practice. I also hope it helps make clear how the curatorial benefits from such a collaborative and connected process. Speaking of the domestic, I was scrolling back through our whatsapp chats and I landed on some of the sculptures you were working with in your studio last May - the plastic stools with balls of uneven plaster balls pressed into their centres, and then a very traditional mahogany table with one leg removed with some form of 6 plaster casts of fruit? These pieces take me into a
LE: Dearest Nour, how are you keeping being quarantined with family in Dubai? Before this whole madness descended on us we had been planning a studio visit. In the end we both felt uncertain about two bodies being in such proximity, this was about 10 days before lockdown. You seemed really anxious.
state of psychoanalysis; they speak to psychic states too difficult to describe with language. I think that also stems from your continued motif and interest in the organic and inorganic. The pieces are unsettling and uncanny, they disrupt the quietude of the domestic and make it perverted. It’s interesting to reconsider these provocations now that we’ve all been home rekindling with the comforts of the domestic? 1.
NM: That archive of work explored removing the function out of the functional, in particular, defunctioning everyday domestic objects. I was questioning my position and role in the society that I am a part of - a young international artist living in London. These works are also deeply intertwined with the need to identify where I fit in, culturally, creatively, socially, and romantically. I assume they were made right after reading Amin Maalouf’s book On Identity, as notions of place and positioning were constantly discussed. Although I would not regard these sculptures as complete, I find their awkwardness and unconventional positioning (definitely) relatable to the world we’re currently inhabiting during these Covid days. We are now all stripped of our comforts, our function, and the positions we play in society. It is when we accept solitude and suffering
that we are able to understand, learn and live with them. This is something that Rainer Maria Rilke writes about in the text Letters to a Young Poet. As an artist, I am choice-fully, constantly faced with the experience of solitude, and working in isolation for long hours. Being in our solitude, something that is undoubtedly difficult, is when we are really able to communicate with ourselves. It is removing the function of an object that creates the need for creativity, to find an alternative way to make use of the object. With regards to the organic and inorganic, I think I am interested in working with objects that surround me day to day because they work with and against each other, just as we do. LE: Has quarantine and the act of social distancing shifted or amplified that strain of thinking? I know bodily / romantic desire is at an all time high at this moment. NM: My work has predominantly focused on the physical, my paintings in particular are reminiscent of past intimate interactions, reinterpreting bodies and their proximity to each other. Now that physical contact is put to a pause, my memory bank is reaching a low and I am struggling to imagine the next painting. This is a very important turning point in my work. I stand by the belief that when you get too comfortable with something, try living without it and see what happens. In our exchanges just before I travelled home to Dubai,You were sounding doubtful about the significance of art in a post pandemic world.I wanted to share with you something my mom said to me just a week ago, when my feelings might have been similar to yours. She said ‘Nour, during WW1,
in himself for another’s sake’. This very much resonated with me, because I put utmost priority to my inner self and find it crucial to feel sufficient enough in solitude. I don’t think that at this point in my life, I’m prepared to invest in love and carry out a long relationship. Love is hard work, and it deserves that work to be put into it. ‘Love between one person and another: that is perhaps the hardest thing it is laid on us to do, the ultimate trial and test, the work for which all other work is just preparation.’This quote makes me feel like a part of me is still working on my own grounding and stability in order to accept such great love into my life.
LE: Remembering our catch up in October 2019 engenders feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality for real life connection (n.b I’m someone who is finding comfort in this solitary confinement) because you are one of the rare people I do deeply connect to. I recognise that moment as one in which something clicked for both of us, with regard to how we connect to each other in this collaboration. It was a moment where the theoretical lens we had predominantly been turning to, to frame your work, became quite simply LE: I had been learning about an annex to the personal. the devaluing of narcissism in romantic partners through a neurological lens, NM: When it comes to our the logic of hormones being activated conversations about love (which we to and responding to emotionally tackle with most curiosity, empathy and unavailable people. Over the last desperation for relief!) I think the most year, and also much thwarted by our interesting part is that we have had such conversations, I’ve taken on the task of different experiences. Yet somehow, educating myself in these languages, we hardly end up disagreeing with any but there is still this somewhat exciting of each other’s thinking. We seem to yet toxic draw to the unhealthy. One struggle with similar emotions when of my quarantine reads has been Bell it comes to love. Just like yourself, as Hooks All About Love, which looks at a person who has been adamant to societies issues with love as a healthy better understand my relationship to thing, one which is less of an abstracted my romantic connections these past noun and instead understood through few years, I can give you a long list will to do. 2. of possibilities that could explain my pattern of the type of partners I choose and why. The list encompasses all kinds of theories. However I think as much as I dig I really believe that the true answer lies within oneself, not without. In Rilke’s text, he writes about the relationship between solitude and love. He explains the importance of learning how to be in solitude during your youth, in order to fully love, ‘to become a world
Piet Mondrian was painting squares... art will always be crucial, maybe now more than ever’. I hope to God she’s right!
I very much appreciate these mobilisations and not only empathise with the anecdotes brought into illustrate how we are often consciously or unconsciously psychologically manipulated. It’s certainly good armour but I think I can struggle with the idea of love being so simple, so healthy? Do you feel similar, or can you rationalise your attraction to less healthy forms of love (human and non human) as a motivation in your practice? NM: Thank you for recommending All About Love. There is a section in the book where she explains our attachment to the ‘click’ moment that happens with someone new, and how we sometimes tend to believe that we’re in love. Here, she addresses the importance of language when speaking of love, saying ‘I am closer to knowing love’ rather than ‘I think I’m in love’ can alter your whole experience of that person. It pushes you forward rather than pulling you back. This helped me to understand the purpose of some previous ‘failed’ relationships, they became relevant. LE: I read a New Yorker interview with Fiona Apple recently and pulled the quote below. She is talking about being happy and secure, particularly in relation to love. I find it equal parts relatable and equal parts problematic, “That’s a great way to be in regular life. But if you’re making music and there is going to be passion in it and there is going to be anger in it? She went on, “You have to go to the myelin sheath you know, to the central nervous system - for it to be good, I feel like. And if that’s not true? Then fuck me, I wasted my fucking life and ruined everything.” This friction she addresses is something we’ve discussed, but does that mean that the moment we find stability and
comfort or regularity in our path, that our work becomes more banal? NM: Although I do find it sad that sometimes we crave pain and suffering in order to create work I have also understood that although you can fill your life with much positivity and light, pain and suffering will always exist. Making work from our aches is a tool to activate the dormancy of such feelings allowing them to transfer from our bodies and minds into a vessel. Rilke writes so eloquently: ‘You must not let yourself be diverted out of your solitude by the fact that something in you wants to escape from it. It’s precisely this desire, if you use it calmly and judiciously, as a kind of tool, that will help you to extend your solitude over a greater expanse of ground.’ LE: It’s important to point out that this dialectic of friction is not only reducible to intimate exchanges. As I laid down in the body of writing preceding this conversation, the romantic as a turning point in your emotional networks is the microscopic and also invisible force behind your formal expressions. London is also a key player in this set up, the rejecting, emotionally unavailable and hostile partner. This new body of work, whilst a continuation of the contexts you approached through Desperately, Discontinuous Bodies at Gonzo Unit in Thessaloniki, last September - wants to make sense of your relationship with this city specifically. The work you made in Thessaloniki was also site specific, honing in on this relationship with place also allows us to consider how displacement and dysfunction are productive forces for you. I believe you occupy these states of being, in a way that implodes the possibility of the stasis of sympathy that too often inhabit these narratives - thus undermining and challenging how you and hopefully
isolation, feeling rejected by the place that I once identified as my chosen ‘home’. We can easily relate such emotions to unrequited love. Love became a metaphor for the uncertainty in my ambiguous near future.
What was immediately brought to my attention in Thessaloniki, was the harmonious merge of East and West. Although very much European, the infrastructure, people, and the cuisine are strongly influenced by the Ottomans, similar to my country of origin, Syria. One of the site specific sculptures that I produced was ‘Untitled (Gyros)’, 1. in which the gyro acted as a motif to Twelve Desperate Egg-Plants, 2019 portray the notions of a recurrently, 2. culturally adapted dish, Gyros, known Untitled 2, 2019 as Shawarma and Kebab in the Middle 3. East, and very familiar in East London. Desperately Discontinuous Bodies, Perhaps in the production process of Gonzo Unit, Thessaloniki, 2019 this sculpture, I too was exploring my personal cultural adaptations. Nour Malas is an artist living and working in London. Malas completed Returning to London, I was faced with her BA in Fine Art / Art History at figuring out my next steps regarding my Goldsmiths University, London in immigration status, and was left with 2017. She has recently been offered uncertain solutions. This immediately a place on the Sculpture MFA brought up feelings of alienation and programme at the School of the Art
others see your own history. NM: My sculptures intend to carry a tension between the objects. For example, in ‘12 Desperate Egg-Plants’ although the objects in the piece (i.e. egg and plaster eggplant), are coexisting, they fail in their attempts to merge as one. It is within this failure that the tension lies. To expand on the notion of friction in intimacy, I am also criticising the socio-political constructs that dictate our lives, both in the East and the West, that implement feelings of segregation between people, in order to maintain power. This is what Sarah Ahmed thoroughly discusses in her book. Following my recent solo exhibition in Thessaloniki, Greece, where some of the site specific sculptures were inspired by the city’s cross cultural environment (between East and West), it became clear to me that my work is influenced by the space in which it exists.
Institute of Chicago.
Federation of Film Critics award. Not since Richard Hamilton’s The Citizen, painted between 1981 and 1983 has the world of art (produced by non-Irish practitioners) demonstrated a direct involvement with Northern Irish politics.
Freedom to Starve Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen (2008) I am probably the world’s worst person to write about Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008). Born in Belfast and brought up in a nationalist ghetto in the 1980s, my memories and therefore my expectations of anything concerning Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Brits (as we used to call the British Army) are overwhelming, and highly subjective.
Steve McQueen is very well placed to make such a film. The level of critical interrogation he has consistently applied to his practice over the last fifteen years is extraordinarily thorough and impressively effervescent. The detailed deliberation of McQueen’s eye as an artist rather than as a perhaps more conventional filmmaker, contributes to the film’s fetid mise-enscène and emotional intensity.
But there’s one thing missing: Politics, with a capital “P.” For whilst Hunger’s narrative is completely driven by political motivations, it’s hard to read the exterior Political positioning of such action Hunger is undoubtedly from the an important film, pre- film alone. senting as it does yet another shameful episode Bobby Sands was the in recent British history; first of ten hunger strikers its significance has been to die in quick succession vindicated in the form of between May and Ocinternational plaudits, in- tober 1981 in the Maze cluding the Caméra d’Or prison, more popularly at Cannes Film Festi- known as the H-Blocks, a val and an International huge facility specifical-
Hunger is a story in three parts, each successively decelerating the film’s temporal and spatial action to a point of grim (and possibly redemptive) stillness. The first third introduces the audience to the base regime at the Maze, through the eyes of a Davey Gillen, a young
IRA man who refuses to wear standard issue prison uniform. The audience is witness to the violence, the filth, and the ingenuity of daily jail life (including smuggling uncensored communications to and from the outside world, in various bodily orifices), culminating with the introduction of the main character of Bobby Sands. The audience’s first sight of Sands is a brusquely disturbing scene, in which Sands is forcibly shorn and scrubbed clean with a yard brush, an attempt by the authorities to erase prisoners’ outward signifiers of protest.
egy, the figure in bla is trying to argu e for lif Both fail.
The final third o ger concentrate f Hun s on th physical deterio ra Sand’s body an tion o d thorities’ pallia the au tiv for it. This refo e care cu the film’s narrati sing o ve into the person energy a tion”’ of the po l “‘localitic a metaphysica al has l that operates in quality c with the rest of ontrast th dramatic delive e film’s ry ing the audienc , offere wider, more a a much m plane for interpre biguous tation. McQueen has Hunger, “I wan said of t to show what it was lik e hear, smell a to see, nd touch in the H-Block in What I want to 1981. is something yo convey u find in books or cannot a the ordinary an rchives: d dinary, of life in extraorth on. Yet the film is prisis also an abstraction of is to die for a c what it au largely achieve se.” He s these goals by creatin g ic assault that is a filmhorrific and mes at once m His hypodermic erising. h of sound and its andling re ship to violence lation, order so deman is of an d yet so unusual, ing and delivery makes its very th er at once com e viewplicit and disturbed.
The second third is a twenty-minute centrepiece, shot almost entirely in one long take, in which Sands and Father Dominic Moran— remarkably subtle performances by Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham, respectively— explicate the larger “‘plot”’ of the film. Their taut banter is pitched at a mortal level of recall, as they challenge each other (puzzlingly alone, where are the guards?) across the table in an empty visiting room. This scene is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s famous chess game The Seventh Seal (1957) in reverse: instead of Death trying to win the Knight’s life through strat- When the prisoners are
ly built to intern and segregate the increasingly overwhelming number of political prisoners in Northern Ireland. The hunger strikers, all Republican, acted out their demands through their bodies, their aim to regain Special Category status as political prisoners, which had been revoked in 1976. The 1981 hunger strike was the endgame of a sequence of increasingly visceral and disturbing actions by IRA prisoners, such as the “blanket protest,” where prisoners rejected prison issue uniforms, and the “dirty protest,” where they refused to slop out their cells and smeared their walls with shit. The month before his death, Sands was elected as a member of Parliament at Westminster, and as a result, the law was swiftly changed to prevent convicted prisoners from being nominated as candidates in UK elections.
nhe of ue of y s y t
offered civilian clothes as partial accession to their demands, the “clown clothes” they are given immediately motivate them into a riot; they destroy their newly disinfected cells, but their protest is quickly quashed. The ensuing scenes of soldiers in riot gear beating and bodily searching the prisoners is harrowing. The rhythm of riot batons whacking plastic shields was a familiar army tactic in Northern Ireland (doubtless still is, elsewhere in the world) to notify and terrify those who are about to be “controlled.” McQueen’s use of this sound is startling, reverberating within the space of the prison, to create a solid sonic environment from which there is no escape. This scene is also a good example of McQueen’s well-balanced presentation of the law-enforcement agencies at work in the film. One of the soldiers is a new recruit; he is clearly also terrified, and is represented as both victim and aggressor. Similarly, the more well-developed character of prison guard Raymond Lohan—who is himself brutalised by the Maze’s regime of punishment, even though he is the one who carries it out—is sympathetically portrayed, and is finally “executed”, by an IRA
man. These two scenes of violence are balanced against each other in close succession. Interestingly, at the screening I was at, the audience made audible gasps of horror when the guard was shot, but not when the prisoners were beaten: an indication perhaps of a little brutalisation of our own… The weakness of Hunger, in my view, is that within the temporal space of the film, we are introduced to Bobby Sand’s (and by implication the other hunger strikers’) political motivation as somewhat personal, rather than Political. This is evidenced through Sand’s relation of a childhood memory to Father Moran of killing a badly wounded animal to save it more suffering, even though he knew he would be punished, because he believed it was the right thing to do: an obvious parallel to his own starvation and leadership of others into the same death. As is described briefly in the film, this was the second hunger strike in the H-Blocks, (the first was just a year before in 1980, and had been called off when the British government appeared to con-
cede), so Sands knew external Political support was extremely strong and that their actions would almost certainly yield a positive result. This is key to understanding the process of suffering and suppuration that the hunger strikers voluntarily undertook: they knew they would make a difference, and saw themselves as soldiers and their bodies as weapons. Whilst it is understandable that Hunger can’t hope, or perhaps should even attempt, to represent the complexity of this period in Northern Ireland’s history, this lack of the Political is a basic problem because it inadvertently plays down the national and international significance of the hunger strikers’ actions, in the same way as the British-coined term “The Troubles” does, when in other times and countries what happened in Belfast, Derry, and surrounding areas would have been called “a war.”
*This text is re-produced with Maria Fusco’s full permission from her collection of essays ‘Give Up Art’ (2017).
And the Art of Football
At the acclaimed Rhode Island School of Design, she had the chance to nurture her passion while being surrounded by outstanding peers, who she attributes to her artistic becoming. The constant pressure and challenge
Japanese-French artist Zoe Blue M. was born in Toulon, but the sundrenched streets of midcity Los Angeles are what she has been calling “home” since the age of three. The daughter of a French- of academia taught her man with a passion for critical thinking, pushing her to become a self-proclaimed artist.
Thematically, her kaleidoscopic paintings are football-inspired. Her frames are crowded by grotesque characters holding balls and wearing colorful jerseys, enigmatic against vibrant backgrounds detailed with meticulous patterns. Zoe’s paintings are inspired by her multifaceted identity, and thus the football hooligans in her paintings could be interpreted as self-portraiture. Her paintings have close visual resemblance to
On her personal journey towards becoming an artist Zoe says, “My paintings are a sort of exploration into multicultural psychology. The complexities of femininity, displaced histoOlympique de Marseille and a talented Japanese-American artist mother, Zoe grew up in a creative household. Free to explore and experiment with any available tool, she was allowed the privilege to pick up any hobby, and quit at any time.
Japanese Ukiyo-E prints, however her cartoonish characters are born out of time spent reading manga and comics as a child. “Everything piles up and gets reshuffled as I try to paint my experiences,” she says, “I am simply inries, mental health and my spired by the things that family. My study of these have been around me my things manifest visually whole life”. through anime, art history, pop culture, sports, theat- I was first introduced to er, textiles”. her work by my friend Yousef Hilmy, who took the photographs for this
Football appears in Zoe’s works as an introspective journey, intended to externalise the bond with her estranged father and the emotional disparity of her parents divorce. “I receive Olympique de Marseille merchandise for every birthday and Christmas. And, when I haven’t heard from my father in a while, I get a message about an important match or a photo of him in a stadium,” she says. “As a kid, I played soccer for many years,” Zoe explains “but my brother was the one that played very seriously. It was a huge part of my visual landscape growing up, living the terrace culture at games and tournaments. My father coached me when I was in the American Youth Soccer Organization, and shepherded my brother throughout his career until he went semi-pro in the south of France.” Over the years, Zoe’s connection with football has shifted from practical to conceptual. “As my practice developed,” she says, “I began to look at soccer as a cultural study. The theatrical nature of it all, the fashion, flopping, crying. The field is a stage, much in the same way as theatre, or specifically for me, Japanese Noh theatre. The audience doesn’t benefit from the actor’s dialogue, but reads everything through the body.” A match can spark the same affective response as a Picasso or Rothko painting, and, actually, their economic worth is probably equal. We gather around the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in
Paris the same way we stand in front of a penalty, quivering, during a Champion’s League final at Le Parc des Princes. We put the same amount of energy into unraveling the gliding, poetic dribbles of a top-scorer on game day, as we do when turning a Romantic poem into prose. We wait to see the results of our analyses published in the paper the following day, as the results of a paper after handing it to our professor. Footballers are artists themselves. Their medium being their limbs, and the pitch serving as their canvas. The boundaries between football and creativity have been broken, and sport has shattered the glass ceiling of intellectualism. Football’s cultural movement has recently started to be documented, primarily by emerging independent editorial projects that blur the lines between art, design, fashion and football. This is seen especially in publications like art-football hybrid OOF, ironic football-as-culture magazine Mundial, and my own fashion-focused women’s football Season Zine. But this cultural obsession with athleticism goes back to Magna Grecia, where the most prominent sculptures pictured the firm physiques of young Greek sportsmen. Compare this to a shot from the sidelines during a vigorous face-to-face battle between two statuesque players eager to score a goal. Same concept, different media. Perhaps that is the reason why football is popularly referred to as The Beautiful Game. No matter belief, class, language, race or sex - we tune in to football. Slaying social barriers, football is, more than anything, a cultural catalyst for passion and emotion.
text. It was last year - I was conducting research on the “art of football”. I was seeking to gain as much information as possible on the emerging wave of talented painters and illustrators who picked the beautiful game as their muse.
Proposition for a film i. It was around the time of a conversation with friend and mentor Gail Lewis in Summer 2018. We sat in a pub in central London and the talk shifted to our work, our rage, our exhaustion, how we moved from an oppositional activist stance to the ancestral. And in that moment I asked: What do you think the ancestral is? I wonder now if that question was born out of a feeling of dissonance, symptomatic of being of the diaspora, filtering 2nd, 3rd, 4th generational communities. Where do you begin tracing genealogy when access to direct ancestry is barely remembered, lineages mapped by cousins no longer on speaking terms, continents apart, language’s lost? Oral histories that stammer and yield to fantasies of uniqueness, marked by royal blood or foreigner fetish. The patrilineal take is that we are descended from the last Moghul dynasty (but of course), whilst warrior Pathan from Afghanistan is the matrilineal narrative of choice. We meet somewhere in Mehra, in Rawalpindi, in Lahore, in Islamabad or is it Karachi? (Another unreliable narrator, another estranged cousin). Is there a word for an aspirational past? Willing grandeur into past lives, origin as a point of projection. Our proximity to the northern border regions – Punjab but close to the borders of Jammu – gives each narrative credibility and uncertainty. My knowledge is scant, a patchwork agricultural, poor, tribal communities, waves of immigration that bestowed (limited) wealth on the entrepreneurial migrant spirit, warped bureaucracies, corruption and tightly woven familial ties – untranslatable to google searches and redacted documents in UK archives. I weave my own flights of fantasy drifting with the pre-islamic communities of Hunza, the spectacular mountainous region furthermost north of Pakistan, popular with European holiday hikers where the boundaries between the spiritual plane and material world are porous and spirits and ghosts move freely amongst earthly beings. I hover on the figure of the Bitan – the shaman who inhales juniper, drinks the blood of a goat and dances ecstatically to commune with the Parihan resolving communal tensions and channelling agricultural forecasts.
The work, the work is that which ties the ancestral, the ritualistic the anti-racist anti colonial, and sexual and how the sexual functions as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;an organising principle of the socialâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; inflected by the peculiar dynamics of crudely race, class, gender, sexuality, disability...
ii. I sink my fingers into the earth, pull at weeds, tend to shoots, unsucker slugs, pluck fruits and harvest ripened vegetables. It could be a metaphor for art. We are grateful it isn’t. My fingernails are black The dirt refuses to come unstuck Watching and understanding the behaviour of soil, the movement of the sun across a patch of land, working to seasonal time as February gives way to March what can be nurtured and set in motion, and as the days become darker plant carcasses slowly lay down in their beds. I learn about the medicinal properties of valerian, camomile, lemon balm, amaranth and see plants flourish in the temperate climes of Leyton. I yearn for a greenhouse to grow Tulsi, not yet ready to extend the growing process into one of extraction and application. My horticulturalism is strictly amateur. My ayurvedic aspirations are minor. I’m working with slow time, cyclical time, nuclear time. I’m working in spirals. My brother asks me to make a film about his life. Something I unthinkingly swerve for a year not sure I can endorse such degrees of narcissism. He visits and stays with me after travelling to tantric workshops in Corfu, Ioasca ceremonies in Hertfordshire. We’ve barely spoken for years and now he’s back in my life. I organise a dinner for South Asian womxn (trans, intersex and cis) and nonbinary people beginning with a close group from my own immediate circle. We are Indian, Kenyan, Pakistani, South African, Dutch, English, Scottish, Bengali, Mixed, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, of mixed class and caste, comp and private school educated, home owners and renters, creatives and educators. We eat Biryani, pakore and mango salad crafted lovingly by artist and chef extraordinaire Raju Rage and I pose three questions to the table: - What is our shared ancestral knowledge? - Is it possible to locate South Asian critical thought that accounts for differences across class, caste, religion and paths of migration that move across differing continents? How do we begin to account for this within this room and is it embodied in our working relationships and friendships. The contemporary fractures and trans generational fissures run painfully deep. - After the gifts of Black Feminism how might we articulate erotics in relation to ‘South Asian-ness’ – where and how do we begin? How do ‘we’ makes sense of our experience, as racialized subjects, fetishised and constituted through racist structures that are distinctly sexual in nature – the passivity and demureness of an Asian woman, the hijab as a source of desire and terror, the Asian male’s ren-
dering as either absent of any sexuality or as exercising a depraved predatory sexuality, grooming gangs, Isis brides and radicalised freedom fighters posing as bedroom pinups on Instagram. With these thoughts I return to my brother and his invitation to film, a testimony, a flight of fancy a film synopsis; Young man schooled in Pakistan at an ex-British military boarding school with a distinctly Pakistani flavour returns to the UK after the untimely death of dad, descends the social ladder, raised in a struggling single parent
family in a white working class neighbourhood of West Yorkshire, orthodoxies give way to hedonism, clubbing, weed against a backdrop of middle eastern politics, finds Islam in Egypt and Sufism in Pakistan before shedding once again via the ashrams of Osho â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to become a tantric master. If I was to understand better where the ancestral and the erotic lie within a context of whiteness and how sexual agency might be put to work as political activism, where better to start then at home. Uncertain territory cracked open as a proposition, as a film, as a three way conversation, as a workshop, as a text.
Five or So Things You Should Want to Know About the Conflict Between Reality and Realness [a written performance essay] 1. I got asked questions in bed, a rookie mistake I attempted to yawn over. With legs akimbo: ‘what was your first experience of queer loving?’ I made up some bullshit about the flutter of a tutu-attired comrade, in what would have been my aged 4-7 ballet class at the local church next to Tescos. The dodgy Tescos that mum wished would be operated by social distancing rules 24/7. Be careful what you wish for, 2020 calls out. Its low plastic ceilings and fluorescent strip lighting seems to possess the ability to awaken from graved memories of everyone I knew before 2007. Whatsiznames and thingy from down the way. Yet more questions about your future perfect. This time: veteran behaviour. 2. The secret of life is to have no fear. When I fear (without living), life doesn’t wait for me. I step head fast into my future perfect realities as a means of listening to the energies of the inner child. She stops to look around. I see it in her eyes, but I kill her off because you need something dead. Those of us who are born into a legacy of people who live in close proximity to mortality, we step to the left and step to the right in the name of newborn histories. Isn’t she lovely. Isn’t she wonderful. Stevland Hardaway Morris wrote one of my mother’s favourite songs and one of mine, but not for himself. Clearly a giving man. Tell me something good until you come back to me. They explore both sides of heartbreak’s coin. One a demand for limerence, the other a pining lament. Both arrive on their own accord at the doorstop of a separated fool. But both shall set the caged bird free in the name of rhythm with a heavy helping of blues.
3. People scroll Instagram like there’s a prize at the end of the feedbow. Rainbow for those of us who feel slower today. It ain’t over till the black lady shouts “LEROY!” It is important for me to be nothing that is part of something. My feelings for J have shy-off dissipated, I’m happily layering plenty a queer mystery on top of them, yet when I’m in London the poles could switch (again). I shake off my guilt of knowing I don’t like the way J loves me. ‘Loving me is like being in a hole’. It better be the right one, I posthumously dryly cackle. I got my ears pierced today. And then no one noticed. I told the boys in the store and they still couldn’t see them. But beauty lies in the eyes of those who’ve seen it before. My waist is perfect. His hand fits perfectly into it he announces. He likes my hair. I didn’t tell J. Either to keep the reaction in, or it was the fact my lips started to swell elastic, unable to control the making of hot dog lips and my putting my finger in the middle. I ran to hide in the toilets: a large potentially disabled one with walls exposed halfway from the floor. Everything is XXXL across the atlantic.
4. In Ed Thomas’ On Bear Ridge the character Captain says “In the centre of my world. And the world would be in the centre of itself.” A tongue-twister at steady speed. Captain situates his fear of losing control of his presence from within it. Bear Ridge sets its scene resembling the edge of the world as if it were Terry Pratchett; flat and barely audible. Noni and John Daniel live in solace with the aid of their dead son’s best friend. They get intruded upon by a visitor in distress: Captain. Why supposedly being the last ones left they continue living, when the world of one’s mind is clearly slipping, I don’t know. Perhaps it is because as much as the world needs you, you, once birthed, don’t desire the world; merely what lies within it. They continue in a quantum entanglement in proxy to their dear son. The self is a world. Thomas unfolds how to struggle with actuality and anecdotal reliance for articulation of the query, ‘Has the future already happened and we’re somewhere else?’
5. What exactly should I feel toward people who robbed me of the right to reply to this woman? It’s a simple enough reflection of a state we find ourselves in on a number of occasions. When do we have the right rights to enact retribution? The first question is put forward in Jamaica Kincaid’s open letter//complaint novella on the state of tourism in the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the (British) West Indies where she grew up. The second question is my response to her rhetorical. It goes both ways, every day. Whoever holds the room of justice unserved leaves a multitude of questions not originally intended to be rhetorical eventually administered as such (in a cause and effect manner). Much like the tale of Medusa. What if Black people could choose a secret power for all the power they’ve been robbed of? Medusa, the most iconic in reclamation of the ‘female gaze’, I once read was a black woman whose hair in either dreadlocks or long braids that were ‘mistaken’ for the snakes she carried in her purse. She was a snake goddess which is how Europeans formed their version of a monster with hair of snakes with a face Black - of fear. From this one would feel a sure desire for a stoned nation.
5.5 The performing male neoliberal body has another kind of “phantom” body that enables his limitless performance. A punch found in Françoise Vergès’ 2019 essay ‘Capitalocene, Waste, Race and Gender’ where she acutely unearthed the explicit connections between the ‘white [male] performing body and the racialized female exhausted body’. The western’s phantom is the Caribbean’s duppy. Duppy led me two nights ago. I always think of Alssemina’s prescence in the guidance of the wind spirit. Even though we didn’t know each other, she knows me from watching way up yonder. For water and air do not know borders, or past, or future - only life. However, in accordance with Vergès, the neoliberal duppy know who fi frighten. “The bodies of black women have long been commodified, made into capital; their exploitation is inseparable from primitive accumulation, from social reproduction..., and from the new need for a clean world in which neoliberal economy can function.” Until we start wiping our own asses, in the very least that they are never a pretty sight, and recognise that articulation with capitalist strategies
Socio-Parasitology IN TRANSIT, TURBULENCE, AS AN OUT BREAK AND BROADCASTED
At the stroke of eleven, politicians convinced thousands that there would not be a definite shift in the ethnological landscaping of Britons until the end of 2020. But the celebratory exposure of unbolted racism has now been initiated: migrants are being treated as if they are an outbreak. There are enforced immigration restrictions underway with the hosting environment (Britain) closing the threshold for migrants who would like to settle here and migrants who make Britain diverse; by continuing to benefit the local environments we live in. The clear association between migrant erasure (exile) and Imperial ism affects my position. The British Raj ideology has never seemed to have left Brexiters and Nationalists. It is based on the reoccurring, policy-driven and destructive exclusion of ‘non-citizens’, constantly un der surveillance. An example is how the upcoming immigration policy replaces freedom of movement with a point-based immigration sys tem. To base this on a direct correlation of being skilled, with useful labour commitments and in prioritising skilled migrants to earn above a certain amount per annum. This eradicates labour such as migrant nurses, and this is a sector which is understaffed already. The aim for the proposed new law to come into play from January 2021, is one which has taken another leap towards colonial control - to de crease new migrant labour abruptly, by equating such labour to unskilled. To put this into perspective, the migrant labour which had been continually encouraged once before and has shaped a diverse society; is now shifting towards promoting a society which discourag es migrants. Migrants are being stripped of their poten tial new hosting environments, even though for many years, they have done the labour to support the British economy. How detrimental is this for deemed unskilled labour, when nurses are now as the front line of the outbreak? How are migrants in transit being deemed parasitic? The pejorative use of metaphor for migrants is a parasite, and the current indoctrination of the media phrase MIGRANTS ARE PARA SITES gives weight to what I am discussing. Media is the main form of mass communication for a collective audience; for example, broadcasting news on television, online publishing or internet searches are all types of media which carry indoctrinating language. That said, there is a much-needed critique on the politicisation of the term parasite, having been stripped of its identification as a form of species interactions and assigned as an appropriate term to describe migrants in a negative and violent manner. The media framing ‘immigrants are parasites’ was broadcasted by the extreme nationalist leader of the True Finns Party Timo Soini in 2011, one of many politicians in current media to relay such derogative met aphor (Morden, 2016). Moreover, Viktor Orban asserted in 2015 that ‘all the terrorists are basically migrants’. This is a strong claim to make against the migrant, even when there are no factual statistics to sup port such a negative framing. Media framing of migrants navigated through politicians has in recent years and throughout history, pushed terrorism,
overbearing host consumption, parasitology, cancer and bacillus metaphors onto the migrant in transit. There are a series of metaphors constantly used which invoke a sense of urgency for maintaining national pride against the media imposed ‘enemy’ migrant. Such instances include political persons having used pejorative metaphor to describe migrants as: parasites, swarming, illegal aliens, not welcome, migrants being cancer, migrants carrying possible epidemics, mi grant children riddled with parasites, legal migrants not wel come, not human, pests, cockroaches and moochers. Politicised language, slogans and hate speech said by politicians and the governing body are facilitated by the media and supported by the public, who refuse to live in harmony with migrants and continue to shame them as parasites. So then to question, how are metaphors made? The metaphor must have a direct sense of interaction between two or more parts in order to be a metaphor and to stay. For a political metaphor to stay, the interaction of the words used must produce a change in direction from the first part of the metaphor phrase to the second. Not only do metaphors need to create a sense of interaction between oppositional words and phrases, but the components of a metaphor can also be dismantled into a number of pieces. A metaphorical expression can be separated into a ‘focus’ and a ‘frame’ whereby the social setting (here, the social setting can be broadcast, an interview, a speech) determines the meaning of the metaphor (Black, 1942). This context in which the focus is separated from the frame can be understood deeper, for example, if the metaphor is migrants are parasites then the focus here is the migrant, and the frame is the parasite. Black’s development of the interaction view of a metaphor, proposes the focus must be different to the frame because metaphor involves the use of a word (focus) in a ‘context different from those within which it usually appears’ (a suggested new frame) (Gill, 1981). The politicisation of the metaphor migrants are parasites pre sents this distinction between a focus and a frame taken from a different context. The social setting in which this metaphor ex ists in the media is one with an agenda to demoralise the mi grant (I will continue with this hereafter in the text). Metaphors are important tools to use for policy development as by creating a relation and new context, this form of interaction changes the frame direction; so, to benefit the metaphor producer for personal gain. The social setting which determines how the metaphor is understood is relative to who speaks it. The politicisation of the negative use of the metaphor migrants are parasites, is rooted in the social setting in which it was produced. This metaphor entered the contemporary political arena, in the social setting where migrants were framed in derogative negative speech. In the political setting, migration is socially set into a historical sadness, where they have been framed as living at another’s expense (relation back to parasites being an organism which eats at the expense of). A historical example of this is calling migrants illegal aliens for having children (in
the social setting of the specific country) and educating and feeding them within the new hosting environment, and ‘who prey on law-abiding citizens’ (Walker, 2000). Here, the assumption about the migrant is socially set in an environment, where they are perceived to do only harm to the host. By narrowing the social hosting environment for the migrant into the essentials of living: education, food and reproducing - the migrant has been framed as an illegal parasite on the country’s resources and impairs their essentials for living. Migrants come from all over the world, including Europe into Britain and the demographic who are most stigmatised as a parasite (pathological) are those who are physically different and come from a different social setting (Inda, 2000). This met aphor for migrants entered the political arena through these modes of representation, to elongate a difference between the social settings of the migrants away from the social settings of the new hosting environment by the politicians creating this met aphor and continuing to find faults and examples for the pub- lic to be brain washed to believe. The media digesting public have been under this indoctrination as I have mentioned earlier, under imperialist ideology. This form of metaphor production, which is broadcasted in the media, is an organism metaphor. An organism metaphor is defined as comparing a human being to microbiota and involves ideas around national health and well-being of the community in a direct relation between a human and an organism (O’ Brien, 2013). The oppositional view on immigrants implicitly figures the migrant as a ‘parasite intruding on the body of the host nation, drawing nutrients from it, while providing nothing to its survival and even threatening its well-being’ (Inda, 2000). When a controversial and proposed policy is at the forefront of news headlines and media, policymakers have a certain amount of social control over the marginalised groups. The effects of stigmatising the migrant through the association to organism support political violence against the migrant to be rooted in ‘quasi-biological distinctions between different human groupings’’ and this acts as a form of dehumanising, treating them as almost biologically separated from humans and are therefore non-humans (Weheliye, 40). The problem with integration of migrants (now there has been a rise in anti-immigration), is that migrants have to adapt differently now to the new host country they are entering and are responsible for doing so. The mobility of the migrant has been negatively portrayed, like mobility, if asserted, is a sense of movement where the host environment accepting them will not have the responsibility to adapt to how they are. This is a demand on migrants to abandon their previous lives and assimilate - assimilation is a form of one-way irreversible process for the migrant. For the migrant to be called a parasite as a metaphor used in the negative sense, is to produce a social setting of ‘other- ness’. Current EU nationals are fearful of this proposed other because it has the potential to disrupt the current perfected realities in which they have convinced themselves to live in (Bauman, 1989). The realities of such, produce ‘othering’ of im
migrants because there are physical, cultural and social differ- ences, pointing to say migrants have different ‘but are not limit- ed to religion, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status (class), disability, sexual orientation, and skintone’ (Powell and Menen- dian, 2017). The intersections of migrants are vast, as are the intersections of Britons - why have the intersections of migrants been deemed exhausting for the nation, when Britons them selves have the same variations in their personal characteris tics? Without opening the door to migrants, enforcing a negative idea of them will result in even more dangerous scenarios for them. The othering of the newcomer impacts Europe, Britain and USA negatively because (as reported by Christopher Ca- trambone who is the founder of Migrant Offshore Aid Station 17) in the context of Syrian’s fleeing devastating geographic crisis, ‘The reality is that these people will contribute to and not take away from our economy’. A reading of this phrase: without migrants, our economy will suffer. To stop ‘othering’ of migrants will result in them not having to risk their lives wandering dangerously across seas and channels for entry (Catrambone, 2015). It is clear that there are opposing views to migrants, even entering the border, but there are also benefits of having the newcomer within the parameters of this country. Moving forward, the parasite in connection to migrants can be considered as one which is looking for, in most cases, a specif- ic host. It is pivotal for this section, to keep in mind the meta phor for migrants as parasites need to be reworked, in the sense of producing a different group of social settings in which the metaphor exists. By this, the social setting I am proposing is one which allows the migrant voice and children of immigrants to speak on their own behalf. I am proposing that the frame for a parasite to be reworked, as not all parasites are harmful to the host. In biology, it may seem that the parasite is negative, as it ‘takes’ from its host. However, new research into endoparasites such as Helminth Therapy presents positives of the parasite. Clinical trials are the basis for this study into Helminth Therapy being an example of beneficial parasites for the host. This is primarily to do with the way in which parasites live within all microbiomes, and are also introduced to their host. The aim of this text is to reconsider the parasite as being san guine. The frame being parasite, through the learning of this par ticular clinical trial, should give weight to the focus being migrant a new reworked setting. If the parasite is positive for the body and microbiome, then the migrant must then, through this met aphor be understood as also positive through correlation. To continue here with expanding on, how can Helminth Therapy be a form of positive correlation for the metaphor migrants are para sites? The direction of the metaphor and context of it requires positive associations, such as the endoparasite setting. The endoparasite, is a parasite which lives
inside the body of the host, in the gut of the human, for example, a hookworm or broadly a Helminth, are endoparasites. In recent research endoparasites which live in our bodies, are actually protecting our bodies by decreasing chronic inflammation which can cause cancer. Treating inflammation in the gut using helminths is a form of host protection - ‘all suggested a beneficial effect of helminth infections on inflammatory bowel conditions, MS, asthma and atopy’ (Helmby, 2015). By associating the metaphor with positive aspects of migration and highlighting the beneficial aspects of parasites in our bodies, the metaphor for migrants are parasites has a reworked setting. As I mentioned earlier, in order to propose a new social setting for this metaphor to change, the migrant, or children of immi grants are the ones who will be able to do so effectively if they are through the media, able to speak on their own behalf. For example, the migrant in the new hosting environment is some one who culturally enriches the country by driving the ‘agricul tural output and offers crucial healthcare services across the state’ - as said by Abdul El-Sayed during the 2018 Michigan Guber natorial Elections (2017). The social setting in which this positive promotion of migrants has been said is through broadcasting from the voice of a child of immigrants. What now, will the NHS be without the migrant parasite benefiting the health care sector, and caring for the patients affected by the outbreak who all, in fact, have both weakened immune systems, non-compliant gut microbiome and skin flora and need support from deemed unskilled migrant labour? Multi-host transmission such as the large influx of migrants, is a turbulent threshold of interrupting the barrier of skin flora belonging to Brexitiers and Imperialists, and into the microbiome of the Nation but is one which is inescapable and in perpetuum. To locate the positive interruption here by migrants to penetrate singularly and medically, micro-socially and ecologically and then globally. Perhaps there will be nothing left but parasites in transit.
Fibre-glass mould-making for casting bodies in silicone Warning: I am not a mould-making or life-casting expert! I am a fashion designer and this is the process I use to make my body casts. How you develop a mould depends on what you are moulding and what material you want to cast the mould in. The following is the process for fibre-glass mould making, used to cast bodies in silicone. In order to make a fiberglass mould of a body, you need to make a life-cast sculpture of your subject. The materials used in life-casting depend on the volume of the body you will be moulding, how much time you have, and your budget. You can choose to life-cast in plaster bandage alone, with a combination of alginate and plaster bandage, or with a life-casting silicone and plaster bandage. The plaster bandage will always be needed as a shell, to hold the shape of the alginate or silicone part inside. Let’s say we are using alginate: Start by marking the area you wish to life-cast on the body, using eyeliner. Observe whether or not there will be undercuts in the mould, as that will prohibit the plaster bandage from releasing your model (you don’t want to trap them). If there will be undercuts in the mould, keep that in mind, as when you are building your plaster shell you will need to create seams that can be taken apart to release your model, and then screwed back together to house the flexible alginate. If you intend on making a sleeve mould, these undercuts will be important for the fibreglass process. Thoroughly moisturise the section of the body you will be casting, a few centimetres beyond the border you’ve drawn, and thoroughly coat any hair. Prepare your plaster bandage, the lengths of which will be dependent upon the model’s dimensions. Each length should be a triple layer, in one continuous length. Mix your alginate as per the package instructions (each brand is a bit different). If you are a beginner, choose a slow set, as this allows you more working time. Once your model is coated in alginate, start building the layer of plaster bandage on top (remembering any seams you need to include). When the plaster is dry, remove it carefully. If possible, remove the alginate at the same time. To do this, ask the model to push their belly out, or wiggle the cast area, in order to loosen the material’s grip. When the cast is removed from your model, with both layers still intact, attach any edges that are peeling away from the plaster shell using super glue or even little hair clips. Next, pour hot oil-based clay into your cast. I use Monster clay in medium softness. Swirl it around, coat all the alginate evenly, add more to the edges. Ideally, it will be 1-2 centimetres thick all over - there will be pooling in areas around the breasts, which is fine. Make sure that all thin areas are coated well, undercuts will typically be thin. Then build another supportive layer of plaster bandage on top.
Once dry, remove the plaster and alginate from the original cast. You will be left with a clay sculpture of your subject supported by the plaster (which you leave intact). The next stage is sculpting and refining the piece until you are happy with its form and details. Now, you are ready to make your fibre-glass mould! Make sure that there is no porous material visible on the whole sculpture, as well as its edges. Coat the plaster with miracle gloss, followed by mac wax, which will absorb resin. Only use fiberglass if you have: appropriate masks, protective arm shields, gloves, glasses and extraction. This is because polyester resin is terrible for your lungs, and so are fiberglass particles. Create a seam line, using copper/messing. Make sure that it is wide enough to create your edges, add touch points in clay. Prepare your fiberglass matting in sections, then coat your sculpture in a layer of gel-coat to capture all the details. Once it is tacky (test by poking an edge with a tool), begin creating the layers of fibre-glass. Firstly, wet down the glass on a side-board. Be very careful not to get air bubbles under the matting, and to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;work outâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; any bubbles that appear. When you have completed 2-3 layers of matting, add three layers of strips to the edges. Then add some resin, mixed with talc, to fill in any steep indentations or brittle points. Add a layer of fibre-glass tissue on top, to make it less spikey to the touch. Keep checking on it - then green-cut it. This means tidying up the edges, cutting off any extra parts that are poking out. If you forget to do this, it usually adds some really annoying and dusty work later. Leave it for a day and then: flip it over, take away the copper seam, put several layers of miracle gloss on the edges, spray all over with some layers of mac wax. Start the fibre-glassing process again to create the second part of your mould. Once that is completed, and it is cured, drill through the holes for the bolts, then crack it open and clean it out. Once you have created your pore hole, you can use it for a variety of materials, or core it out and make a sleeve mould.
Now you have your basic mould!