Cher Horowitz: No, she’s a full-on Monet. Tai: What’s a Monet? Cher Horowitz: It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s okay, but up close it’s a big old mess. Clueless (1995) We are Cher’s statement turned on its head. From far way, we’re a big old mess. But up close, we’re pretty okay. This issue has no theme. There are no sections. All our teams bleed into one another. But like Monet, the mess is intentional. The first thing we did as editors was change the structure of the Isis team. We wanted to dissolve, as much as we could, the individual groups within the magazine’s production so everyone had the opportunity to work across sections. Our creative directors came to our non-fiction meetings. Our marketing director designed some of our pages. One of the creative team members edited fiction. We didn’t set a theme because we wanted the content to reflect what people are thinking and talking about in Oxford today. What emerged from this was a happily coincidental feminist attitude. The writing is defiant and breaks conventions of structure and form. The artwork is visceral, and at points confrontational. We refrained from giving our writers and artists any kind of parameters and wanted the issue’s theme to create itself. You will notice there are no sections in this magazine because we don’t want to dictate the way it can be read. We would love you to flip through it, make your own connections between the text and the artwork, and revisit it as much as you like. Rip out the pages and plaster them on your wall. Read the essays on the toilet, sing the poems in the shower and hopefully feel the life, effort and emotion that went into making this magazine. Love, Lael and Flo x
art:art: Lael LaelHines Hines
The water is infested. Medusas driven in by the storms at sea, I almost feel sorry for them As we flail into each other, They waste their potency on us And are left hungry. But then I look at the scar that has stopped fading on my wrist, And the blushing welts on my parentsâ€™ forgiving bodies, And the throbbing of the Medusa Seems like the pulsing of a heart Too close to the surface. Too tender to the touch. Too quick to lash out Last summer, when it licked me, I bit my tongue, and the blood tasted of seawater. In Sweden I was a little girl and the jellyfish didnâ€™t sting. They had stars on their backs and They suckled round our fingers as we trailed them in the water
Here, they reach for you. A purple shriek in the waves. For a while it looked a hickey. I stretched for you in my spasming The lacy tentacles left a mark like my nails left on your back. Blooming into a new pinkness You outlined the swelling with a marker pen so you could check it wasn’t turning septic. I want to draw a line around my feet. Someone asked me once – That treading water chat of morning afters – What it was And I said “a jellyfish sting”
art: Harri Adams
Weâ€™d been arguing for a while already before I became aware of the plant growing over the windowsill, reaching into the room through the open space left by the raised window as the light outside assumed red evening angles and multiplied the dimensions of things, its exploring fronds so distant from its roots so as to forget them.
art: Joe Higton
“It’s not about that”, I said, “and it’s not about the salt on the table either, or the colour of the salt, or the unsatisfying chunkiness of the salt when it comes out of the shaker that was a gift, or how old the shaker must be now, given that it was second hand to begin with, or just how much salt there is in tinned soup, and it’s not about the way that tins can cut you badly if you’re not careful – I’m not talking about that – about the deep, red rifts that usedup and emptied-out tin cans can open in your palms if you’re transferring them from kitchen counter to household waste or if you’re rooting around in bins in the rain or not in the rain for that matter, and it’s not about the bins themselves or the crusted stains down their fronts, not about the reasons that people might root around in bins in the rain, or about the aching, dry-skinned workers who have to empty them either, who breathe fog over our frosted black bags in the pale mornings, not about any constituent part, in fact, of the exhaustive and complex infrastructure of waste disposal that criss-crosses the country, intervening routinely in our neighbourhoods in order to maintain a delicate balance between what is seen or seemly and what is not, drawing everything into its reach and reclassifying space according to its systematic needs as it does so, and it’s not about the landfill islands that drift across the Atlantic as if puppeted by swarms of seagulls, and it’s not about the way that systems including but not limited to waste disposal resist in-di-vid-u-al knowledge, not about the almost mystical inability of in-di-vid-u-al minds and bodies to grasp, to fully encounter, the machinery that we grow inside and through and on and around, and it’s not about actual mystics either, not about those medieval monks your brother is writing his thesis on, the men who would repeat single, arbitrary words over and over again, the same word for days at a time until the word forced the air they were breathing into carving strange new valleys through their brains the monks reached a state of transcendence similar to a drug high, or about the time your brother was in hospital for days after taking a dodgy pill and we all thought he was going to die and how the whole time he was in there had passed by in just a moment, for him – it’s not about your brother, and it’s not about frogs, or leather, or underpasses, or the
number of times you can fold a piece of paper in half, or midwifery – it’s not about the first ever midwives’ strike in 2014, three years ago to the day now, not about the strange concept of an anniversary, not about any of the infinite chafing timescales that live inside a moment or the way they talk with each other or not, not about that time, three years ago, that your father and your sister almost came to blows over the midwives’ strike, not about when he said that these people didn’t give a shit about the public and called her juvenile and she called him a tory which to him is an insult even though he supported the Conservative party last time but only because, in that in-di-vid-u-al case, it was the sensible thing to do, and it’s not about the way that he said in-di-vid-u-al, a skin of sound stretched out over hard consonants, bones jutting out like on a very thin person – I am trying not to talk about these things, I am trying to talk about this room, but not really this room, not literally this room, not anything to do with it, not the size of the room or the material of the floor or walls or the way the window-frames are crumbling slightly or where you’re standing in the room, where you’ve chosen to position yourself, or the percentage of the room’s contents that were bought for it, like the flat-pack bookcase, compared to the percentage that are gifts, like the salt shaker, or the spidery cracks on the ceiling or the actual spiders that skim the walls at night, presumably getting in through the crumbling windows or the cracks themselves, or the way that the people that live on the other side of the ceiling exist to us only as booming vibrations, rows or sex reduced to physical effects on the building, so that they could be said to be made of those vibrations, those people – I’m not talking about them, or anything else outside of the room – not the destruction of public playgrounds to make way for urban development or the ancient diseases frozen into glaciers like caught grit or the distance travelled by the wood for a flat-pack bookcase – it’s not about the way that a flat-pack bookcase experiences distance, or time, not about the anniversaries in the life of a flat-pack bookcase, or about those drinks that your mum drinks that are meant to be one entire meal folded down into viscous liquid, or about that article you showed me telling how those drinks are being given to long-distance drivers for big companies so those companies don’t have to give them time off to eat their lunch, they can just drink their lunch in a few moments instead – it’s not about that, however worrying, because this is not about what worries me or does not worry me, but is about something very specific, something that lives here but is not anything here – I am worried that I am not making myself clear, but this is not about being clear, or about being anything, because being is always being in a place and being in a place is about being in a different place next, or a different place before, and this is not about anywhere else or any other time – we are never born anew into a single place or moment, except, arguably, once – but this is not about being born – I said this is not about midwives…”
I hadnâ€™t been listening to what Iâ€™d been saying; I had been somewhere else, distracted by the eyes opposite me, meeting mine with a fierce incredulity at first but then drifting, bored, to the window and the creeping, insistent plant, and I thought of the way that, by now, vine-tips would be overlapping with the crumbling square that had framed them, growing steadily into the building.
What is it like to go?
art: Suzy Vanezis
today your taxi driver told us you used to argue with him (you always wanted to pay him more than you owed) he said, glassy eyed, wherever he took you you knew everyone & could talk in their language â€“ turkish, french, spanish (though you hated dutch) now those languages are gone with you what is it like to go?
Why I can’t write Molly Flaherty
(TW: mental health, eating disorders) When I sit down to write, my mind becomes as blank as the page in front of me. The problem is not that I have little to say. Anyone who has ever kept my company is likely to describe me as verbose, if they are being polite, or a loudmouth if not, and once the conversation has turned to a topic that I’m passionate about, you will be hard-pressed to shut me up. Yet ask me to put those words down on paper and I transform into a stuttering mess, daunted by the task of finding the words to express myself without verbal nuances at my disposal. As a child I was less inhibited, not yet experienced in anxiety and insecurity. But as I aged, my writing abilities didn’t develop with me. My one-time attendance at a writing circle left me
feeling more inadequate than ever. I was awed by how others could conjure phrases and images on the spot when it took me hours to produce one substandard sentence. I thought that my passion for reading would aid me, but unlike Geoffrey Hill, I couldn’t fathom “what people do when words fail them”. A realisation dawned on me when attempting to chronicle my experiences of mental illness. I wanted to record the anguish, the turmoil of being enslaved to my broken brain, but no words ever seemed enough. For over five years, the chemical imbalances in my brain have inhibited my ability to live my life. I am governed by a higher power: not a God of any kind, but a part of my mind that I can’t control. In the midst of my second round of treatment, my psychiatrist insisted that I keep a diary. He argued that if I refused to tell anyone else how
I was feeling, I had to at least admit it to myself. I still have the old, battered blue notebook that he gave me, page after page of: I can’t eat; I can’t sleep; I just can’t do this anymore. Each week’s entries were met with frustration and disappointment at what he perceived as little effort. I wish that I could go back and explain to him that my stale musings weren’t for lack of trying. I don’t know how to encapsulate the particular chill in your bones when you haven’t eaten for three days. I can’t describe the drip of stomach acid and disgust down the back of your throat as you’re crouched over the toilet, making yourself sick. There aren’t words for the specific sense of fearing you’re on the cusp of death that your first serious panic attack inspires. How can you describe something ever-present, like a thick, cloying mist lingering in the air of every breath you take each day, but that only exists within the confines of your brain? How can you convey that something mental feels so physical? Yet so many other writers have brilliantly captured the emotions that I’ve experienced. Reading Sylvia Plath as a troubled fifteen-year old was the first time I encountered any literature describing the emotions that I so overwhelmingly felt. “What a thrill – my thumb instead of an onion” echoed through my head as I sat on the floor of my shower and sobbed. Plath expresses what I find inexpressible, and I ache with equal parts jealousy and admiration. My feelings of inadequacy that so significantly underpin the fabric of my
illness are raised to the surface when I can’t even find the words to accurately explain how I feel, when others seem to do so with relative ease. This insecurity is the crux of my block. Perhaps the truth is that despite being an English student, I am insecure in the power of the written word – at least when its power is in my hands. My affinity for Hill is underpinned by our shared belief of the failings of language to capture feeling. Reading that he “imagines singing / . . . imagines getting it right / the innocence of first inscription”, I am nostalgic for that child who read her poem in assembly, who couldn’t finish a story, but started it at least. However, I’ve come to acknowledge that there’s much I can learn from Hill. His belief that language failed him didn’t stop him writing. He resisted the inadequacy of words, striving again and again to create work that pushed the limitations of language. He refused to be confined by his self-perceived limits, and is now heralded as one of the greatest writers of his generation. And so I push aside my insecurity and vulnerability: I write about how I can’t write in a brand-new blue notebook.
Diagnosis Molly Innes
Do I have permission to solidify your illness in writing. Not the words of your prescription, or the typed up medical notes that define you now. But in a type of song that we just can’t sing.
Lost in translation Jack Cooper
My words were seagulls in a duck pond from the moment we put keys in locks and tumbled pins, crossing thresholds of our first home. Boxes haemorrhaged in hallways like my tongue, spouting nonsense, or, casting bricks to bring in jade, when I try to tell you how I feel. We’re eating sweets that taste of blue, and my heart is light like flowers spun from cobwebs. No talk of love. When you draw a snake, don’t add a foot.
art: Kate Weir
Who wants to be a 64-year-old feminist lesbian? How sexism propagates heteronormativity Billie Esplen
art: Niamh Simpson
“You like girls, right?” “Yeah, definitely.” “Have you ever considered ending up with a woman?” “You mean, like, marrying one? Spending the rest of my life with them?” *nods* “Umm, no, not really. It’s just harder, isn’t it? And I’ve always seen myself with a man.
… I don’t really want to end up a sixty-year-old feminist lesbian.”
These are familiar words. Or familiar thoughts, at least. Most of the young women (i.e., anyone who identifies as a woman) I know would never say anything like this. But many, including myself, would be horrified to admit how many times they have thought them. Generally, in a society that has benefited from the progressivism of previous decades, we may know a fairly large number of girls who are openly attracted to other women. Often, however, the number who have ever actually been in gay relationships is, comparatively, tiny. The bigger picture is much the same. These ratios between experimentation and willingness to commit become shocking when we believe the entirely convincing studies on female sexual fluidity. According to a 2013 national UK survey, the number of women who claim same-sex activity, whether experimental or not, has risen by 400
per cent since 1991. Whatever this rise is due to, it surely indicates enactment of desires which would otherwise have gone unfulfilled. Even more surprisingly, a recent YouGov poll reported that 64 per cent of young people in the UK identify with some form of queerness. So we are all – and in particular women – feeling more able to admit to and act on same-sex desire. But why is it being limited to the realms of experimentation and impermanence? In many aspects of society, ending up with a woman rather than a man is still, somehow, “unsuccessful.” My grandparents described themselves as “disappointed” when I told them I had a girlfriend. Not to my face, obviously. But still. The only openly negative or sceptical reaction from my parents came when I suggested I wouldn’t ever marry a man. Who would have thought I would hear the phrase “we don’t want you to limit your options” whilst I was exploring options that made me so much more excited about my future? Comments like this are symptomatic of sexism just as much as homophobia, if not more so. No one close to me is homophobic but they are unaware of their prejudices. And these include chronic exposure to heteronormative ideals. I know several educated, progressive young women, attracted to women, who have made comments similar to those in the opening conversation. And this arguably stems from the fact that, prevailingly, women are taught the best thing they can achieve is sexual validation by a man.
Something that, as my family knows, I am not getting and most probably never will.
women in the relationship must be “the man” because no woman can function in a relationship that does not have the same male-female power dynamic. In the eyes of society, a man owns a female spouse. By the same logic, young, “nubile” lesbians are unowned and open for appropriation by men. Countless male strangers have made advances on my girlfriend and me as they assume that, because neither of us is a man, it’s open season. We were once interrupted kissing in broad daylight by a complete stranger so he could tell us that he was jealous. This would never happen to a straight couple.
My own process of homosexual realisation was scourged by the subconscious desire to cling to any possibility of male sexual validation. I wanted guys to see me as a possibility, which, in my current state of happy and very political lesbianism, seems insane. But it takes a lot of thinking and time to undo nineteen years of social conditioning. A friend of mine has wished her boyfriend were a girl when she lies next to him at night, but has been as yet unable ‘It is clearly time that to tear herself away This sexism exists in girls felt just as from guys she is not different manifestations validated and attracted to in order to within the queer world. date women. Addiction “successful” by the pros- It is an oft-stated to male gratification is pect of dating women fact that bi-phobia not just a problem for as by the prospect of is a prevalent issue girls who are exclusively throughout LGBT+ dating men. ’ attracted to men. communities. What is rarely acknowledged – or even realised It is not even as if lesbianism is a state – is that this discrimination is in fact free from society’s endemic sexism. The a problem inextricably linked with the porn industry is obsessed and saturated very same sexism. Bisexual men are with unrealistic and often ridiculous arguably mocked for being seen as “less content that highly sexualises female gay” i.e. contaminated by attraction to homoeroticism specifically for the male women. The common current trope of gaze. On the other side of this coin “fashionable” female bisexuality is part are lesbians caricatured as gross and of the view that, as the ridiculous Sex “unfeminine”. In popular culture (i.e. in the City quote goes, “bisexual men things written mostly by men), nothing always end up with men and bisexual is less “sexy” than an aged feminist women always end up with men”. lesbian: because they neither need, nor Attitudes such as this stem from the seek, nor are deemed “appropriate” for reality that queer women face everyday: male sexual fetishisation. Furthermore, society views female validation as it is commonly assumed – and inferior. popularly propagated – that one of the
Sexism is a huge part of the heteronormative paradigm and lesbian feminists have often been the ones to voice concerns over this, seeing themselves as outside the cycle of sexual oppression. In 1973, Jill Johnson, a radical lesbian feminist, suggested that all heterosexual sex was inextricably linked with its history and thus intrinsically oppressive. Adrienne Rich coined the term “compulsive heterosexuality” to describe the idea that all women are subject to sociosexual conditioning as they mature. In my view, this conditioning certainly includes the preference of male over female. She writes that: “[b]eing queer . . . means being able . . . to challenge the common understanding of what gender difference means”. Surely, this also means that the idea of getting a girlfriend should be just as exciting and just as likely to be lifelong as getting a boyfriend? Men are still more powerful, more believable and hold more weight than women do. It is clearly time that girls felt just as validated and “successful” by the prospect of dating women as by the prospect of dating men.
Musing on Muses Ellen Peirson-Hagger
“Thank you naivety, for failing me again / He was my next verse” sings musician Laura Marling on “Saved These Words”, the final track from her fourth album, Once I Was an Eagle. “He was my next verse.” Marling, with her female prowess blazing, is speaking of a man as her musical inspiration. She does it on a song fittingly titled “The Muse” too. He is the “Finest man that I’ve seen / Ever since my eyes have been.” She even uses the term herself – “Spoke of love like hunger / He at once was younger, younger, ever younger in my hunger for a muse.” It is joyous, surprising, to hear a woman utilising a man for her art in such a way. It is joyous too to hear a woman talking of her “hunger” for a man, when so often it is a man using a woman to whet his overzealous appetite. — Artist and novelist Leonora Carrington wrote, “I didn’t have time to be anybody’s muse.” Her engagements with the Surrealist movement and relationship with artist Max Ernst led many to her enlist her under the title. Carrington concisely declared the suspicions that she filled any role of this sort to be “bullshit”.
I’m a twenty-first century feminist who doesn’t have time for very much at all. I don’t need a boy to think my beauty worthy of a masterpiece, but wouldn’t it be nice if he did? Or for, not my beauty, rather my intelligence or my liveliness, to formulate into some kind of enduring artwork that will outlast me and make others wonder. My chosen form would be a song. It wouldn’t be explicit, but would allude to features about our relationship, just enough for us both to know for sure and for others to have their suspicions. It need not have lyrics. After we leave each other it won’t carry any more sentimentality than an old Valentine’s Day card, a photo tacked onto a wall, a receipt from a meal in a favourite restaurant. But in the moment it will be a surrender to love. And for a time, I’ll embrace it. — Emma Garland for Noisey: “Having art created about or because of you must be one of the single most human experiences available even if the intimate details of your life do become drunken sing-alongs at Glastonbury.”
I am friends with musicians. I have been in relationships with musicians. I have eagerly listened to tracks these boys have released, hoping for there to be some kind of inkling that it is about me. There has not (yet) been any inkling. Would it make me less of a feminist, if I (always, in my narrow imagination, a me, to consider my being worthy of some delicate touch, some wonder? took what they saw, dissolved that with and perception, and made their idea of tangible – would I be giving myself up?
allowed someone boy), to gaze over some thought, And if they then their own thoughts me into something
— Writing for The Pool in April this year, Marisa Bate rightly scolded the Guardian headline announcing the BP Portrait Award shortlist. “BP Portrait Award shortlist offers up all-female line-up,” it reads. But the shortlist was of women painted by men, not women artists themselves. Ultimately Bate describes how women are perceived – and with little questioning – to be only the “the silenced subject, the passive creation of a man, the product of his gaze, the extension of his genius.” “Our worth is his talent,” she writes. It is wrong and frankly ridiculous for the Guardian to have affixed such a slanted headline to a news story which should have questioned this fixation on the woman as seen through the male gaze in every one of these portraits.
I have learnt that I like it best when women make men their muses, or when women make each other their own playthings. But for now I am a woman yet to be made a muse by anyone at all.
To be made into a work of art by anyone is not always to fall through the gaps into willing submission. Yes, how warped a body must be, to allow someone else to make a work of art that takes control of its own limbs. Yet how willing, how trustworthy, how thrilling. A muse enables an artist. But without the muse, what is the art? Where is the art? I can’t see it. A muse holds her own power over her vitality and her liveliness. Some of this is given to the artist as inspiration, but the muse can keep the rest for herself. It is hers. After all, 1.
(in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences. And a goddess is worth far more than any man. — “I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you? Well it ain’t about you” I love Cher Lloyd’s 2010 X Factor audition where she sings this line. It’s in “Turn my Swag On” by Soulja Boy, the Keri Hilson version. I like to imagine the sixteen-year-old being the only thing on the minds of all the boys at school as she sings this, her tattooed hand pointing into the TV cameras. She sings lines she didn’t write. But she may as well have done.
Pleasingly, this line isn’t in the Soulja Boy original. It’s the women cover artists who add it in. The addressee – the “you” in all of this – will be disappointed. He is not a muse. Keri Hilson and Cher Lloyd and every other woman who has sung this line has called him out on his shattered dreams. They didn’t even need a muse to perform this song. Or maybe they did – but he’s not who you think he is. — A tweet: @arvidabystrom when white guy indie bands unprovoked have a random pretty girl being quirky in their music videos A reply: @mollysoda i wanna b the quirky girl in a video Another reply: @arvidabystrom
*throw some glitter spin around*
stare lovingly at a man/boy doing something important or cool
@mollysoda or like hang out at a laundromat just cause
(I too have wondered whether to use man/boy as I write)
Harry Styles is well aware that a fair few Taylor Swift songs – “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “Out of the Woods”, “Style” – are considered to be about their romance (“You’ve got that long hair slicked back, white T-shirt,” Swift sings in the slyly punning “Style”). He says, “I mean, I don’t know if they’re about me or not ...”. with a coyness Rolling Stone describes as “gallant discretion”. “But,” Styles goes on, “the issue is, she’s so good, they’re bloody everywhere.” In 2015’s “Perfect”, it would seem that One Direction answered straight back. “If you like cameras flashing every time we go out / If you’re looking for someone to write break-up songs about / Baby I’m perfect / Baby we’re perfect,” they rejoin. And of course it’s Harry who sings it, first lying down and then sitting up, gazing out at the city skyline, with someone in the back of his mind. Another woman writing about a boy who was formerly hers. Another boy writing about a woman who was formerly his. They are each other’s muses. Doesn’t that make you smile? — Let’s make this clear: I am not waiting for a boy to write a song about me. I use boys as muses as much as I would like them to use me. That is the long and short of it.
art: Suzy Vanezis
Cranberry bog Nick Smart
(Single spotlight. A young man, shaven, short hair, white shirt rolled half-way up his forearms, blue jeans rolled half-way up his shins, barefoot. Stood in a small circular paddling pool, one inch of water.) MAN: … I was absolutely sure, I honestly was, I thought they must grow on a bush, is it not for a berry to grow on a bush, is that not what makes it a berry? Then how do they get in the water? Maybe they’re grown on land and thrown in the water to collect, but do they just chuck them in for the sake of it or does the water do something? Come on now come on I need to get my hands on one. The word made fleshy and red, how to do things with cranberries. Would one pop out of my mouth if I say it? Would my lips squeeze one out like an egg? Would my tongue roll one out like bread dough? (clears throat) CRAN-BER-RY. (Searches in mouth with fingers) I don’t think so. (fingers out) No you know better than I know no words go in my mouth without my say-so. So, say so: I will lay my small red squishy egg in the palm of your hand and give it a name. But how… It will have to pop out of elsewhere. Elsewhere… (clutches buttocks) A cranberry born of a peach. Right. Assume the position. (Squats) Here we go, here it comes, (strained) eeeeeeee O O O (Listens. Stands straight) Nope. (Sighs, looks down) Ankle deep in cranbriotic fluid, but no fruit. There’s too much of me in this. (bends down in pool) And yet not a single cranberry in sight. Here, soak your hands and show me if they’re red. (washes forearms) Nile me up boy, way up to the sleeves. Unbiconcave cells, unhollow, leaky full of beauty. (Dips hair in water. Spikes it into single point, as if a stem.) I need to think like a cranberry. Little red swimming spherical sharks, without the teeth. (looks down) Oh God! Here comes the harvest flood. I’m drowning in the bog. Quick hail a lifeguard, all but his skin what colour decked out in… red? No, grey. (Pace increases, body rises until stood on tip-toes) The water’s rising – I am up to my shins – huh – to my hips – past my bellybutton – it’s rising – what – onto the ribcage – oh sweet mother nipples – here we go – collar-bone – so this is how it ends – neck – with cruel irony – butt-chin – not long for this world – mouth – I just want to – nostrils – say one – eyelashes – thing, recently I have – forehead – realised… (Holds breath in cheeks, face grows red. Release of air) I’m cranberry-red in the face. There. Stalk in my hair. Fat as if I care. Dripping dripping. Still not fair. All I can see, little floating eyeballs. A definition may help. (Stares ahead, mechanical delivery) A berry is a fruit eaten
for its flesh, devoid of a stone, produced from a single flower with a single ovary. (normal delivery, paces around pool) Does this make me a cranberry? For I am a fruit known for its flesh. I believe myself devoid of stones. Wait… heart. There was that kidney stone. Shoot the drupe. Does this make me – Oh God no. A plum? I would sink. This has none of the sense I want hence nonsensical, no? (steps into the pool) No no no back to it back to it. I see them with frosted tips on a Christmas card, or is that a redcurrant? I had frosted tips. Sick on the tip of an iceberg, but nothing beneath the surface. Sick quick pick lick nick tick. What? Make sense man make sense, don’t get tense, pence for your thoughts, huh? Don’t give it away so easily, but there must be a point about here somewhere… Point? Cranberry vertices, there’s absolutely no point in this, forgive me? No no no think on your sins. (Kneels in pool, dips finger in, traces cranberry-circle on forehead. Rises) There are too many. Think back to your letters. You’ll find the answer in those juicy letters. C-R-AN-B-E-R-R-Y. (proclaims) “Nearby brace ya bare crab can ye carry rarer rye.” This is useless, anti-oxidon’t you dare keep going. No keepkeepkeepkeepkeep going. All this I have thrown together in the time I don’t spend trying not to sleep. What? Even I can’t work that one out. I could find the answer if there were water to gather cranberries, what? and no rock, if there were water only… oh for goodness’ sake. Getting bogged down in here. Hmmm. Constantly humming in my head, hmm pull me apart the humming, hmm Queen of the bees, pollinate single ovary hmmm (flinches, drops prostrate) Ouch was that a bell tower, sounded like a splash in the hot dark. It’s happening; drowning in 1 inch, lukewarm. I may never eat a cranberry again, not after all this… but that’s all right, I’ve been leading up to it for a while, don’t think about them anyway. It’s almost as if the cranberries mean something… else? (laughs) No. (blows bubbles) Thinkthinkthinkthink. Are they sprinkled by giant ghostly fingers? Be more specific. I need to get hold of one. I need to taste one. But how? Cranberry Bog. Water falls from the sky. Cranberries fall with the rain. I need to make it rain. Strap on me turquoise feathers and let’s dance. (Commences rain dance: slaps thighs, stomps, raises arms and jumps, shakes body, sends water into the air) La-la-la-la-lo-lo-hey-hi la-lala-la-lo-lo-hey-hi la laaaa la laaaa ho ho hey hiiiiiiii. (To ceiling) Come on go full Noah on me! Shake down the cranberries from the sky, diarrhoea cranberry cloud arseholes! (pause) That was too much, too obvious. Here’s to you here’s to you here’s to you, dip your toe in the bog red and blue. No don’t do it for me, do it for the red eyes in the sea. (settles) Right. No. Let’s do this properly. Eeuurrgh ok. I never wanted any of this. Come on, they must come from somewhere end up in the bog somehow. Let’s think about it logically. Cranberries are berries so I thought they must grow on a bush, I honestly was, I was absolutely sure… (muttering, lights fade)
art: Harri Adams
art: Amy Ryder
Cover Girls Artwork from Ruskin artists Clara Atkinson and Rhian Harris-Mussi
Do women Dead to get Dissection
need to be into the rooms? Rhian Harris-Mussi
The ‘death mask’ depicts the anatomical facial muscles and is constructed from hand embroidered woollen cloth dyed with madder root. The short film entitled Nature Morte: Do Women have to be Dead to get into the Dissection Rooms? places the mask within the context of anatomical waxworks, Renaissance painting and still life (nature morte). The work stands as a ‘memento mori’. Darkness shades me. On thy boessem, let me rest. More I would, but death invades me. Death is now a welcome guest. When I am laid, am laid, in earth. May my wrongs create no trouble, no trouble in my rest. - Lyrical extract from Dido and Aeneas, Z 626: Dido’s Lament by Henry Purcell, performed by Jessye Norman, Raymond Leppard and the English Chamber Orchestra (film soundtrack)
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does my sexiness upset you? Lydia Stephens
“Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?” ‘Still I Rise’ – Maya Angelou
It’s not Maya Angelou’s sexiness that’s upsetting. Rather, it’s her autonomy over her sexiness that “come[s] as a surprise.” She breaks her body down from a whole into parts, the “diamonds at the meeting of [her] thighs.” As well as being outwardly sexy, inwardly she revels in a more subtle and confident sensuousness. But overall her personhood remains intact. She's nothing less than completely in control of her own sexuality. She exists happily in her sensuality as well as her blackness. She’s not sexy in spite of being black, nor is she sexy simply because she is black. She is sexy because of her unadulterated confidence and inner sensuality and the respect this commands. This confidence remains un-trivialised, un-patronised and un-fetishised. Her sensuality and body are dictated by no-one other than herself. She sparks the age old debate: can I be overtly sexual and still be respected? Maya is telling us of course, and I trust her. People often view black women as one homogenised mass. The different, individual experiences of these women are often conflated into one over sexualised model of being. Racial, social, and cultural difference are often ignored. Applying this hyper-sexual lens to a whole person or group is a socio-political type of objectification. Since, as the feminist phrase goes, “the personal is political,” the issue reaches further than casting women as props dancing next to Miley Cyrus on an exercise bike.
no consideration of the rich, complex history behind these women’s personhood. When black women are positioned at the back of the room purely to be a niche kind of sexy, you can't appreciate their value or celebrate their self-derived sex appeal. Growing up with the “independent black women” trope made me feel as though I had to manage people’s disappointment when I wasn’t as exotic or sassy or even as black as they would have liked, whatever that means. Alternatively, I would have to live up to these expectations, which in itself is impossible as they come from ridiculous stereotypes. Growing up against this backdrop makes developing a confident inner sensuality difficult, when so much of your identity is defined by an externally imposed loud sexiness. The irony is that these ideas of independence, loudness, and sassiness make black women stereotypically sexy; but in modern discourses we patronise women who actually are independent. While women have
Today mainstream media casts black women as props or memes; there’s still
art: Ambrosia Hicks
fought to reclaim their bodies throughout history in order to claim their sexuality, there is still resistance when black women claim this right. These women are having to push back racial objectification again, as narrowly veiled compliments on their sexiness.
where I lived. I remember looking at a photo of myself and my friends at the end of secondary school and assuming what set me apart was that I was shorter. I was reluctant to accept my own difference because I didn’t associate the way I looked with a series of stereotypes.
We don’t make it easy for ourselves given how many modern communicative platforms are based on superficiality. Take Tinder. People lead with comments like "what are you?" It’s tempting to reply with something like "I’m a pisces" or “I’m a unicorn” or “I’m un-matching." Sometimes it’s a conversation starter but if what follows is a mildly racial pun the novelty wears off. You wonder if people are only interested because you’re black or exotic. Then you wonder how you’re meant to act. Unfortunately, we cannot perpetually ooze dominant sex appeal. Such outward projections of sexuality should come from an inner sensual confidence, but this is something hard to develop. It’s obvious what people expect when they reply with an unwelcomed opinion like "I love that mix," as though you’re an ethnic cocktail or a slice of Hovis 50/50 bread. People expect the hyper-sexualised person they’ve seen on television. I blindly assumed that people just wouldn’t notice the fact that I was a m i n or it y
You can’t paint black women with one brush stroke. As with the rest of the population there’s a difference. Fetishisation is generalisation. Multiple factors will affect people's experiences. There’s no singular archetype. Colourism is often missing from mainstream discussions of race. This means people fail to recognise how it operates as they are blind to their own biases. Colourism means the darkness or lightness of a person skin and the 'blackness' or their features will affect how the person is treated. These beauty standards, produced by the racial-patriarchal societies of the past, to justify inequality then, still exist today. This means that lighter skinned black women with more European features and physiques may be treated better than darker-skinned women. Their experiences of fetishisation create more inequalities within an already oppressed group. We still live in a world where beauty (as well sexuality, ability etc.) have sway in day to day life. So Blue Ivy, who looks more like her black father Jay-Z than her lighter-skinned mother Beyoncé, gets called ugly as she isn’t the ‘right’ sort of beautiful black girl. Her natural beauty isn’t good enough and it’s confusing. I grew up not knowing if I was meant to be curvy like the black half of my family
or slimmer like the majority of girls I was around. Having straight-haired, light-skinned, slimmer, black female celebrities doesn't mean we’ve overcome inequality or reconciled black beauty, it means we’ve made difference slightly more acceptable, but only in a regulated, narrow frame. It’s not enough to even begin to de-problematise fetishisation. These small details add up to a tangible end. Overall, the history of the black female body is one lacking autonomy and compassion. We still have ground to cover moving forwards. Harvard Graduate and blog editor Kimberly N. Foster recalls how “I developed really early, which black girls are more likely to do... So I struggled, not just because my body was so different…but because there was already so much cultural and historical baggage placed on my maturing body.” This baggage doesn’t remain in the past. Her body was caught between two narratives: one the one hand, that of the hyper-sexualised black girl, on the other, that of the modest black girl. Most women learn this dual narrative. However, it teaches young black girls to be too aware of how they look. The outward sexiness society pins on them isn’t matched by a more important inner confidence. With African Americans suffering the highest rate of child sexual abuse in America, we can’t say these narratives of hyper-sexualisation don’t have tangible effects or that they are a thing of the past. It is no wonder people feel selfaware growing up in this context which
creates such ambivalent attitudes towards women’s bodies. I’ve found growing up the body feels more of a hindrance and something to be conscious of rather than comfortable in. This confusion isn’t just bodily but social. We already know black women are supposed to be sassy, loud and outspoken. But in the real world when a woman acts like this she becomes the 'angry black woman'. We trivialise and typecast black women in their own lives, as though they are all the same and should act the same way – but when they actually assert their autonomy it’s too much and a lose-lose. When Maya Angelou asks “does my sassiness offend you,” she doesn’t care if it does, she’s asking you "why would it?" There’s no reason to fear someone else’s autonomy. Black women needn’t be acceptable to anyone except themselves. Respect should be given without terms and conditions and respect for difference should be taken into account. A woman’s skin is part of what makes her beautiful and people are welcome to embrace this. But in appreciating it they don’t have the right to own her skin or dictate how she should act. You can’t say you appreciate blackness, when you use it as an aesthetic or a stereotype and don't pay attention to its history and its nuances. It’s a package deal, and it deserves respect.
Urania Through exploring the imagery associated with the nine Greek muses, this sculpture reverses the order of creation, placing inspiration at the end point of the work. Originality and ingenuity are often given greater weight than materiality and making, this piece functions as an illustration of the muse or original concept as the apex of artistic endeavour.
Obscenity & Living Alex Matraxia
Staring over at the roads in rush hour, I feel obscene & great. To the traffic and to strangers, our obscenity is better. Not because we make the world dirty. Or dirtier. Petroleum and fumes don’t pipe up out of our asses. Perhaps the afterlife is waiting for us to love ourselves to death; that way our bodies won’t pollute the environment. This is hardly the consequence for freedom of expression. And really, how could I even begin to imagine how dull it must be to be there at the end of the burning wind, buried in the obscenity of clean dead things. I’d miss watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show or lying around naked and golden like a cantaloupe, ripe in the throb and passing of time with beautiful boys, much like yourself, anticipating our intimacy as we rock, cradled as our cocks become the sad candles of the gods.
Joint, spliff, zoot, doobie, blunt, bifter. The myriad of slang terms match both the substance and the activity; smoking weed and its collection of names is varied, interesting, and always open to new additions. Stoner culture is refreshingly
intersectional in many ways â€“ differences of age, race, and language are easily dispersed in clouds of hazy smoke â€“ but there is one vestige of identity that has yet to be fully accepted or incorporated: gender. More specifically, womanhood. It surprises me that women smoking weed is seen as such an unlikely concept. Sitting around, being silly, saying whatever comes into your head: why should
these pastimes be seen as exclusive to male interaction, especially when they align so accurately with the experiences of female adolescence? That said, marijuana is in no way a solve-all remedy and for some can cause more problems than it mitigates. I am in no way endorsing marijuana consumption but aiming to evaluate the activity within the context of female friendship. Yet the stereotypical stoner (unhygienic, slow, gormless, always inevitably male) is as embedded in popular culture as he is inaccurate to my own experience. Seth Rogen and James Franco’s characters in the weed-driven film Pineapple Express are the embodiments of this image. From a feminist perspective, there are many points of contention to the film: it doesn’t come close to passing the Bechdel test, Rogen’s 25-year-old, podgy character is inexplicably dating a high school student who looks like a model, and the only other main female character is a mentally unhinged police officer who perfectly fulfils the mainstream film stock type of a “psycho bitch”. It is severely lacking in nuance, but its greatest crime is that for a self-professed “stoner movie”, not one female character smokes weed throughout. Nor is this issue confined to the screen. In my one of my first few weeks at university, I endured a painfully ironic experience of mansplaining when a fellow fresher told me that girls who smoke weed do exist, but are few and far between. “And when you do find one”, he extrapolated, though unprompted to do so, “she’s usually spotty”. It is an age-old penchant of patriarchal society to label
women who do something which is seen as masculine as unattractive. Bluestocking, battleaxe, “feminazi”: a whole dictionary could be created from words which were created to put women in their place, and to prevent them from straying into a traditionally masculine sphere. It is even more disheartening when the activity is one that is recreational, low-key, and billed as inclusive to all. For all its good vibes and sleepy smiles, stoner culture remains largely unenlightened by feminism. Instead, if you are a woman smoking weed in mainstream culture, you fall into one of two categories. You are either a proxy man, the lone woman in a male friendship group, so thoroughly integrated in their outlook that you seem to associate more with the male view than with any feminine perspective. The prime example of this first type is Jodi from Knocked Up – another project in which Seth Rogen has a leading role. Jodi is the only woman in a house of male stoners, and she sits with them while they watch lesbian porn on the television, either oblivious or unconcerned by the objectifying gaze permeating the room. When Alison (the “knocked-up” woman of the title) visits, Jodi tells her, “It’s gonna hurt a lot I bet...your vagina – that’s so sick!”, as if she doesn’t share the same anatomy herself. Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and a hoody, an outfit that seems calculatingly designed to disguise her gender, her misogynistic observation is only acceptable because she is technically a woman. But ultimately, her “stoner status” is allowed only because she has assumed a male appearance and perspective.
Then there is the other extreme, the “stoner chick” who is seen as slightly transgressive, mysterious, and alluring through her easy relationship with smoking weed. Rihanna, for example, is completely and appealingly unabashed about her fondness for marijuana – “I’d rather be smoking weed” is the first lyric of a track on her latest album. The fact that it is delivered in her signature cool-girl drawl just goes to show how closely her persona and public image are aligned with the qualities associated with stoner culture: an ambivalence to societal expectation, a permanently chilled-out state of mind, an ability to have a good time. And yet it still an image which, while rooted in genuine interest, is nonetheless consciously cultivated and remains unthreatening to the masculine dominance of stoner culture. The dichotomies of proxy-man and sexualised woman do not allow space for real-life scenarios of women smoking weed. But resonant and relatable portrayals of stoner women do exist. The Comedy Central show Broad City, created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, centres around two best friends who buy their own weed to smoke with each other, and have a great time doing it. Crucially, men are completely absent from their smoking habits – if they roll up, it is never to pander to the male gaze, but purely because they can and they want to. Glazer has spoken at length about the show’s incorporation of feminism into stoner culture, summarising her position as: “I like the idea that women carry their own weed and buy their own weed. I like that, because it’s me.” Rarely have I read two
art: Ambrosia Hicks
sentences that reflect my own views so accurately. Similarly, as the credits roll at the end of Girls Trip – a film that manages to portray female friendship in all its messy, raucous, hilarious glory – the four main characters are shown lying in bed together, passing a joint and making uproariously inappropriate comments about men’s genitalia. That closing scene made me laugh the hardest for its intense personal familiarity; I could’ve been watching a video of myself with my friends the weekend before. Likewise, in Pedro Almodovar’s Volver there is a character called Agustina who, beset by grief and unresolved inter-familial issues, tells her female friends about her concerns over a joint. With a shaved head, an unwavering sense of determination and a care-giving role, she could not be further from either the Jodi or the Rihanna extreme – you are forced to consider her personality as a human being, before you can categorise her as any particular type of woman. But it seems endlessly appropriate that in a film about women’s ability to endure male-induced harm, and to support each other and flourish despite the havoc wreaked by men, there would be a scene where women discuss their problems while smoking weed. Then there is the factor of the skill itself. An ease with practical tasks has long been excluded from the remit of female ability; just look at the exclusively insulting connotations of “throwing like a girl”. And this prejudice has seeped into the most innocuous of interactions, mani-
festing itself as a wide-spread amazement when a girl can roll, or has her own smoking paraphernalia, or picks up weed herself (as opposed to buying second-hand off a boyfriend or male friend). I have only recently started actively tackling the assumption that in a mixed group, a boy will roll the joint because he is more proficient at it, or entitled to do so for some other reason (read: his gender). And there are smaller, more discreet but persistent ways to alter these kinds of unhelpful preconceptions. My lighter and grinder are a matching shade of bright pink which I see as a subtly, satisfyingly subversive – bringing the most stereotypically “girly”, ultra-feminine colour into a traditionally masculine environment. Even historically, women and weed have always gone together, the
latter in the hand of the former; Queen Victoria was prescribed cannabis to help alleviate her period pain. Like drunkenness and fast food, or tea and biscuits – female friendship and smoking weed can be one the most compatible combinations around. The Isis does not in any way endorse the consumption, production or distribution of the marijuana plant and its various strains (OG Kush, Lemon Haze, Granddaddy Purple, etc.).
Maybe you could write a protest Connor Thirlwell For the Desperate Bicycles “50p for a piss fucking vile” Like a sail unfurling, the cubicle confronts. My trousers founder along with my heart, a burst of piss and a slop in the basin. The graffiti’s letters are so grotesque, smeared with an urgency like vomit or rage. Black once, as combusted high-rise cladding, but greying now, perhaps with time, or failure, again and again, to wipe out. I had paid this 50p before. Like the eleven pounds ninety; standard; anytime; day; adult; one; child; nil; single, from here to home: excessive, I thought, but, busting, I paid with unpicked bones. So here’s to them: the few who voice my bud-nipped discontent, relieving me of a choice between piss and payment.
Quick-fire Jack Cooper
Catholicism didnâ€™t work for the adolescent closet case shooting glances to changing boys, with the knowledge that Hell is real for those who sin, and they were sinning.
art: Niamh Simpson
Ripe Figs Wonâ€™t Keep
Why is the floor so wet? Eleanor Begley
Through a process of close consideration of plant structure, particularly reproductive processes of flowering, pollination and fruit-formation, my work aims to investigate environmental and gender politics. I enjoy re-appropriating modern cleaning instruments, such as tesco value sponges, wire brushes and mops in an attempt to make them appear once again natural or in some way alive. Contemporary cleaning and grooming practices are often at odds with natural processes of shedding, decomposing and pollinating. By creating nonsensical cleaning and ripening systems out of these objects I seek to highlight the fraught relationship of the natural and the artificial and perhaps also question where one ends and the next may begin.
Please donâ€™t use the bathroom sponge to clean the kitchen
Why is the floor so wet?
Exorcising Mississippiâ€™s Graveyards Sammy Moriarty
art: Sammy Moriarty
“Mississippi had no art except in cemeteries” These words of Eudora Welty’s, a comment on her photographs of graveyards around the state, have strangely buried themselves in me. It is not that the general sentiment is unfamiliar. Southern artists frequently motioned towards themselves as awkward figures in their corner of the country; Faulkner, for example, saw himself as a contradiction: an artist in a South of which, as he sees it, “art is no part”. But that is not the only thing that Welty seems to be saying. She, like me, is also concerned with the crumbling headstones. Mississippi has always been something of a difficult inheritance for me: an unfamiliar home, a comfortable dislocation. It is beautiful too, and summer visits to my mother’s family let me rediscover the acres choked with murmuring pine, the shimmering air, molasses-thick with the complaints of cicadas and the burden of humidity. Everything is held in a kind of sweet decay. It was this same sweet decay that makes
Welty’s photographs of old graveyards so moving for me. They petrify it as a moment, a visual-monument of their still volatility. I remember being struck by how “un-Southern” these images were at first. I had never seen an angel in Mississippi before. New stained-glass maybe, in a pristine church cold-storage chilled, but not an angel. Most of the churchyards I knew were by the highway. It is hard to say what is the most striking thing about Eudora Welty’s images of these graveyards. The ethereal glow seems to burn away at their stasis. Her expression to Hunter Cole of the unlikely “joy” the pictures recall to her at the age of ninety is both telling and bizarre: “I love this sleeping child cracked from top to bottom,” she says, “I love the family beneath the willow tree. They’re grieving for a lost father and husband.” Love is an unsettling word choice, but I think I understand what she’s getting at. There’s a happy bitterness in these mon-
uments, perhaps due to the humanity of them in their desperation, perhaps the surprise of their existence in an apparently “artless” South. It was with all this in mind that I decided to seek these churchyards out and take some pictures of my own. Taking with me a thrift-store Russian ‘70s rangefinder—which would later melt after being left in the heat of a Walmart parking lot and taking half of my pictures with it—I made it to three or four cemeteries. Photographs of two remained: St Peter’s in Oxford, and Greenwood in Jackson. I decided to slightly overexpose the shots, an attempt to approach the otherworldly quality of light in Welty’s pictures. The most disturbing principle which hums beneath these memorials is best described as an ideal “petrification”. A panicked artifice vies with reality, the living green of virginia-creeper and magnolia blurs into Calvary-trees
of mouldering stone. Just as in Welty’s story At the Landing, from her 1943 collection The Wide Net and Other Stories, “everything there, the hanging moss and the upthrust stones were in that strange graveyard shade where, by the light they give, the moss seems made of stone, and the stone of moss”. There is something undeniably sinister about the power of this funereal chiaroscuro. Welty recognises this also, for here in the story its protagonist Jenny is pondering her doomed love for Billy Floyd, the “fragile” “mystery that is in the other heart” which will end in tragedy. It is as if the distorted world of the cemetery blinds her with its fatalistic shadows. Even the most pathetic, most beautiful examples of this petrification course with a troubling vitality; the cowering spaniel which marble-shines at his master’s dissolved feet, the headless matrons
and disembodied hands, the proud effigies of generals and businessmen, even the angels, all seem to be guarding secrets under the stone. These are not true memorials for Mississippi, of course. These “Old Jackson” dead are as distant to me, whose bloodline descends into apocrypha and sharecropping beyond two generations, as to the ancestrally mid-western Welty, and most of the nameless crowds that haunt these graves by their absence. But these graveyards still, even in their attempts at an exclusive self-preservation, become emblems of the South: their broken grandeur that never quite was, now betrayed by the very conditions in which they proudly repose. I can’t read this as just the “riot of expressions in defiance of the brutal ending that death brings to us all” that Elizabeth Spencer sees in Welty’s images. There is something far more local about
this impulse, as is manifest in Mississippi. However universal its theme, there is something that makes interpreting the cemetery as the only “art” revelatory: the futile preservation of an impossible status quo at any cost. As I wondered through fallen granite markers and faded names reclaimed by obscurity, I stumbled across one which was unexpectedly familiar. It should have been little surprise to me that Eudora herself would have chosen to lie amongst the graves she had played upon as a child, and later frozen in film. In One Writer’s Beginnings, she wrote that the good photograph, like the ideal short story, can “capture transience”. Crystals align to a flash of light in mysterious constellation, waiting to be coaxed into rediscovering the image they hold. I lowered my camera, the hush of shady branches playing across the dried rose at her headstone.
Moon Charles Pidgeon
“The rest I dedicate to the Moon, who, by the bye, of all the Patrons or Matrons I can think of, has most power to set my book a-going, and make the world run mad after it” – Tristram Shandy hey um so that one time I saw you at the pub I was running late for my first trip to the moon I’m sorry I ran off up but now I’m up here I wish someone had told me that there are not any pubs up here on the moon! also you’re not on the moon. I’m a bit caught up here working on the rockets and all that. But when I’m back – you up for the pub? or next time, come to the moon with me?
From Lidl’s or, occasionally, the garden plot, Vegetables: carrots, a clutch of starched Potatoes, arms of celery grooved and arched, Waxy slivers of onion, all cast to the pot. Topped with water, stock, pepper-salt seasoning, Gas mark six to the boil; a sweaty hand Clutches the wooden spoon plunged in the pan, Bodying all to a sole, soupy reasoning. We put the lid on. Simmer on gas mark three. Like a lifetime spent darkly waiting, we let The masked pot withhold the heat, its bubbling Rumble the only taste of the soup we get. In a steam-rush we’ll fork a carrot to see If it’s cooked, concluding, no, not done yet.
art: Freddie Von Kaufmann
art: Harri Adams
Freddie Von Kaufmann
I hear the sun rise and moan his bored glib remarks about how glamorous he’s feeling right now, indifferent to the moon who is self-consciously depressed. My God, the sun’s really being a bastard tonight, as he staggers righteously swaggering through a party of angelic socialites, talking crap about light and buoyancy and pretending to be the drunk Fitzgerald anti-hero of the cosmos. Sun, you pretentious fucker, everyone loves you but you’re never candid or sincere. You’re looking so tired now, give it up, pack your orange tie and shirt away and swallow a sleeping pill of chemical twilight: The clouds start to fill with the solid moon, who looks at me, above and laughs a hollow naked laugh, as the stars pass ironic gossip about us with our problems.
the sun has a nihilist’s sense of humour, but when he holds his fat cigarette and burns a hole through the sky, the moon’s balm can’t even remedy that kind of cruelty. In fact, it’s that kind of cruelty that turns a game into a sport. And a bit of cruelty is sometimes a great consolation to a life that could easily be as urgent and banal as a romantic comedy.
I look around, and for some reason my friends are sad, and some pretty other people seem happy. I’m not going to try and make sense of this because the moon told me not to even bother, it’s part of the sun’s sad joke. You’d never think that
Moon, I am lying on your torso, and you are eating me all up as if I were there one made of cheese. You cannibal with a white bone face; I am bored, and you are angry; we’ll talk maybe tomorrow night, let’s give the sun another chance if he stops pretending to be the light of all life.
I’ll never make sense of the moon’s camp apoliticism. I guess I’m going to have to get used to it. Moon, I walk under you naked and I’m cut open so that you can breathe a low cool breath and freeze my insides into nitrogen white. This will be my happiness, Moon, you and I should start conspiring in our queer bedroom moments, against the spoilt children and the laughing academies, and the nymphs of the social world; now and again you try to protect us from bad love’s masculine vulgarity.
art: Harri Adams
Un-thinking Megan Black
“The possibilities of democracy have not been exhausted.” Progress is fated to disappointment if restricted to an ageing model. To achieve the unthinkable, you need to un-think. This is the philosophy of Christoph Wonneberger – a key figure in the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, demonstrations in Germany that eventually lead to the collapse of the oppressive police state German Democratic Republic (GDR), better known as East Germany. I came to interview Wonneberger to learn more about the 700,000-large demonstration in Leipzig (an illegal protest famous for its unprecedented scale, the largest ever in East Germany). Instead I found myself focusing on Wonneberger’s optimistic activist vision. In 2017, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a xenophobic right-wing nationalist party, has become Germany’s third biggest party. Brexit is in progress, and Trump is in power. I came to Leipzig feeling scared. I left excited for the potential we have to change our situation. I originally wanted to talk to Wonneberger because he is an inspirational figure that has turned pacifist theory
into a reality. As a priest, he preached peace and protest during the GDR. He printed and distributed protest leaflets, one containing the famous phrase “Wir sind ein Volk”, which translates as “We are one People”. He organised the iconic video footage of the Leipzig demonstrations, directing cameramen to the top of the Reformierte Kirche to capture their huge scale. It is these photos that were sent around the world, creating world-wide recognition. By establishing links with Western journalists, providing footage and a live interview of the demonstration, he enabled the world beyond the Iron Curtain to bear witness. Interestingly, Wonneberger seemed reluctant to dwell on the demonstrations. “Journalists come here and want to know one thing: how the demonstrations in 1989 stayed peaceful,” he told me. Awkwardly, I was not an exception. I found it astounding that the collapse of the GDR, who systematically and aggressively oppressed its people, remained peaceful. Previously, those who spoke out against the regime were subject to interrogation, torture and imprisonment. Punishments would also extend to their families, including prevention of higher education or loss of skilled employment to manual labour. The constant pressure of the Stasi’s colossal network of informers (there were more informers in East Germany than the sum of all the countries conquered by Nazi Germany) miraculously did not erupt into violence.
What was Wonneberger’s response to the topic that draws numerous international journalists? “Intelligente Feindesliebe” – intelligently love your opponent. Commentate your actions and clearly demonstrate to the opposition that you pose no threat. Explain what you are doing and why. Aim for predictable transparency - no one likes unpredictability. Make the role of the police redundant; take their job by preventing aggression and maintaining a calm and disciplined atmosphere. Yet only for a few minutes from our three-hour long interview did he repeat his sermons from ‘89 describing how to maintain peaceful conduct. It seemed Wonneberger did not want to indulge in the success of the past, because he is compelled to think to the future. Indeed what was most striking about the interview was his forward-thinking restlessness. Christoph Wonneberger is an uncomfortable spirit that refuses to be satisfied with one way of life. He continuously commits himself to resisting systems he cannot agree with, his political career spanning from the GDR up until now. Recently, he cycled around Munich, forming protests outside arms manufacturing factories. I feel that he does not want to dwell on the past because there are present problems that need solving. For more on his role in the Peaceful Revolution, he kindly gave me his book. Written mediums are for
the past, spoken for the present. This was our interview’s spoken present: “If one door is closed, knock and find another. There is always a new way, find it.” Creative thinking and reinvention are practises that economists are well-acquainted with. Wonneberger asks why this has not extended to politicians, theorists, philosophers and activists. The rise of right-wing nationalism and the left’s nihilistic despondency show a clear dissatisfaction with the current system. Yet we have adopted one line of thinking so heavily, that we cannot envision another. “Do not be satisfied with copies. Do not reproduce a set of ideas.” Wonneberger’s initiatives were original ideas: not extracted from the West, but fuelled by what was found wanting in his system. “See what is lacking in your situation,” he tells me, “and strive to provide it.” Here, I understand his hesitancy to comment on the Peaceful Revolution and his reluctance to provide a full answer to foreign tourists, particularly on his views of North and South Korea. Though a divided Korea can find inspiration in a unified Germany, it should not seek to imitate it, despite their similarities. Korea must find a path towards unity that is moulded by them and for their unique situation. “Be optimistic. Really believe you can change laws that no one thought could be changed. All you need is a foot in the door.”
East Germans thought that the GDR was fixed, predetermined and unchangeable, a system where the chain of command could not extend to the individual. East Germany was controlled by the Socialist Party; the Party was controlled by the USSR. German leaders were scouted as children and forcibly sent to the USSR for “education”. The system was locked, the circle closed. Yet, Wonneberger repeatedly demonstrated otherwise. He believes his biggest achievement was the introduction of the “Soziale Friedensdienst” or “Social Peaceful Service”, a social work program intended as an alternative to the “Wehrdienst” military conscription. Previously, men were forced to work for a period in the army, yet Wonneberger’s initiative was a peaceful – and officially recognised- alternative option. There was nothing similar of its kind at the time, even in West Germany. How? He smiles. “Always push things to see how far they will go; it will surprise you.”
“Motivate people not to wait for something.” Things need to move beyond grumbles. Do not leave everything to talking. Motivate people to be loud. Although Wonneberger’s tone here was more general, it was as if it was aimed at me directly. What he said had power, had relevance. This interview was not what I expected. But it was what I needed. I had felt a rising sense of powerlessness against the wave of right-wing populism and an increasing detachment from political reality. Refreshingly, Wonneberger’s vision provided some much-needed optimism, and his actions demonstrated an often-doubted potential for change. With all he had done and said, it is hard not make him into an icon, despite his explicit desire not to be imitated. Yet Wonneberger demonstrates that we should not dwell on repeating what has come before, but rethinking it. We see what is lacking. We strive to provide.
SEIZE SEES SEAS Summer Competition 2017
art: Jessica Heywood
Visual Winner: Niamh Simpson “Morning Routine”
The Barbican So what now? Well, this is the part where two putty figurines start shuddering with extracts and move from balcony to bed and though first they stall, eventually both submit and fall sideways onto the mattress on the floor and with these dusty windows for walls the room is wet-speckled with light dripping all over the floor, leaving trails of itself in the corridor, where more unfocused light and dust musk a heady lofty musk The silk-spinning tongues murmur soft things often to fix the floating tingle before it softens; words make for most convenient memory cues, colouring experience as they do, in designated hues This room is helping, heaving in beiges blushing in cream an entire interior in Nostalgia: A Colour Scheme it’s making things mean somewhat more than they do he says right now I love you i say I love you too? (I liked how you looked from the start: slow blinking glazy eyed reptile but i like you especially now: pillow under your head while I’m taking in your closed eyes, open mouth and searching tongue, silly gecko) Peeping Tom from office block across the way lingers at the paper tray watching from bright cold clear outside the dewy dots moving slight inside Straining to see through the fuzzy gloom the intricacies of who’s cupping who which flesh mould and what fresh fold, discerning only the blur of shifting weights taking turns to press, the blushing fat swollen lips caress Holding still and holding farther licking milk-streaked thigh to calm her
Poetry Winner: Tilly Vercoutre Image: Lucy Park
Softer Landings Jessica Heywood
Garland Girl Kat Dixon-Ward
Do not, my Reader, take these eyes for pearls Or trawl me up and net me with long purples. Reader, do not call me Garland Girl. You say we have no nerves, it shouldn’t hurt To poke our shell and gut in stream-bed burgle. Do not, my Reader, take these eyes for pearls, You would have your way and watch me whirl In pirouettes; you’d stage me, whoop my circles. Reader, do not call me Garland Girl. You’d name me your Rapunzel, gild my curls; Your Aphrodite, crown my skull with myrtle. Do not, my Reader, take these eyes for pearls. The lungs, once filled, do stew in river dirt; The skin does tinge more boiled beef than marble. Reader, do not call me Garland Girl. Make not, my Reader, me your spectacle To lynch me up and hang me with long purples. Reader, do not take my eyes for pearls. Reader, do not call me Garland Girl.
Index Clara Atkinson Rufus Rock Lael Hines Vida Adamczewski Harri Adams Samuel Dunnet Joe Higton Naomi Pacific Suzy Vanezis Molly Flaherty Molly Innes Jack Cooper Kate Weir Billie Esplen Niamh Simpson Ellen Peirson-Hagger Mary Jane
Tilly Vercoutre Lucy Park Alex Matraxia Lydia Stephens Ambrosia Hicks Connor Thirlwell Jaleh Brazell Charles Pidgeon Freddie Von Kaufman Sammy Moriarty Eleanor Begley Megan Black Amy Ryder Rhian Harris-Mussi Nick Smart Jessica Heywood Pat Taylor
OSPL Chairman: Louis Walker Managing Director: Rebecca Iles Finance Director: Katie Birnie Technology Director: Utsav Popat Events Director: Tess Hulton