Published 2018

Dr Chantal Faust
Lead Editor
Rosie Ram
Sharon Young
Catharine Cary

Download PDF >

Designer: Steven Dickie
Edition: 280 copies
ISBN 978-1-910642-36-8


Table of Contents

View From the Bridge: SoAH Research Rebecca Fortnum    >
Prova 4: A note on practice (trying and doing) Chantal Faust    >
Åsa Johannesson    >
SAMAN* Archive – Finding a way towards things that matter Adjoa Armah    >
A Minor Paranoia: Apophenia and the Fictive Museum Clair Le Couteur    >
Vicky Kim    >
Parenthetical Giorgos Kontis    >
The Subtext of a Dream Sharon Young    >
“Masturbatory acts as manifestations of παρρησία” Despina Zacharopoulou    >
Implicit in virtuosity Catharine Cary    >
Kristina Horne    >
Selfies Plural in Time and Space Emma Szewczak-Harris    >
Some journeys made while on a residency in Kyiv, Ukraine in September 2017 at a cost of 1,656 Hryvnia (keep the change). Adam J B Walker    >
Conc(re)te Gareth Proskourine-Barnett    >
Disney at the Ashmolean Dorothy Armstrong     >
Cradeaux Alexander    >
Billy Marita Fraser     >
Freya Pocklington    >
Neurodivergence and the gentrification of the art school setting Emily Öhlund    >
What is Marching? Xiaoyi Nie    >
Intellectual Mothers. A text for The Feminist Library, Hobart and Dr. Patricia Brennan Marianne Mulvey    >
Loving and motherhood and kittens: thoughts around empathy Sarah Eliza Kelly    >
Jacqueline Felstead    >
Lovers’ Quarrel (after a weekend together) Charan Singh    >

        ABSURDITY    >
        DISORDER    >
        DOCUMENTS    >
        ENTANGLEMENT    >
        FICTION    >

anatomy lesson (an open letter, in friendship, to Sigmund Freud) Johnny Golding    >

View from the Bridge: SoAH Research
Rebecca Fortnum

The potential and problematics of cross-disciplinary debate were put to the test this year by postgraduate research students within the newly formed School of Arts and Humanities. How do we forge relevant and productive conversations across the broad array of interests currently housed in the School? In the first instance a strategy of ‘gathering around a word’ in the research groups brought together students with both practice and written projects and different discipline perspectives. The Absurdity, Disorder, Documents, Entanglement, Fiction and Politicised Practice (okay, that’s two words) groups facilitated cross School engagement, acting as bot laboratory and workshop, as well as a reading and crit group. Students developed exhibitions, discussions, events, performances, films and texts that both confirmed and challenged their individual trajectories, as w experimented with formats that could bridge discipline divides, whilst maintaining the focus and depth of subject expertise so necessary for research.

The discussions begun in these research groups were extended and enacted as the groups took control of the Visual Culture series for the School, facilitated by Anne Duffau. This led to a truly exciting series of events that engaged with the core of our research concerns. Jordan Baseman and the Disorder group invited eminent theorist Jack Halberstam from Columbia University to discuss ‘Bewilderment: Queer Theory After Nature’ which traced ‘new forms of disordered wildness as part of a decolonizing project’. From the Pompidou Centre the Documents research group led by Professor Olivier Richon invited curator Philippe-Alain Michaud, to discuss Aby Warburg ‘s Mnemosyne, or the ‘Cinematographic Machine Without Apparatus’. The Fiction research group’s event, led by myself, witnessed a stunning tour de force of performance and reflection around ‘fabulation’ by the actor and artist Dickie Beau. Professor Johnny Golding and the Entanglement group opted for a carnival, entitled ‘Marl: Sometimes Hard, usually Soft’, with guest appearances from Leo Costner, Amir George, Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart and UBERMORGEN as well as the research group themselves. Dr Jesse Ash and Dr Jaspar Joseph-Lester staged an event called ‘That Language Matters; Example, Testimony, Performance’ with wide ranging contributions from Mira Mattar, Marina Vishmidt, Benjamin Noys and Ash Sarkar. Dr Mel Jordan and the Politicised Practice group invited Kristin Ross from New York University to discuss ‘The Seventh Wonder of the Zad’ (‘zone à defendre’) exploring ‘the notion of territory and the logics
of difference’ with a response by Mark Hutchinson. Our last event of the year was a remarkable evening of spoken word and performance assembled by Dr Chantal Faust and the Absurdity group with Ed Atkins, Katrina Palmer and Sally O’Reilly.

This year we have established a hub at Ransome’s Dock, an annexe to our Battersea site, which has increased our sense of research community. Other events have included debating the lived experience of negotiating ethics in largescale projects by Jordan Baseman, Mel Brimfield and Michaela Crimmin. In our Platform events we began to think across the wide range of forms the dissemination of research can take, as Professor Victoria Walsh, Dr Grant Watson and Professor Juan Cruz discussed the exhibition as research and Dr Brian Dillon, Francesca Wade and Roger Thorp spoke ‘On Publishing’. Additionally, we held two full weeks of presentations, in which all students participated, interrogating the diversity of projects underway in the School. We conclude the year with Flight Mode, a platform for SoAH students to make public their research over four days in June, across three Peckham venues. Finally, I would like to record the School’s heartfelt thanks to Yve Lomax, former Senior Research Tutor, for her years shaping research at the RCA and to all the School’s supervisors and students for their passion for enquiry, so visible at these events.
Rebecca Fortnum
Professor of Fine Art and Senior
Tutor for Research, SoAH

Table of Contents

Prova 4: A note on practice (trying and doing)
Chantal Faust

We do a lot of practicing these days. You might even say that we have reclaimed the word from tooth surgeons (think Dental Practice) and solicitors (think Legal Practice) and wannabe pianists (go and practice your scales) and put practice to a different kind of test. Researchers in the RCA School of Arts & Humanities understand art as practice, writing as practice history as practice, curating as practice, philosophy as practice. Practice here invokes a sense of doing. And as you will see over the coming 269 pages or so, there’s been a lot of doing going on around here lately.

When we ‘do’ practice, we try things out. Sometimes we try very hard. Not all attempts are successful, but with the doing comes a form of learning, one which might help us to develop our practice, expand it, hone it, or even take it somewhere entirely new. The act of expression, of trying to say something to, or share something with, somebody else (and hopefully many other bodies as well) is perhaps the ambition that aligns us in our varying forms of practice. The process of finding our voice is not straightforward, often arduous and perennially slippery, because it breaks after each application and is never the same each time. And so, we continue trying to speak, sometimes stuttering, sometimes singing, and always, hopefully trying again. PROVA 4 brings together the voices of artists, curators, historians, performers, philosophers and writers, in what is probably closer to a cacophony than a choir. We celebrate this noise as a collection of energies that are travelling, somewhere, waiting to be sensed. The design of this issue, by Steven Dickie, embodies the urge of trying to speak. The blue rectangular shape that you see on the cover is the descendant of a glitch that formed when the pronunciation symbols of the word ‘prova’ were imported across different forms of software. Lost in translation, the characters initially designed as an aide for speaking instead formed a singular shape: a cross contained within a rectangle, that generic symbol for a break in the code. Sometimes what we try to say is misinterpreted,
and/or it just comes out plain wrong. And sometimes, this can be beautiful.

Stemming from an Italian word meaning to try and test, evidence and proof, prova feels like a good fit to describe all of the glorious attempts at conversations, speculations and encounters that have taken place over the past year in SoAH Research. With big thanks to Professor Juan Cruz, Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities (SoAH); Michael Turco, SoAH General Manager; Dr Catherine Dormor, Head of Research Programmes; and Dr Emma Wakelin, Director of Research & Innovation for their support of this journal. We look forward to trying out more in the future and hope that you enjoy PROVA 4.

Dr Chantal Faust
Editor-in-chief of PROVA
Senior Tutor in Critical & Historical Studies and Research, SoAH

Table of Contents

Åsa Johannesson

Åsa Johannesson, Untitled from Looking Out, Looking In, 2018.
Åsa Johannesson, Untitled from Figural, Figurative, 2016.

Table of Contents

SAMAN* ARCHIVE – Finding a way towards things that matter
Adjoa Armah

*Saman is an Akan word that can be translated as ghost in English. In Akan-speaking parts of Ghana, the photographic negative can be described as the image’s saman, its ghost. In some other languages in the country, the words used to describe the photographic negative are also indigenous words for ghost: sisa in the Ga language and ngoli in Ewe. Saman Archive is home to approximately 30,000 of these ghosts.

In anthropologist Susanne Küchler’s seminal work on the malangan, the funerary figures of New England, Papua New Guinea, she describes objects that are destined for a symbolic death, taking months to prepare but left to decompose after their ritual function has been served. After their ritual use, the memory of their form, their motifs and the information contained within them could live on in those present and be replicated, potentially indefinitely, through time and space in the stories they told. Each malangan figure is a prototype. The thing that makes the thing possible but not the thing itself.

Ethnographic museums are filled with prototypes, exotic objects from faraway places, of value as objects in the museums’ displays and stores but of limited significance in their own contexts. Western publics’ understandings of ethnographic others are built around rarefied prototypes. Objects that allow performances to happen but not the performances themselves. That allow memories to be made but not the memories themselves. Allow rituals to take place but not the rituals themselves. Stories to be transmitted but not the stories themselves. We have a language to understand things but not things that matter. Things that matter demand time, familiarity and risk: from both the framer and the viewer. Things demand less of everything.

Undeniably objects that function only to create another, every photographic negative is the prototype for the image it depicts: containing the potential for unlimited reproductions of photographic prints. Like all prototypes too, the photographic negative is a boundary object. Between what is and what could be, alive and dead, now and then, potential and action. When distinctions at these boundaries are collapsed, the stakes are raised (Corsín
Jiménez, 2013; Küchler, 2010:306). At the point where stakes are raised, the prototype acts as a gesture towards:

“…mutual prefiguration of objects and sociality; when objects and social relationships are recursively parenthesised, now as protos, now as types, with respect to each other. In this mutual bracketing, prototyping appears as a figure of possibility and suspension where relationships and objects can be at once ‘more than many and less than one’”
(Corsín Jiménez, 2013: 383)

It is from here we can begin to look through things towards things that matter.

To prototype is a material, technical, aesthetic, social and cultural heuristic. Unlike a resolved object, the prototype is never still. The act of prototyping has been described as a “machine for thinking in perpetual motion – an excessive motion” (Henare, Holbraad and Wastell, 2005:
11). Alfred Gell described the malangan figures in particular as functioning as accumulatory as well as reproductive bodies, “like a charged battery” (Gell, 1996: 392), less “an effigy operating as a prototype for modes of social action and remembrance, [than] as memory itself circulating as a trap for past/proto and future/type events” (ibid.). The excess of the prototype, the infinite nature of both its accumulatory and reproductive potential, its being a materialisation of memory and potentiality itself, rather than a mere representation, offers a way to approach the saman.

For anthropologist Victor Buchli, prototyping “functions to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of time, space and the material” (Buchli, 2010: 273), which are present in this particular archive. Returning to the differences between framing things and things that matter, the demand for risk and familiarity – not necessarily expertise – saman prototypes validate both the use of artistic methods as well as the presence of an implicated, self-referential, intuitive, citizen-researcher-curator-anthropologist. After spending months overwhelmed by the volume of the archive and the impossibility of a full comprehension of the real stories behind even a tiny proportion of these images, understanding that saman prototypes do not concern themselves with the accuracy of particular narratives but with the potential for numerous, (informed) risky interpretations, the material becomes manageable.

Each saman is more than many but less than one. More than many crops, more than many prints, more than many stories, more than many histories. Less than one thing that matters. Deserving of care but not rarefication. Each object/image is deemphasised into a map of potentials not a set of obligations. Not a thing that matters in itself but an object that invites
risky interpretation that can lead towards the emergence of infinite things that matter. By allowing the archive to become one of an infinite potential of things, rather than tens of thousands of actual things, it can be comprehended. In ethnographic archives, in museum vaults and on their walls, perhaps if we cared less about things, and could convince audiences to do the same, we would have more to say about things that matter.

Buchli, V. (2010). The Prototype: Presencing the Immaterial. Visual Communication 9(3), pp.273-286.
Corsín Jiménez, A. (2013). Introduction. The Prototype: More Than Many and Less Than One. Journal of Cultural Economy 7(4), pp.381-398.
Gell, A. (1998). Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon.
Henare, A., Holbraad, M. and Wastell, S. (2005).Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artifacts Ethnographically. London: UCL.
Küchler, S. (1987). Malangan: Art and Memory in a Melanesian Society. Man 22(2), p.238.

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A Minor Paranoia: Apophenia and the Fictive Museum
Clair Le Couteur

Claes Oldenburg’s Mouse Museum (1965-77) was first shown internationally at documenta V in 1972, the same event at which Marcel Broodthaers exhibited Section Publicité, the final iteration of his own fictive museum project, the Musée de l’Art Moderne (1968-72). Built as an annex to Mouse Museum, Ray Gun Wing(1977) is a collection of around 300 ‘ray guns’, including Oldenburg’s reproductions of mid-twentieth century science fiction toys, alongside found, made and altered things in materials from knotted rope to chocolate. The collection is arranged in vitrines themselves laid out in ray gun form, revealed by a framed map of the exhibit. As Oldenburg describes: ‘Ray gun would become a catch title for all sorts of things. Looking down on the street, I would find this angle in the shape of a ray gun everywhere. And I would collect the ray guns; they became quite an obsession. If you spell ray gun backwards it’s nug yar, which is very close to New York: New York, Nug Yar’.(1) Yve-Alain Bois explains that ‘Oldenburg made huge numbers of ray guns… but he soon saw that he didn’t even need to make them: the world was full of ray guns… Even better he did not even need to collect them himself: he could ask friends to bring them to him…’(2) Together, Bois and Oldenburg’s descriptions sketch out a heuristic method; a curiously targeted, collective game of pareidolia, verging on apophenia.

Pareidolia is the ‘man in the moon’ phenomenon: a distinct figure perceived in a ground of indeterminate sense-data. A cloud that looks like a whale; a trash heap that looks like a museum. This perceptual state, where one thing is seen as-if another, hovering between sensing and inventing, was famously recommended by Leonardo da Vinci as a creative method.(3) Da Vinci described this both visually, in the wall with ‘various stains’, and aurally, using the ringing of bells.(4) But in Oldenburg’s Ray Gun Wing, a childlike pareidolic act of make-believe – where any stick with the right angle becomes a ray gun for the game – metastasises into something else. That Oldenburg’s fictive museum has stepped from pareidolic play into the world of apophenia is hinted both in his admission that the game became ‘an obsession’ while walking the streets of New York, and in his occult translation of the name of the project into the name of Nug Yar.

Apophenia is from the German apophänie, coined by psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in 1958 to describe the ‘unmotivated seeing of connection [accompanied by] a specific feeling of abnormal meaningfulness’ experienced in schizophrenic, paranoiac and manic delusion.(5) Unlike the mere playful resemblances of pareidolia, in apophenia the similarities mean something, they are connected, clues to a mystery, part of something bigger. A kind of collective apophenia turns the pareidolic resemblance of the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich, for example, into a cultural icon worth $28,000. Sandwich is matched to Virgin, and so to a cosmic pattern, and to a rationale in which manifestations of this kind have great significance. Acts of belief push this kind of situation past 13 the binary boundaries of fact|fiction and into fictive territory; the purchasers of the sacred sandwich were not themselves believers but embedded in a wider culture caught in cognitive dissonance between unresolvable polar extremes of scepticism and superstition. The pop-cultural icon in questio was bought on eBay in 2004 by online casino. Its previous owner, Diana Duyser, said ‘I would like all people to know that I do believe that this is the Virgin Mary Mother of God’.(6) Regardless that sci-f ‘ray guns’ don’t really exist, by paying them enough attention, making them, projecting them onto the city, finding parts of the city that echoed them back – and then getting his friends, and eventually museum visitors to do the same – Oldenburg had conjured ray guns into resonant being. But, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, he was no longer the ray guns’ master. Conceptual polarities of real|imaginary and creation|discovery were intensified, warped and entangled, and a fictive space was generated. This is what network theorist and artist Anna Munster, building on the philosophy of William James, describes as the perceptible rather than perception or sensation as such; the perceptible ‘arises when perception-action has already occurred and is then matched to something already known… a pattern seen in data’.(7) Ray guns, like the Martians, had taken over, and Oldenburg couldn’t help seeing them everywhere.

Although, as da Vinci says, ‘it may appear trivial and even ludicrous’,(8) this apophenic gesture of (mis)labelling – stripped back to its most minimal, repetitive move in Ray Gun Wing – is key to understanding the fictive museum. Some symmetry countermands our vision of the bent wire, the chipped concrete, or the knotted rope, co-opting them into the museum’s method, generating a gestalt reading as-if ray gun. That this exercise in hacking the perceptible takes the form of a fictive museum display reveals a potential, something inherent in the seemingly simple act of arranging sets of things in vitrines, and even in the act of labelling – or naming – itself: the potential for institutional typology to generate a communicable insanity.(9) Categories, classes, types and kinds all exhibit what Manuel DeLanda describes in Assemblage Theory as ‘double determination’ or double causality: wholes require parts to exist at all (upward causality), but as wholes they produce generative effects, influencing the creation of their parts (downward causality).(10) The Ray Gun Wing extension of Oldenburg’s Mouse Museum is an echo-chamber tuned to specific resonances in the perceptible. A search engine, relentlessly pattern matching not to a Platonic ideal form– existing on some timeless and universal cosmic plane of virtuality – but to a ‘ray gun’ heuristic algorithm, a set of cognitive conditions subtly altered by every addition to the assemblage of things, events, performances, and people. An association assemblage is formed between one ‘ray gun’ and the next, between that pair and the group surrounding it, and the group in the adjacent case, the layout of the cases and their labelling, and the whole assemblage and its para-textual labelling– title, authorship, commentary – in the wider context of contemporary art.

Ray Gun Wing echoes an early museological method or technology of display: the ‘scopic regime’(11) of the typological style, still on show today in the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, and once common to both natural history and ethnology.(12) This is the nineteenth-century practice parodied by Gustave Flaubert’s ‘loony’(13) fictional museologists Bouvard and Pécuchet, who create a phallic wing of own their amateur antiquarian museum, where an assortment of perfectly ordinary things are rendered ‘indecent’ by taking them out of context, arranging them in such a way that their form, well, stands out.(14) The indecency lies in the collectors’ insistence on seeing the objects as-if phallic, and in infecting their visitors with this same disciplinary obsession. Both Flaubert’s inept pair and Claes Oldenburg share the same obsessional institutional move: they produce a vantage point from which certain things begin to look like the phallus or the ray gun. A latent, virtual property of the thing crystallises into perceptible significance, and cannot be unseen. These works expose the hidden workings of museum labelling – to borrow the words of William Gibson – like ‘discovering a patient whose nervous system is congenitally and fully exposed. It’s just so nakedly obvious’.(15) This is the glitch in the typological assemblage method that renders it at best an unstable, untrustworthy science, and at worst the vehicle by which ideology claws its way into the world.

In Douglas Crimp’s collection of essays On the Museum’s Ruins (1993) – moving from what he describes as a Foucauldian archaeology of the modernist museum to a theory of the postmodern(16) – Crimp describes this indecent phenomenon as a capacity of the artwork in the museum. ‘The institution’, Crimp argues, ‘does not exert its power only negatively – to remove the work of art from the praxis of social life – but positively – to produce a specific social relation between artwork and spectator’.(17) Discussing the obscenity trial surrounding Robert Mapplethorpe’s work, Crimp observes that artworks do not only ‘represent an object’, but, in doing so, produce ‘a subject effected by, constituted in representation through, those structures’.(18) For Crimp, the variety of critical responses to Mapplethorpe’s work primarily demonstrate how comfortable the critic was in occupying the position of a desiring homosexual subject. This observation relates to a key premise shared by psychoanalytic, queer, postcolonial and decolonial theories: in producing the Other, a discourse also produces the Self.(19) The entire structure of criticality – though ostensibly an analysis of the objects on display – therefore becomes suspect: ‘positions are occupied in the ensuing controversy as a function of our comfort in occupying [the subject position produced by the artwork]’.(20)

What visitors to these museums are experiencing is akin to the Baader- Meinhof phenomenon, also called the Frequency Illusion: upon learning a new word, for example, we suddenly begin to notice it everywhere.(21) The move into apophenia occurs when we assign a sense of significance to this sudden appearance. Why have we only begun to notice this now, or – when the agency is projected – why is this sign suddenly being presented to us? At this point, what Sigmund Freud called ‘an intellectual function in us which demands unity, connection,and intelligibility from any material’ can take over: ‘unable to establish a true connection, it does not hesitate to fabricate a false one’.(22) This is the paranoid apophenic style, which can readily accept anything – even the most unutterably horrifying or fantastical events – anything, that is, except the abhorrent void, the meaninglessness of sheer contingency. The entangled, semi-random causality chains and glitchy cognitive mechanisms of Shit Happens, snaking off endlessly into the dark. Emma Jane and Chris Fleming identify this as a feature of both sides of contemporary debates around conspiracy theories, of both the shockingly widespread patterns of paranoid belief, and the doughty academic screed devoted to debunking them.(23) ‘Far from representing a rupture with rationalism’, they claim, ‘we can see that conspiracy thinking is actually embarrassingly consistent with many ideals of the intellectual tradition that supposedly requires saving from conspiracy thinking’. Jane and Fleming quote Georg W. F. Hegel’s observation that one of the founding principles of certain kinds of philosophy(24) and theory is what we might term absolutist apophenia: ‘the thought that Reason rules the world, and that world history has therefore been rational in its course’.(25) In Deleuzian terms, this is not Reason per se, but Reason’s Image. The production of the apophenic subject position by Flaubert and Oldenburg’s museums is deeply unsettling; the visitor is confronted with their own uncertainty about where the ‘phallic significance’ can be located. If they don’t want to see ray guns, and ray guns don’t really exist, why are they seeing ray guns everywhere? After spending some time with Ray Gun Wing, investing our attention, we become caught up in kind of infectious knowing that operates – to accession an analogy from Ralph Rugoff – like a psychedelic. Writing on the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, Ralph Rugoff describes his experience of the exhibits having induced a kind of ‘stoned thinking’, a ‘minor paranoia’ that is ‘close to trance’, in which significance and resemblance seem to escape their vitrines, break the quarantine of the exhibit, and spread out into the world.(26) Once we have entered this wing of Oldenburg’s MouseMuseum, it has entered us; now some chance configuration of our senses with the world might present us with another ray gun exhibit, whether we intend it to or not. The meaning is operating in a way that has no respect for the individual subject, or our assessment of its veracity. It is self-assembling, a bootstrapped autopoiesis that has co-opted our cognitive pattern recognition architecture. The more we try to understand what is happening – the more we pay attention, look carefully, exercise our critical faculties – the more we start to see ray guns everywhere we go. Like Vladimir Nabokov’s protagonist in ‘A Visit to the Museum’ (1938), the curator has tricked us, and we have become lost among the vitrines.

Disoriented, our relief to have ‘escaped from the museum’s maze’ quickly turns into paranoia. ‘“No, no, in a minute I shall wake up,” I said aloud, and trembling, my heart pounding, I turned, walked on, stopped again… already I knew, irrevocably, where I was’.(27) We find ourselves exiles, inexplicably transported to a country gripped by vicious ideology, where nothing can be trusted. We may enter the fictive museum in New York, but exit, irrevocably, into Nug Yar.

  1. Claes Oldenburg, interviewed in ‘Claes Oldenburg | Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing’, (New York: MOMA, 2013), [accessed 31 July 2017].
  2. Yve-Alain Bois & Rosalind Krauss, Formless: A User’s Guide (Chicago, MA: Zone Books, 1997), p. 176.
  3. ‘If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see diverse combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms. With such walls and blends of different stones it comes about as it does with the sound of bells, in whose clanging you may discover every name and word that you can imagine.’ Leonardo da Vinci, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebooks, trans. Edward Curdy (New York: Empire State Book Company, 1923) p. 173,, [Accessed 1 August 2017].
  4. The English nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons,’ which lists what the bells of various London churches ‘sing’, was generated by a similar pareidolic method.
  5. Klaus Conrad, quoted in Sandra L. Hubscher, ‘Apophenia: Definition and Analysis’, Digital Bits Skeptic, ([4 Nov 2007), [accessed 1 Aug 2017].
  6. See Associated Press, ‘“Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese” Sells for $28,000’, NBC News (23 Nov 2004), [accessed 1 August 2017].
  7. Anna Munster, An Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience in Art and Technology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013), p. 5.
  8. Da Vinci, Notebooks, p. 173.
  9. ‘The totalising power of suspicion is a formidable weapon in the hands of a rhetorician like Freud, who has the skill to evoke in his readers an immediate sense of self-recognition. He asks that we reinterpret our actions in an ironic and suspicious light, but in return we experience a thrill of comprehensions. We derive a sense of mastery even in recognising the nature of our unfreedom. It is no slight to Freud’s rhetorical gifts, furthermore, to recognise that suspicion is the most contagious of all attitudes next to simple fear, and that paranoia is the one communicable mental disease.’ John C. Farrell, Freud’s Paranoid Quest: Psychoanalysis and Modern Suspicion (New York: NYU Press, 1998), p. 44.
  10. ‘Assemblages emerge from the interactions between their parts, but once an assemblage is in place it immediately starts acting as a source of limitations and opportunities for its components (downward causality) … Philosophically, this double determination is important: wholes emerge in a bottom-up way, depending causally on their components, but they have a top-down influence on them. The upward causality is necessary to make emergent properties immanent: an assemblage’s properties may be irreducible to its parts but that does not make them transcendent, since they would cease to exist if the parts stopped interacting with one another. The downward causality is needed to account for the fact that most assemblages are composed of parts that come into existence after the whole has emerged.’ Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage Theory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), p. 21).
  11. A large body of work exists on this subject. On the relation between racialized typology, progress, and ‘scopic regimes’ as material, spatial discourses, see, for example, Louise Tythacott, ‘Race on display: The “Melanian”, “Mongolian” and “Caucasian” galleries at Liverpool Museum (1896–1929),’ Early Popular Visual Culture 9.2 (2011): 131-146.
  12. Today, in institutions such as the British Museum, the typological style is repudiated as unscientific, and even conflated with cabinets of curiosity into a proto-museology, a precursor of real museum practice. This is discussed in the context of the fictive museum in Peter Le Couteur, ‘Fictive Museums and the Poetics of Mislabelling,’ Performance Research 20 (2015), 36–47 (pp. 38–40).
  13. Douglas Crimp, On the Museum’s Ruins (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), p. 51.
  14. ‘In fact, where menhirs are found, an obscene creed has persisted… In former times the towers, the pyramids, the wax tapers, the boundaries of roads, and even the trees had a phallic meaning. Bouvard and Pécuchet collected whipple-trees of carriages, legs of armchairs, bolts of cellars, apothecaries’ pestles. When people came to see them they would ask, “What do you think that is like?” and then they would confide the secret. And, if anyone uttered an exclamation, they would shrug their shoulders in pity… Immediately they showed the museum, beginning with the church window; but they longed to reach the new compartment – that of the phallus. The ecclesiastic stopped them, considering the exhibition indecent. He came to demand back his baptismal font. [They] begged it for another fortnight, the time necessary for taking a moulding of it.’ Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pécuchet: A Tragi-Comic Novel of Bourgeois Life (1881), pp. 103–4,, [accessed 1 August 2017].
  15. ‘Not to be. To self-identify as. However secretly. To imagine they [who purchase elite military clothing] may be mistaken for, or at least associated with. Virtually none of these products will ever be used for anything remotely like what they were designed for. Of course that’s true of most of the contents of your traditional army navy store. Whole universes of wistful male fantasy in those places. But the level of consumer motivation we’re seeing, the fact that these are often what amount to luxury goods, and priced accordingly. That’s new. I felt like a neurosurgeon, when this was brought to my attention, discovering a patient whose nervous system is congenitally and fully exposed. It’s just so nakedly obvious. Fantastic, really.’ William Gibson, Zero History (New York: Viking, 2011), p. 168.
  16. Crimp, Museum’s Ruins, pp. 13–19.
  17. Crimp, Museum’s Ruins, p. 27.
  18. Crimp, Museum’s Ruins, p. 25.
  19. This perspective is explored in detail by Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), which also draws on the discourse analysis of Michel Foucault. Said demonstrated that not only was the discourse of Orientalism ‘a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient… by which European culture was able to manage – and even produce – the Orient,’ but that ‘European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self.’ (Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Vintage Books, 1979), p. 3.) The Orientalist ethnology gallery functions as a kind of negative selfportrait; a representation of everything the Occident is not, and hence – borrowing a term from Jungian psychoanalysis – of the self’s own shadow.
  20. Crimp, Museum’s Ruins, p. 27.
  21. Once primed to recognise a new type, our cognitive architecture can’t help but identify it, and since this happens at a pre-conscious level, it produces the illusion that the type has become more frequent than before, or even appeared out of nowhere, when in fact it was there in sense data all along, but had never entered our consciousness, lying latent in the perceptible. Dubbed the Frequency Illusion by cognitive linguist Arnold Zwicky in 2006, the experience had already come to be widely known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon; a user on an internet message board in the mid-1990s linked the experience with their sudden awareness of the 1970s terrorist organisation, and the description became a meme. The term currently has both a Wikipedia entry and a dedicated Facebook page. That the term for this phenomenon has a memetic origin seems uncannily fitting. See Pacific Standard Staff, ‘There’s a name for that: the Baader-MeinhofPhenomenon,’ Pacific Standard (July 22, 2013), [accessed 16 November 2017].
  22. Sigmund Freud, Totemism and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, trans. James Strachey (Abingdon: Routledge, 2001[1913]), p. 111.
  23. Emma A. Jane & Chris Fleming, Modern Conspiracy:The Importance of Being Paranoid (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), p. 132.
  24. This lineage of philosophy continues to grapple bravely with the ontological problems posed by fiction. See, for instance, Alberto Voltolini, How Ficta Follow Fiction: A Syncretistic Account of Fictional Entities (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006).
  25. Georg W. F. Hegel, quoted in Jane & Fleming, Modern Conspiracy, p.123.
  26. ‘[E]xhibits slip from the factual to the metaphorical with disarming fluency… there’s no way of knowing how to read this material… exhibits unsettle us with information about information. The artefacts we’re supposed to be learning about start to dematerialise into a field of questions about display and the nature of knowledge… the general parameters of what constitutes an exhibit grow fuzzy. On coming out into the lobby, it’s easy to wonder whether the gift store is yet another exhibit… [T]he suspicion that these exhibits are metaphorical induces minor paranoia… [which] goes a long way toward shaking up habitual perceptions. In certain cases, the uncertainty that the MJT instils in a viewer can produce what I call Stoned Thinking… decoding cryptic messages and… previously unconsidered cosmic implications… something close to a trance.’ Ralph Rugoff, ‘Beyond Belief: The Museum as Metaphor’, in: Lynne Cooke & Peter Wollen, eds., Visual Display: Culture Beyond Appearances (New York: The New Press, 1995), pp. 68–81, (pp.72–3).
  27. Vladimir Nabokov, ‘A Visit to the Museum’, in Collected Stories (London: Penguin, 2010), pp. 315–325 (p.324).

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Vicky Kim

Vicky Kim, 2018
Vicky Kim, 2018

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Giorgos Kontis

The sunset is a time of the day that is a time of the night as well, both a beginning and an end, and a duplicity as well as an interval. A time that feels stale yet passes very quickly and one that is so often celebrated by poets and romantic lovers for its transcendence; its ability to be a no time and to make an affinity with something that might be beyond the mere everyday world. A bridge between two different worlds or simply included in just one, marking a significant moment in it, unveiling perhaps an aspect of it not often or easily seen. The sunset comes with calmness and quietness, the earth feels as slowing down for the night to come and for the day to make its account, a report of what has happened in it, of how things have so far gone and how they might proceed. The sea contributes to this as well as the wind, as both start at this time to be calmer and to get in a different function. A calmness that, along with the reduced light, creates an introverted feeling that is perhaps more prominent in the proceeding of the night when it becomes enhanced by the quietness of it. The night feels then as a different zone and this is, perhaps, what eventually makes the feeling of the sunset so distinctive, the fact that it is a no zone. It is a passage, an opening to different worlds and one even bearing a feeling of a mystical transcendence, and yet holding at the same time a sense of autonomy in what it is; an interval.

In suspension and with a sense of imminence, the interval might be figured as a coiled spring, seemingly in stale time and inertia, and with a pregnancy that doesn’t necessarily relate to the time before and after.

The interval is a threshold, a moment of stillness, a time with a distinctive sense of finitude that renders it a cluster within time with a paradoxical sense of autonomy. It is a time of anticipation and it is the feeling of waiting that becomes characteristic in it; an absence that becomes present and something yet to come that remains always elusive.

A self-contained time in between times, a no time that becomes the ground for a different function of things to take place. In the interval, in parenthetical time, things may be on hold, yet they are still able to move without necessarily the directness toward a specific purpose, and in a manner that becomes able to form its own figures; a mixture of boredom and fascination.

It is there where language seems to find a ground to function beside prosaic constraints.

Sideways is perhaps a way this could be approached; on the margin and with the flexibility this may offer, beside any constraint or heaviness of needing to follow a dominant, pre-set narrative. Seemingly purposeless and rather pointless, although without suggesting that they are meaningless or of less importance, with the pointless exactly being a part of their function and identity. Gestures and movements that are made and taken in a sense of stillness and inertia, become liberated from causality, with the elusiveness of things that move, occur and happen within the gaps; in stale time and with the flexibility offered by it.

It is through the gap that the void may become apparent, through something which because of its insignificance has the possibility to become able to destruct the gaze and turn the attention to something else. It is the minor, the boring and mundane that might become able to find us defenceless, ambushed and not expecting a surprise that, though seemingly minor, might reveal a different perspective and way of things to occur. An accident of small yet great significance, a moment that through its dullness manages to slip and become liberating and unconcealing.

The interval, a stale prolonged moment, perhaps of anticipation yet more likely of boredom, might be what can bring us close to the elusive. Through this sense of time that feels to be in a pause, both continuous and repetitive, unimportant and boring, we might be able for an instance to wonder what it is that we might be waiting for. What it is that remains to be answered.

Giorgos Kontis, Untitled, 2017, Encaustic on unprimed canvas, 150 x 100 cm.

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The Subtext of a Dream
Sharon Young

Taboos keenly felt, boundless wastage comes and goes. More sacred than man – carried away all night long on my bed, strives towards conception of fulfilment. Eaten my honeycomb, drunk my wine and my milk, my spice, my honey, my myrrh, its choice fruits dripping for me, against me. Mouth presses, eyes soften, lips turn – ruined. Electric current and breath control. Quaking – moves forward, move back against the backs of my knees, seizes me, pushes me, harsh, raw, flush, faint, blows. Human weakness. Full rein to the desires of the flesh leads towards destruction. Bursting out of the chrysalis – forbidden. Transgression transcends taboo. Violence would not suffice – yield only bad. Tripping along, whistles for those loosened at the waist. Cogent thought. State of fire, beat of sex and heart for which man’s language was so inadequate. All precautions are taken in vain – you find out too late. I forced her to kneel and then run. Turn our lives into a text. His paradis terrestre, his disport – o flessh – reaching me in unsuspected ways. She does not listen to me. He did not release her. Fingers locked, provoked by furtive contact. To scrutinise means to search; the blind search for life, laid open to anguish. Suddenly she surrenders. Offers herself. Becomes a woman.

Sharon Young
Sharon Young
Sharon Young
Sharon Young
Sharon Young

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“Masturbatory acts as manifestations of παρρησία” (1)
Despina Zacharopoulou

“παρρησί-α, ἡ, (πᾶς, ῥῆσις) A. outspokenness, frankness, freedom of speech, claimed by the Athenians as their privilege, “ἐλεύθεροι παρρησίᾳ θάλλοντες οἰκοῖεν πόλιν κλεινῶν Ἀθηνῶν” E.Hipp.422, cf. Ion672 ; “παρρησίᾳ φράζειν” Id.Ba.668 ; ἔχειν π. Id.Ph.391 ; “οὔσης παρρησίας” Ar. Th.541 ; “διδόναι π. τισί” Isoc.2.28 ; “ἐλευθερίας ἡ πόλις μεστὴ καὶ π. γίγνεται” Pl.R.557b ; “τἀληθῆ μετὰ παρρησίας ἐρῶ” D.6.31 ; “τὴν ὑπὲρ τῶν δικαίων π. ἀποδόμενος” Din.2.1 ; δημοκρατίας οὔσης οὐκ ἔστι π. Isoc.8.14 ; “π. καὶ ἰσηγορία καὶ δημοκρατία” Plb.2.38.6 ; περὶ παρρησίας, title of work by Philodemus. 2. in bad sense, licence of tongue, ἡ εἰς τοὺς θεοὺς π. Isoc.11.40, cf. Pl.Phdr.240e, Cic. Att.1.16.8. 3. freedom of action, Aristaenet.2.7 ; π. ζωῆς καὶ θανάτου power of life and death, Vett. Val.6.3,al. ; licence, permission, Just. Nov.1.1.1 ; παρρησίᾳ ἐκτέμνεται τὸ δέρμα without fear, Aët.15.8 ; ἤγαγον ὑμᾶς μετὰ παρρησίας openly, LXXLe.26.13. 4. liberality, lavishness, κεκόσμηκε τὸν αὑτοῦ βίον τῇ καλλίστῃ π. OGI323.10 (Pergam., ii B.C.); “ἐπὶ τῇ . . τῶν καμάτων καὶ πάσης ἐπιμελείας παρρησίᾳ” IG5(1).547 (Sparta, iii A.D.) ; = copia, Gloss.”(2)

The present text aims to investigate the theme of παρρησία, after asking the question of whether masturbation can generate/be a parrhesiastic moment. Παρρησία means the courage of truth, the courage of leading a true life, after Michel Foucault’s work, The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II.(3)

Following from the question of παρρησία, further questions are raised: a) What is it that makes a specific act a manifestation of παρρησία and not just a modality of truth? b) What is a true life? c) Why is it important to discuss these topics in a School of Fine Arts & Humanities? d) What makes them important for one’s artistic practice right here and right now?

The reason why I am bringing forward questions revolving around παρρησία, is directly related to my research and performance practice entitled Spatium Monstrorum. Always negotiating the boundary, or even more the thickness of boundaries, the private and the public, the artist and the audience, life and art, I am looking for a kind of entanglement taking place, or even more creating space, or even more creating a SPATIUM right here and right now, during my encounter with the audience, as we are all co-created during this encounter, instead of entering the work as pre-existing entities.(4)

What I am investigating is how masturbation might be a manifestation of παρρησία, while one is being witnessed (though not necessarily), thus exiting the realm of the solitary and entering that of the encounter and of entanglement. What I want to indicate is how this move may point towards the importance of the sexual and the sensuous body in the artistic practice. This argument is, of course, influenced by and follows the Radical Matter paradigm, conceived by my Supervisor Professor Johnny Golding. Following from Professor Golding’s move, I would like to argue that incorporating the sexual and the sensuous in the artistic practice, is all about someone finding and fabricating their Body without Organs, that would allow them to build and distribute intensities.(5) I strongly believe that without these kinds of intensities, a work of art becomes nothing more than a dead body. It doesn’t mean that we have to show sexual or explicit imagery. It is not about representation. It is about the way that one enters into an encounter with their work and others. In that sense, παρρησία is not a form of preexisting knowledge of truth that someone expresses, passes on or reveals to others, who thus function as a passive audience. Παρρησία is the encounter itself, or maybe it is what emerges through a certain kind of encounter that requires a certain kind of protocols among the parties involved, a certain kind of risk and a certain kind of care. And this argument inevitably raises the question: what are the parties involved in the parrhesiastic pact? And is παρρησία thus exercised horizontally or vertically? Or is it the intersection of both?

Παρρησία being the courage of truth raises the question of what the truth is, or even more particularly παρρησία being an indication of the true life, raises the question of what a true life is. As already briefly mentioned, I would argue that a true life is a life of inhabiting or to be more precise a be[com]ing a kind of surface:

“There is no need to begin with transgression, we must go immediately to the very limits of cruelty, perform the dissection of polymorphous perversion, spread out the immense membrane of the libidinal ‘body’ which is quite different to a frame. It is made from the most heterogeneous textures, bone, epithelium, sheets to write on, charged atmospheres, swords, glass cases, peoples, grasses, canvases to paint. All these zones are joined end to end in a band which has no back to it, a Moebius band which interests us not because it is closed, but because it is one-sided […]”(6)

And this surface seems not foreign to one’s Body without Organs (BwO). And this BwO is not a solitary move, but it involves others as well, it produces and allows intensities to pass and circulate, distributes them in a SPATIUM, thus being totally sexual and sensuous.

“A BwO is made in such a way that it can be occupied, populated only by intensities. Only intensities pass and circulate. Still the BwO is not a scene, a place or even a support upon which something comes to pass. It has nothing to do with phantasy, there is nothing to interpret. The BwO causes intensities to pass; it produces and distributes them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking extension. It is not space nor is it in space; it is matter that occupies space to a given degree – to the degree corresponding to the intensities produced.”(7)

My case study is the moment of masturbation; a moment which is totally real, raw and sexual. My point of departure is the moment that I was ordered to masturbate specific times per week, document the action and send the videos to the person who ordered me to do so. The moment that I laid on the bed to masturbate for the first time while following the orders that I was given and under the gaze of the camera, I felt a huge resistance. How can the given structure be destroyed and replaced by a new one? It is not about changing one’s skin. It is about transubstantiating. I try to construct a fantasy according to the orders that I have. I don’t force myself, it comes to me like breathing. The struggle of accomplishing this task, under the camera’s gaze, of being in the moment, of creating this kind of spookyaction- at-a-distance (borrowing Einstein’s words) non-solitary encounter, is manifested in my whole body. “[G]o back to the body […], which is where all the splits in Western Culture occur.”(8)

My masturbation is one of the many entanglements that I experience. And this happens – but not only – while I am being witnessed. My BwO is a palpable fragile surface. I am that surface. She is that surface, that allows me to breathe.

At this point, it would be necessary to go to Foucault’s lectures on the Courage of Truth and discuss how Diogenes used public masturbation as a form of exercising παρρησία. While I am not arguing that my experience is the same as that of Diogenes, as described by Foucault, it is nevertheless totally connected to it. Neither am I arguing that we should all start masturbating in public. What I want to indicate is how masturbation can also be other things than a solitary pleasure, while being a manifestation of the courage of living a true life.

“This blaze of the naturalness which scandalizes, which transforms into scandal the non-concealment of existence limited by traditional propriety, manifests itself in the famous Cynic behavior. Diogenes ate in public, which was not easily accepted in traditional Greece. In particular, Diogenes masturbated in public. […] Applying the principle of non-concealment literally, Cynicism explodes the code of propriety with which this principle remained, implicitly or explicitly, associated. This is the shameless life, the life in anaideia (the brazen life). The philosophical life thus dramatized by the Cynics deploys the general theme of nonconcealment but frees it from all the conventional principles. As a result, the philosophical life appears as radically other than all other forms of life.”(9)

Borrowing René Guénon’s book title Le Symbolisme de la Croix, I would like to finish this text with a small comment on the horizontal and the vertical exercise of παρρησία in the two aforementioned case studies. Michel Foucault makes a very important distinction between the Cynic asceticism and the Christian asceticism as forms of exercising παρρησία:

“The second major difference is of a completely different order. This concerns the importance that Christianity, and only Christianity gives to something which is not found in either Cynicism or Platonism. This is the principle of obedience, in the broad sense of the term. Obedience to God conceived of as the master (the despotes) whose slave, whose servant one is; obedience to His will which has, at the same time, the form of the law; obedience finally to those who represent the despotes (the lord and master) and who receive an authority from Him to which one must submit completely.”(10)

“So parrhesia will no longer be situated, if you like, on the axis of the individual’s relations to others, of the person with courage vis-à-vis those who are mistaken. It is now situated on the vertical axis of a relation to God in which the soul is, on the one hand, transparent and opens itself to God and, on the other, rises up to Him.”(11)

In that sense Diogenes’ case and mine seem to differentiate also because of the direction towards which παρρησία is exercised during the masturbatory acts performed. The former being a horizontal exercise of παρρησία (following the cynic form of life) and the latter being an intersection of both the horizontal and the vertical one, expressing in a sense a Christian view on παρρησία.

Despina Zacharopoulou
Performance Artist & 3rd year Ph.D. student in Fine Art Supervised by Prof. J. Golding & Prof. N. Rolfe
Supported by the Onassis Foundation Scholarship

Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2007.
Deleuze, Gilles, & Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Transl. by Brian Massumi. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Foucault, Michel. The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II, Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984. Trans. by Graham Burchell. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011.
Jones, Amelia. Body Art – Performing the subject. University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
Liddell, H. G., & R.Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented by Sir H.S. Jones, with the assistance of. R.McKenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. Libidinal Economy. Trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993 [1974].

1. Text initially presented in the context of the Solitary Pleasures Symposium, convened by Dr. Chantal Faust and Jo Pickering, AcrossCHS 2018 College- Wide Symposia, Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 7 February 2018.
2. H. G. Liddell. & R.Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, revised and augmented by Sir H. S. Jones, with the assistance of R. McKenzie (Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940).
3. Michel Foucault. The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II, Lectures at the Collège de France 1983- 1984, trans. by Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011). Text indicated to me by my Supervisor Professor Johnny Golding. This was also the main text that the RCA Entanglement Research Group was looking at for the academic year 2017-18, led by Prof. J. Golding.
4. I am viewing the term ‘monstrous’ after the etymological definition of the word ‘monster’, deriving from the latin verb ‘monstrare’ meaning: to show, to exhibit, to reveal. Entanglement is a term used in quantum physics, which explains that entities don’t pre-exist as such but are co-created during their encounters and dependences. I am borrowing the term ‘entanglement’, as indicated to me by Prof. J. Golding: Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2007).
5. I am borrowing the term Body without Organs (BwO) from Deleuze & Guattari: Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, transl. by Brian Massumi (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).
6. Jean-Francois Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 1993, 2.
7. Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, transl. by Brian Massumi (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 177-8.
8. Carolee Schneeman, Carolee Schneeman: Up to and including her limits. In: Amelia Jones, Body Art – Performing the subject (University of Minnesota Press, 1998).
9. Michel Foucault. The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II, Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984, trans. by Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave- Macmillan, 2011), 254-5.
10. Ibid., 320.
11. Ibid., 326-7. 39

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Implicit in virtuosity
Catharine Cary

To scrutinise the practice of embodied improvisation — to understand what it is, how we do it, how it works and who it touches — Catharine Cary is organising a series of research conversations between experienced improvising performers and Royal College of Art tutors.

The first conversation took place on April 30, 2018 in room 716 in the Darwin Building of RCA’s Kensington Campus, between Andrew Morrish and RCA Visiting Tutor Anat Ben-David, in the presence of 20 RCA students. It was followed by a short workshop.

This article contains fleshy excerpts of a 3-hour conversation of words and movement.


Anat Ben-David: I’ve got this idea. What do you think about the idea?

Andrew Morrish: Well, I need to make it clear that I’m talking about a particular approach to a particular art form. It’s not ideas in general, it’s ideas in relationship to improvisational performance. I first started to improvise when I was 31, so I had 31 years of ideas to work with. For a few years I had always started with an idea and I thought, “this improvising is easy… I’ll just start with an idea.” And then one beautiful day I couldn’t think of an idea. I think that verb is really interesting… I couldn’t think of an idea. I was a bit ashamed of myself as I had been using ideas, but I had never given any thought to where they came from. I had been treating them like they were a fundamental unit. As if nothing smaller than an idea existed. Much like the physicists thinking about fundamental particles in the last century. For a long time, atoms were assumed to be the smallest unit possible. Gradually, the possibility of smaller units was speculated, and then they were finding totally mystical units inside the suddenly big and clumsy atom.

I had to think about where ideas come from. Are there more fundamental units within the structure of an idea? Because I worked with young children a lot in the eighties I knew that we are not born thinking. When we are born, we are just a bundle of sensation noticing devices. I decided that the fundamental units I am working with are sensations. What happens is my body receives information from the outside world, this gets fed into my brain and the brain says, “I can turn that into an idea.”

In a general sense, an idea or concept is also a way of “knowing” what something is. This “knowledge” means I don’t need to attend to it anymore. As the brain matures it can begin to manipulate the ideas inside the brain. The brain begins to believe that the WHOLE process happens in the brain. The truth is that it all happens because of the stimulation of the brain through sensation.

ABD: This is Andrew Morrish, by the way, I realise we did not do an introduction, we just went into the flow. Andrew, what kind of improvisation can become an art practice?

AM: My premise for my performing is that I don’t have a plan for the content before I perform. I don’t want to be coy about this, there are lots of things I do know, i.e. when it’s going to be or where it’s going to be. I usually think about what I’m going to wear, and a decision has been made about how long it will be. Sometimes I have given it a title, which is an indulgence, I just give it a title because it’s fun, I don’t allow the title to consciously influence what I do in anyway. If you accept my initial premise, then it’s interesting to ask, what kind of art can you expect? This question helps me stay in, and trust, the improvisational process. There are lots of more modified positions in relationship to prior knowledge of the content, and I know I take a fairly purist position.

One of the implications of this decision is that the content is emerging while the audience is watching me. As a result, I know there is something happening between me and the audience, and I am being shaped and formed by them. This doesn’t mean I ask them for ideas, it’s not that kind of improvisation. In the tradition of theatre improv often the audience is asked to provide starting points in some form. In my form, it’s not that direct, but I believe that in the interaction there’s a lot of exchange of information. Indeed, just the fact that they are watching changes me.


Student: Would you say that this is collaborative?

AM: Yes, it is a duet. It’s collaborative and it’s ephemeral. I am trying to make something that works in this moment between me and this audience. It’s very specific.

ABD: And the skill involved in improvising is something that one would then hone down, and later decide what the output will be.

AM: I think every art form has an implicit virtuosity. And behind the implicit virtuosity you will find the traditional values embedded. Of course, we live in a time when many artists want to question or interrogate these embedded values of distinct art forms. But I would say that in improvisation the implicit virtuosity is working with your attention.

ABD: And there is skill involved?

AM: Yes, there is in every virtuosity.

ABD: You can become a really good improviser?

AM: Yes, you can become really good improviser. I would say I am a good improviser, but I don’t think that is much to brag about because I have been doing it for 37 years and I should be, at least, “good” at it by now!

ABD: I think if you do something for long time, you are good at it.

AM: Yes.


AM: Implicit in improvisation is working with one’s attention, i.e. noticing what you notice. Having the skill of shaping and forming from that attention is the next cycle. Another cycle is the structuring of the material over a period of time. My current preferred length is 50- to 55-minute solos. I feel this both gives me time to structure the material and to allow the structure of the material to emerge.

ABD: While you’re doing it?

AM: Yes, while you’re doing it. No material is pre-planned or cued. I experience it as an unfolding. That gets much more complicated if you have another person working with you or if you have a lot of technical things set up in the space. In addition, having pre-set technical elements can possibly mean that you begin to accidentally slip into the “written” or “set” forms. I think that could also be great but, the fact is, I want my art to be about the shaping and the forming and the decisions I make whilst the audience is watching. The decisions I make therefore reveal me as an artist. So, it’s suddenly very simple.


ABD: I am being selfish now and I want to ask about speech in improvisation.

AM: Yes, please ask me about speech in improvisation. I’d love that.

ABD: I find that speech in improvisation is perhaps the hardest thing to do and to watch. We tend to be structured in the way we speak, maybe that’s why words sound estranged in the process of improvisation. Catharine and I had a discussion after a session, about how speech arrives. Catharine is very good at it.

AM: Yes, she is.

ABD: Catharine said that her speech is almost involuntary. I’m so jealous. I want it to just come out like that — detached from consciousness. We have spoken about Tourette’s Syndrome and having no control over our production of language. We also spoke about Oliver Sacks’ book, The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. So, how do you do it so that the speech is not composed?

AM: I also love that an improvisation will not be what you wanted it to be. It feels like the improvisation is a little bit rebellious sometimes.

ABD: When you improvise, do you think “I’m going to say this thing” or do the words just come out?

AM: Both ways. If I know what I’m going to say, then the interesting questions become: when am I going to say it and how am I going to say it? And the other important question is: will I keep listening to myself when I speak? Normally, when I speak I don’t listen; my brain is on autopilot. When I am performing I am listening, so the gaps that appear in my speaking can become interesting for me. In other frameworks these gaps might be called mistakes, but in improvisation, they are gifts. I once said the word… I was just talking, and I said, “it’s very excremental.” Immediately my brain knew it was a new word that means “things get shittier in smaller and smaller steps.” This is really exciting but it’s also a “mistake.” In another framework, e.g. acting, if the script says “incremental” then “excremental” is wrong and you have to fix this mistake. In improvisation you say “wow” as you know that your brain has expanded in that moment. I also think that excremental is a word that we need right now. I think we live in excremental times (laughter). In this process, by noticing/listening to yourself spaces start to open out as you break down the hegemony of unquestioned units of meaning.

Student: So that improvisation works as an interruption within the ordinary use of the word?

AM: YES YES YES, I would definitely say that a huge skill base within improvisation tools is interruption. The definition I am using in my teaching for speaking poetically is: “don’t speak normally.” Once you interfere with what “normal” speech is for you, it immediately becomes more poetic. If I just go a little bit slower, that’s more poetic. Or I can go faster, I can speak higher, I can speak lower, I can leave a gap, put in a new word that I wasn’t expecting, I can change the palette of words that I’m using. Use words to paint a picture in someone’s imagination, choose words that paint pictures rather than those that make you think about what I am saying. All these kinds of things are connected to interrupting your own decision-making.

Student: But this can still be a catalyst for more information, because you are kind of talking about words as brushstrokes or as gifts?


AM: Language is definitely about meaning, but it’s also possible to give yourself permission to be surprised by what you say. Why accept that the thought you had five seconds ago is the one you want to talk to the audience about? At the same time, I don’t think the kind of performing I do is about giving people information, it’s about a shared experience. It’s about the anthropology of why theatre exists. I have a low-level theory about how theatre started. Most of my theories are low-level. A low-level theory does not have much evidence to support it, it is just something I have made up to make my work more plausible. I imagine that theatre and performance were created with a lot of cold frightened people sitting around a fire. Animals were making noises in the dark. Then, someone from the group says, “Do you remember when…” It began as an act of community to give people enough courage to get through the night. That’s what theatre is about for me. It’s about that shared moment and then somebody chooses to step out of the group and say something which somehow the group can be with that says the sun will come up tomorrow. In the end, I think that it’s about my ability to break down my material into smaller and smaller units. The sensations are remarkable and potent units of the body.


ABD: You have talked about pleasure in the work.

AM: I usually speak about pleasure and ask my students to talk about what they enjoy as a means of processing their experiences in my workshop. I could also say “interest.” We could talk about what is interesting. But I think that this word implies thinking is required. Asking them to talk about pleasure is implicitly asking them to describe a sensation.

ABD: You should do a course about pleasure.

AM: Yes, great idea. Pleasure in a sensation. When you put chocolate in your mouth, you do not say “what an interesting concept.” No, when you put chocolate in your mouth and you say “Mmmm…” That’s what pleasure is.

Student: What kinds of things are detrimental to improvisation or what state of mind should you be in?

AM: I believe that for all art forms it is really helpful to have a clear idea of the paradigm you’re in. Sometimes I see people who think they are improvising but they have a whole heap of other paradigms at the same time. Of course, this is fine, hybridity is very interesting and necessary. But I think it is good to be clear about what paradigm you are in. This will always help you to evaluate what happens. That’s how you can know if excremental is a “mistake” or a “gem.”

Andrew Morrish has been working in Performance Improvisation since 1982 when he first met Al Wunder in Melbourne, Australia. In 1987 he cofounded the improvisational movement theatre duet: ‘Trotman and Morrish’ with Peter Trotman. Andrew performs and teaches extensively in Europe and Australia. From 2008 to 2013 he was a Visiting Research Fellow in the Drama Division at Huddersfield University. In 2016 he was awarded the Dance Fellowship of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Primarily, Anat Ben-David’s interest lies in the relationship between different elements occurring in an event where; text, sound and digital image, are mediated through improvisation and performance. She is a Visiting Tutor in Sculpture and Fashion Design at the Royal College of Art.

Catharine Cary is a first year MPhil/PhD in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art under the supervision of Dr. Mel Jordan.

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Kristina Horne

Kristina Horne, A Former Agent, 2018.
Kristina Horne, A Decent Corpse, 2018.
Kristina Horne, Existential Ocular, 2018.

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Selfies Plural in Time and Space ~
Emma Szewczak-Harris

Selfie, as both product and peddler in the new social media currency, is a necessarily fitful and contingent concept. As is fitting in our fast-paced electronic assemblyline age (symptomatic of David Harvey’s post-Fordist space/time compression, best described by Johnny Golding’s ana- Materialism) the Selfie, as a phenomenon, is as new as it is big.(1) The term supposedly originates from Australian youth slang – its precise etymology hotly debated – in the early 2000’s, predating the mainstream ‘Selfie explosion’ of the following decade. Self photographs, predominately taken in bedroom and bathroom mirrors, were a key feature of early networking sites such as Myspace. With the gradual exodus from Myspace onto Facebook in the mid-2000s, the quality and variation of the Selfie began to expand, along with a vast broadening of the social media user demographic. Technology companies fought hard to advance the upward trend of the proliferation of personal images online. A breakthrough came in 2010 when Apple released the first forwardfacing Smartphone camera, the iPhone4 – the same year of Instagram’s release, and Twitter’s acquisition of phone application developer Atebits that enabled users to access YouTube, Facebook and Flickr content via the Twitter platform. In the years that followed, mobile social media grew and grew. The Oxford English dictionary named the Selfie its 2013 word of the year and the monopod (or ‘Selfie Stick’) was listed as one of Time Magazine’s Greatest Inventions of 2014. Late 2013 saw the circulation of a number of high-profile ‘Celebrity Selfies’ (Ellen Degeneres’ Oscars Selfie; David Cameron’s Selfie with Barack Obama and Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial; numerous Selfies in Rome of teenagers posing with Pope Francis, etc.) that arguably influenced the 500% increase in Twitter mentions of ‘Selfie’, and led to the declaration across social media of 2014 as ‘the Year of the Selfie’.(2) Today, Twitter’s third most liked and second most retweeted image is Ellen Degeneres’ Oscars Selfie, and Instagram currently has 342,976,446 images listed under the term ‘Selfie’, making it the site’s most popular hashtag.(3)

Such cultural pervasiveness can imply a certain level of comprehension, yet there is much dispute over the value, meaning and status of this mode of image-making. When the Oxford English Dictionary assimilated the term into the canon, it described the Selfie as a ‘photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a Smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’.(4)

What precisely characterises the Selfie: the fact that it is a self-portrait, that it is taken by a Smartphone, or that it is uploaded to social media? Does the Selfie have to be all of these things, or just one of them? According to Curator Arpad Kovacs, it is not necessarily any of them. Instead, what characterises the Selfie is:

[its] inherently replaceable and even disposable quality. If after taking a picture of oneself the results are unsatisfactory, it is easily forgotten and replaced by a new picture. The self-portrait, whether it is a carefully composed study or created in haste, often contains more decisions than could be easily erased. Calling a self-portrait by Rembrandt a selfie is not only anachronistic, it also negates the carefully calculated set of decisions that created the rendering.(5)

He concludes, ‘Qualities like medium specificity, deeply rooted histories, and traditions (or lack thereof) that define [the Selfie and the self-portrait] only superficially differentiate the two’.(6) Annelisa Stephan of The Getty agrees. She describes Selfies as a ‘mode of conversation, inherently contextual and often ephemeral’.(7)

The medium does not define the Selfie, but rather its process. Whilst there is much descriptive ambiguity, most theorists agree that it is this process that marks out – and shapes how we read – the Selfie. For Daniel Rubinstein, this relates to a broader crisis in our contemporary understanding of photographic representation. ‘The locus of political agency and of cultural relevance’, he writes, ‘has shifted from the object – as visually arresting as it might be – to the processes that re(produce) and distribute the object’.(8)

Rubinstein asks us to revise our classical modes of thinking about the photographic image in the new age of networks. He argues that representational logic of the Enlightenment era – on which most critical thought on photography is based – now fails to help us make sense of radically new systems of computational image-making. For Rubinstein, our ‘algorithmic photography’ explodes the old visual topographies of the nonuniversally- digital world. It is therefore useless and anachronistic to apply to our new photography the same schemes, and equally useless to hold on to the old assumptions of representation. Better understanding the Selfie, for Rubinstein, is a sure path to more clearly understanding all representation – including photographic, including political (not that the two are always distinct) in the digital, or ana-materialist, age. The Selfie question is the aesthetic question of our time.(9)


It is undeniable that the Selfie is a form of self-portrait; it is a representation of the self, just like other representations of the self in portraiture and fine art. However, the aim and meaning of representation itself has changed. Representation moves away from interpretation (not least because of the assumed objectivity, or ‘documentary status’, of photographic techniques) whilst simultaneously not providing us with anything assumed as ‘fixed’. This is because – as Kovacs intimates – the medium, tradition and history of the image (anything that would have formerly gestured towards interpretation) is subservient in the Selfie, to its process. As Rubinstein states, the Selfie ‘requires that we consider its technique on the same level as its content’.(10) It logically follows that ‘the ethics of the selfie is located not in its subject but in the interrelated and unresolved tension between the subject and the techniques, processes and institutions by which the subject is coming into being’.(11)

Is the subject of the Selfie the Selfie itself? At least in part. Selfie is a genre characterised by copy. It is ephemeral, in that it is disposable. The taker assembles identities, or meanings, that are gathered – only for a moment. The Selfie is about the Selfie taker as Selfie taker, in as much as it can ever be about the Selfie taker at all. In turn, the experience of viewing a Selfie is necessarily led by a dynamic interplay of compositional forces – something, perhaps, to do with scale, mass and time.

In the Selfie we encounter no straightforward capturing of event, and no straightforward relationship to any specific subject. No Selfie is unconnected from any other Selfie. Selfies constitute a body, a collective, of self-creating and upending content. Selfies almost always if not always constitute an archive of other Selfies – archives of other moments, which shed light on one another. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari conceive of ‘the time of the event’ as ‘no longer time that exists between two instants’ but a ‘meanwhile’ – an in between time – the still of a film – that has its own meaning.(12) The Selfie: an index of all our meanwhile time. But what happens when our intimate images are revealed to be intercultural narrative?

The conversation regresses.
The conversation continues.

1. See: Harvey, David (1991) The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. London: Wiley- Blackwell; Golding, Johnny (2012) ‘Ana-materialism and the Pineal Eye: Becoming mouth-breast (or visual arts after Descartes, Bataille, Butler, Deleuze and Synthia with an ‘s’)’ in Philosophy of Photography, 3 (1). pp. 99-120.

2. Twitter Blog (2014) ‘2014: The Year on Twitter’ in The Twitter Blog. Retrieved from en-gb/2014/2014-the-yearon- twitter.

3. As of Friday 4th May 2018, 07.16 GMT.

4. Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from: https://en.oxforddictionaries. com/definition/selfie.

5. Riefe, Jordan (2015) ‘Getty’s In-Focus’ in The Guardian. Retrieved from: https:// artanddesign/2015/jan/02/ getty-museum-in-focusexhibition- birth-middle-class.

6. Ibid.

7. Stephan, Annelisa (2015) ‘What’s the Difference Between A Selfie and a Self-Portrait?’ in The Iris. Retrieved from: http://blogs. between-a-selfieand- a-self-portrait/.

8. Rubinstein, Daniel (2015) ‘What is 21st Century Photography?’ in The Photographer’s Gallery Blog. Retrieved from: https:// thephotographersgalleryblog. 21st-century-photography/.

9. See Rubinstein, Daniel (2015) ‘Gift of the Selfie’ in Ego Update. Retrieved from: https://www.academia. edu/15718099/Gift_of_the_ Selfie.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix (1994) What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchill. London: Verso Books. 53

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Adam J B Walker
Some journeys made while on a residency in Kyiv, Ukraine in September 2017 at a cost of 1,656 Hryvnia (keep the change).

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Gareth Proskourine-Barnett

<Conc(re)te> is an open-access web resource for architects, designers, concrete enthusiasts and brutalist utopians. This digital archive is constructed from concrete debris from the, now demolished, Birmingham Central Library(1). Fragments of the concrete building are available as mutant copies to download, re-use and re-purpose, creating the opportunity to rethink our relationship to the materials of our constructed world(s) and the narratives imbedded within them.

We are reassuringly told that the future of archeology lies in 3D scanning and printing technologies. Ancient monuments can now be brought back from the dead and presented to enthusiastic audiences across the globe. In recent years, numerous initiatives have been developed to facilitate the preservation of our cultural heritage. It is a heritage under siege from extremists, global weather shifts and natural disasters, our history has never been so fragile. The Institute of Digital Archaeology describes their use of new technology as representing “the natural evolution of classical archaeology, permitting researchers to look at ancient objects in entirely new ways — to uncover hidden inscriptions, invisible paint lines, the faintest palimpsests — and to share these discoveries with the world”. But what happens if we were to use these technologies to examine the ruins of our recent history, could we, for example, reconstruct Brutalist Architecture?

Would it be possible to tell the difference between real concrete and a 3D printed reproduction? Perhaps the question we should be asking is – does it even matter anymore? When concrete enters into the screen it is re-born. Liberated from its own failed history, it is free to acquire an alternative future. It is compressed and downloaded until it loses information, it becomes unstable; it is vibrant matter. It becomes entangled in a complex network of duplications, distorting and destabilising the original; shifting our understanding of truth and reality – if we can still recognise reality.

1. The Birmingham Central Library opened to the public in 1974 and was designed by the architect John Madin. Madin’s library was part of an historic period when Birmingham was undergoing a previous age of renewal. It embraced an urban ideology of a brave new world, one dominated by the car. At the time it resonated with the city’s legacy of progress, innovation and construction – Birmingham’s motto is Forward. The Central Library was considered an impressive example of Brutalist architecture and was a centre point for this age of renewal, forming part of a post-war utopian redesign of the civic centre that was to remain only semi completed due to imposed budget cuts. English Heritage applied for listed status to be granted to the Central Library in 2002 and 2007, on both occasions these applications were rejected by the Minister for Culture following lobbying from Birmingham City Council. This rejection was unprecedented. In 2011 the council successfully applied for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing which prevented any new applications to have the building granted listed status for the succeeding five years. In 2016 and just weeks before that certificate was due to expire, demolition began on Madin’s brutalist ziggurat and its surrounding structures. The library was just 42 years old. It was not an old building; it was not in a state of disrepair and yet it was still demolished.

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Disney at the Ashmolean
Dorothy Armstrong

The textile gallery at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford contains a personsized glass box in the centre of the space. Floating in it is what appears at first glance to be a Disney dressing-up outfit, stiff, gauzy, multi-layered, shiny, complete with the shoes, wands and rings that are enticingly packaged with princess costumes targeted at the under-10s.

This twilit space on the lower ground floor of the Ashmolean has four presiding spirits. The first is Professor Percy Newberry (1868-1948). His many embroidered and block-printed fragments, excavated from the mediaeval middens of Fustat in old Cairo, physically root the collection in a set of waist-high glass cabinets. Newberry is emblematic of the association between Oxford and the development of scientific archaeology, in particular the careful mapping of strata and context developed by William Flinders Petrie, with whom he worked, as distinct from both the treasure hunt of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, and the wishfulfilment of Arthur Evans’ reconstruction of Knossos.(1) Newberry’s fragments offer a typology of embroidery and printing styles and processes.

The second presiding spirit is that of Robert Shaw (1839-1879), an early British visitor to Central Asia. The costume gifted to Shaw by Yakub Beg, the ruler of the Central Asian territories with whom he wished to trade in tea, diplomatic alliances and intelligence, dominates one long wall of the gallery.(2) The intricate dark purple, grey and black ikat kaftans with brilliant linings, carved and inlaid leather boots, and embroidered hats have a vivid grandeur. Central Asian khans traditionally invested honoured guests with the fine clothes worn by their own grandees, to create tribal bonds.(3) On his return home, Shaw had himself photographed wearing his robes in an Orientalist setting, and in the 1870s gave them to the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A, one of the emerging institutions celebrating Britain’s Imperial reach. From there they made their way in 1881 to Oxford.(4)

Newberry and Shaw exemplify the nexus of colonialism, global trade, philanthropy and the late 19th and early 20th century intellectual program which brought not only the Ashmolean, but many of the UK’s museums into being. The third presiding spirit of this twilit textile world is that of Dr. Ruth Barnes, the curator who put together the textile gallery as part of the Ashmolean’s acclaimed restoration in 2009.(5) Dr. Barnes embodied there a modern scholarly model for the study of textiles and dress, which included investigation of craft methodologies, the recognition of the political, social, economic and gender implications of textiles and dress, and detailed investigation of the historical context of the museum’s holdings.

The final presiding spirit is the personsized glass box containing the Disney dressing-up costume. It holds the robes worn by T. E. Lawrence during his involvement with the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire between 1916 and 1918.(6) In the box is a cream silk floorlength shirt, over which hang headdress and robes of translucent gold and red silk gauze, red and gold silk ropes to keep the headdress in place, intricately braided sandals, an ornate scimitar, and the absolute requirement of the Disney costume, a large ring with a sparkling stone; in this case a white sapphire (figure 1). It is usually crowded around with visitors.

The label provided by the museum tells us three things: what the garments are made of and their Arabic names; that they are on loan from All Souls College, the locus of exceptionalism in Oxford; and that Lawrence in his account of the Arab Revolt, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, tells us he wore them at the suggestion of Emir Faisal, who led the Arabs against the Ottoman Empire.

Suddenly Feisal asked me if I would wear Arab clothes like his own while in the camp… fitting me out in splendid white silk and gold-embroidered wedding garments which had been sent to Feisal lately (was it a hint?) by his great-aunt in Mecca.7

Figure 1: T. E. Lawrence’s Arab Robes from the period of the Arab Revolt 1916-1918. Author’s photograph: Ashmolean Museum Oxford, accession number L1077.1-6

Lawrence’s robes too are part of the gifting tradition of West and Central Asia, but the costume in the glass box resonates in a different way to the Shaw costumes, even without the ambiguous eroticism and suggestion of ritual in Lawrence’s description. The costume is even more distinct from the technocracy of the Newberry fragments, or the scholarly interests Ruth Barnes embedded in the gallery. It is an example of an object with an aura so strong that it usurps a gallery’s explicit programme.(7)

Whilst a quiet corner of the textile gallery explains the techniques of ikat and permits a beginner’s fumbling attempts at weaving, we are given minimal information on the label or in the catalogue about the making of Lawrence’s robes.(9) Were these superfine silks made in the Hijaz, or is the catalogue’s reference to North Arabia a reflection of Lawrence’s claim that they were sent to Faisal by his Aunt from Mecca? Was Lawrence possibly kitted out in silk from Bursa in Anatolia or from Damascus in Syria? The production methods of the most idiosyncratic part of the get-up, the heavy silk ropes, aqal, which hold in place the headdress, the kufiya, are not discussed.

Rather than following the material, anthropological and cultural focus of the textile gallery, the caption, catalogue entry and display take us instead to the disputed heart of the origin story of the modern Middle East, with its enduring connection to the current agonies of those peoples.(10) The colonialism evoked is a romance of Faisal and Lawrence as freedom fighters and brothers-in-arms. The robes outshine and overshadow the historical treachery of the Sykes-Picot agreement, when Arab hopes for independence after the successful Arab Revolt were ignored in favour of a division of the Middle East between the French and British.(11)

The special aura of this costume comes partly from its contested historical context and the conflicted persona of Lawrence, variously regarded as hero and opportunist. But it also comes from its ongoing use as an emblem of the relationship between Western individualists and the East, most vividly exemplified in David Lean’s 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.(12) The copy of the robes Peter O’Toole wore was instrumental in reforging and ramping up the Lawrence myth, and in embedding that Orientalist construct in the imagination of a new generation.(13)

The historical context, which drifts into the background of the film as the mythic takes over, is the joint Arab and British attempt between 1916 and 1918 to undermine the Ottoman Empire in Arabia, and thereby its ally Germany, by destroying its communications infrastructure, and in particular its railways.(14) The Ashmolean’s costume is central to the most powerful performance of romantic imperialism in Lawrence of Arabia. The film is by this point out of time, out of geography, in an endless desert with ancient peoples. The railway alone remains as the link with history. Lawrence and the Arab tribesmen have destroyed the tracks and captured an Ottoman train on the Hijaz railway linking Mohammed’s Medina with Istanbul, the centre of the Ottoman Empire.

We are shown the moment of celebration and triumph. O’Toole/Lawrence leaps up on top of the train, whilst the surrounding Arabs chant his name. He stops to acknowledge the crowd, and his full image appears for the first time with the sun immediately behind him, his face and body dazzled to darkness, arms raised, whilst the sun gleams through the almost transparent gauze of his overshirt (figure 2).(15) David Lean uses the costume to invoke for Lawrence the descent from the sun that ancient kings claimed. He hasn’t just captured a train or blown up the Ottoman line of communication; he has taken what is rightly his through his semi-divine lineage. And at that peak moment, in the background Maurice Jarre’s theme music plays at its swooniest.

Figure 2: Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence. David Lean, director, Sam Spiegel, producer,’ Lawrence of Arabia’, Columbia Pictures, 1962. Photograph © 1962, renewed 1990 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

After the turmoil of post-Second World War colonial independence struggles, the film offered a vision of British imperialism that went beyond historic, political or economic claims, a vision that had more in common with the mythologized semi-historical space of Homer than with lived experience. Lawrence, like Homer’s Odysseus, was slippery, transgressive. He disobeyed orders. He undertook terrible journeys and had monstrous experiences. He was sexually adventurous. He liked disguise.(16) In O’Toole’s reincarnation he could meet the imaginative needs of both the 1960s generation exploring personal freedoms, and the post-war generation’s nostalgia for Imperial glory.

In film and life, the costume was central to the Lawrence claim. It is the claim of the heroic individual who finds the right clothing, and then is in touch with himself and the forces that he alone has the capability to channel. It exemplifies the transformative power of dress, not only for the individual but for society, as the robes help make and re-make the colonial past. The Disney costume also transforms the Ashmolean’s textile gallery. The powerful aura and agency of the robes resist the austere and scholarly environment of the museum, taking us instead into an Orientalist world of the exotic, the arcane and the epic.

1. Glyn Daniel, One Hundred and Fifty Years of Archaeology (London: Duckworth, 1978) pp. 152-178.

2. Robert Shaw, Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar, and Return Journey over the Karakorum Pass (London: John Murray, 1871). For a discussion of the role of Robert Shaw and his nephew Francis Younghusband, see Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia (London: John Murray, 2006).

3. Thomas Allsen, Commodity and Exchange in the Mongol Empire: A Cultural History of Islamic Textiles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) pp.78-98.

4. Ruth Barnes, ‘Dressing for the Great Game. The Robert Shaw Collection in the Ashmolean Museum.’ Khil’a: Journal for Dress and Textiles of the Islamic World Issue 1, (2005) 1-13.

5. Amongst many reviews see for example

6. nov/01/ashmolean-museum-rick-matherreopening, accessed September 7 2016.

7. For two different recent views on the events and significance of the Arab Revolt see Ali al Allawi, Faisal I of Iraq (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014) pp. 43-295, and Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War and the Middle East 1914-1920 (London: Allen Lane, 2015) pp. 275-311.

8. T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Chapter XX (Australia: Project Gutenberg, 2001) http://, accessed September 17, 2016.

9. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), in Illuminations, Hannah Arendt ed. and Harry Zorn transl. (London: Pimlico, 1999) pp. 211- 245.

10. EA1965.176 and professor-eugene-rogan-arab-robe-worn-t-elawrence, accessed April 11 2018.

11. Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Classics, 2003) pp. 237-248. First edition 1978.

12. James Barr, A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East (London: Simon and Schuster, 2011) pp. 7-95.

13. Lawrence of Arabia, dir. by David Lean (Columbia, 1962).

14. Alexander Lyon MacFie, ‘Representations of Lawrence of Arabia: From Said’s Orientalism (1978) to David Lean’s film (1962)’ Journal of Post-Colonial Writing Vol. 43: Issue 1 (2007) 77-87.

15. Rogan, pp. 333-335.

16. For a discussion of mirage and other desert light effects in Lawrence of Arabia, see, for example, Michael Wood, ‘At the Movies’, London Review of Books Vol. 30: No. 13 (3 July 2008) 10.

17. Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography (London: William Heinemann, 1989).

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Cradeaux Alexander

From the series cowboyplaycowboy, 2018.
From the series cowboyplaycowboy, 2018.
From the series BlueBeardCrush, 2018.

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Marita Fraser

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Freya Pocklington

Patient Experience, Elizabeth with MS, 2017.
Patient Experience, Lost Small Cells, 2018.
Patient Experience, The Biopsy and a Moth Snowstorm, 2017.

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Neurodivergence and the gentrification of the art school setting
Emily Öhlund

‘Art is the enemy of the routine, the mechanical and the humdrum. It stops us in our tracks with a high voltage jolt of disturbance. It reminds us of what humanity can do beyond the daily grind.’ – Simon Schama


Art schools are known for having large percentages of neurodivergent students, defined as those with specific learning differences, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a statistic that the art schools are proud of ¬– these are some of their most innovative students. But why is this? One theory is that the struggles neurodivergent students face with academic subjects lead these students to choose the art school route for comfort. I have never been satisfied with this explanation and my research has provided some contrary evidence.

Students who think differently are natural problem solvers and innovators. Neurodivergence usually coincides with a heightened sensory sensitivity (known as a sensory profile). Consequently, this increases material and textural awareness, making for a very discerning affinity with materials. In other words, the very nature of neurodivergence fosters a keen design and making ability. Given the right environment, that is.

‘The arts can level the playing field, because children with difficulties in academic subjects might excel at drawing, painting, acting or dancing and singing.’(1)

Art school environments are inclusive by nature. Often characterised by grotty, outdated buildings with dried paint and materials plastered onto every surface. The ambiance of thousands of past art students, still hovering in the air, creating a sense of reduced inhibition. The physical needs of the various art forms shape the spaces. Space is the art school’s major asset. Space to think, to be free, space to move the body in large motions, space to experiment, and space to be loud, messy and expressive. Space to create!

Art schools have the second highest proportion of learning difficulties of any major institute in the country. The first and highest are prisons (20-30% according to a review conducted by the Prison Reform Trust).(2) The diametric character of these two institutes epitomises the delicacy of the situation. The success or the failure of the individual balances on a knife-edge between access and chance, inclusivity and grit. For an individual with a learning difficulty, prison is the resulting failure of the system, the art school – the sanctuary that enables success.

‘I wasn’t able to express myself, I just couldn’t do that.’ – Prisoner with learning difficulties(3)

GENTRIFICATION As art school fees reach an all-time high, grotty buildings are replaced with upmarket, pristine structures, business minds step in and apply business plans, and students transition from learners to commodities. Art schools turn to low cost digital courses in lieu of practical ones, encourage hot-desking, close applied arts courses, and sell their studio space, while increasing student intake for cost efficiency. The little art school has become a vast machine and students have no choice but to adjust. While inner city gentrification results in the local demographic typically being forced out, it is the neurodivergent demographic who are most at risk – particularly those from lower income backgrounds. According to the UK government’s statistics around 60% of young people with learning disabilities live in poverty while wealthy families are one third less likely to have a child with a disability.(4)

‘The two-way link between poverty and disability creates a vicious circle… Once this occurs, people face barriers to the education, employment and public services that can help them escape poverty.’(5)

A UK study found that the poverty rate for people with disabilities was 23.1% compared with 17.9% for non-disabled people.(6) Factoring in the extra expenses associated with disability, the poverty rate for disabilities reaches 47.4%. Disability statistics are highest amongst the demographics with lower education levels. 19% of less educated individuals have a learning disability compared with 11% among further educated.(7)

‘I want to go to college but how can I do that? I have tried before but they won’t have me.’ – Prisoner with learning difficulties(8)

Beyond fiscal barriers, this demographic may struggle to adjust physically too.(9) The very things that make them excellent innovators and makers also make them deeply sensitive to their environments. They can struggle to concentrate in intense learning environments with large peer groups and reduced practical interaction. Just as the corporate world encourages a Darwinian survival of the fittest attitude, so could the commercialisation of art schools put them at risk of becoming an exclusive domain.

It is a time of inevitable change across the country but continuing drastic changes to adult art education may rid the art school of what made it the inclusive sanctuary, where people who think differently can flourish. Their success is not a given, it is environment dependent. If the environment becomes too restrictive, the very students that make it great are in danger of being excluded in the process.

1. Nancy Bailey, Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing, 2013), pp. 119- 120.

2. Talbot, J. Prisoners Voices: Experiences of the criminal justice system by prisoners with learning difficulties. (Prison Reform Trust, 2008).

3. Talbot, J. Prisoners Voices: Experiences of the Criminal Justice System by Prisoners with Learning Difficulties (Prison Reform Trust, 2008).

4. government/publications/ learning-disabilityapplying- all-our-health/ learning-disabilities-applyingall- our-health#facts-aboutlearning- disability

5. https://www.disabled-world. com/disability/statistics/

6. The word disability is used here because this is the word used in the study being referenced.

7. https://www.disabled-world. com/disability/statistics/

8. Talbot, J. Prisoners Voices: Experiences of the Criminal Justice System by Prisoners with Learning Difficulties (Prison Reform Trust, 2008).

9. Alice Wexler, ‘Reaching Higher? The Impact of the Common Core State Standards on the Visual Arts, Poverty, and Disabilities’, Arts Education Policy Review, 2014, 115 (pp. 52-61). 85

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What is Marching?
Xiaoyi Nie

Marching is moving towards the same direction and bearing time, place and distance together. A collective march may come into existence by people sharing the same destination, but it is not a must. The essence is not about making the same choice but to move on the same road at the same moment.

Marching generates intensity and strength from facing difficulty. Instead of strolling around and detaching from the rest of the world, to march is to violently confront with the land, the forest, the plaza, the street, the viewers. Let’s think about where marches usually start: petition, exile, flee, pilgrimage, conquer, expedition… No matter if there is a promising end or not, the endless process is arduous. Not like walkers who can always turn back, marchers are excluded from their former and better situations. To survive the harsh moments they are thrown into, they also need to grow tougher. Marching not only manifests the marchers but also makes the surrounding environment appear in its materiality, stillness and passiveness.

Marching means going along a single and sturdy path, and through unexpected spaces and events. Marchers interact with all happenings and the trip naturally unfolds and becomes a narrative that eventually transforms marchers. It is no wonder that ancient legends and contemporary stories adopted this marching model: in Odyssey, the home becomes an unreachable point for Odysseus; in Journey to the West, four Chinese monks march to India for Buddhist Scriptures and become Buddhas; in The Wizard of Oz, destinations keeps changing but Dorothy and her companions acquire what they are longing for in the end; Kerouac uses an accelerated writing in On the Road and instead of being ‘beat’, the image of their generation emerged from the chaotic happenings. Maybe we can also think about Robert Frank capturing the Americans, Alec Soth depicting the Mississippi, and a dozen Chinese photographers who documented what they met on their trip across the infinite terra. Marching is a basic and fundamental structure for telling and seeing.

This intensity and strength, demonstrated in marchers’ rhythm, speed and expression make the march as a moving autonomous zone independent from the rest of the world. Compared with acting alone when the world and detaching from each other, collective marching reforms individuals to form a ‘we’. ‘We’ physically occupy the space, manifest the march’s existence and demand a reaction from the rest of the world. The large number of moving entities leads to a great visibility and attracts the most valuable resource in our contemporary society: attention.

To some extent, you have to drop your rationality as a human to join a march. The wildebeests crossing the African savannahs may be not aware why they risk their lives to cross the distance, but no one pulls out when they jump into the dangerous rivers full of crocodiles. Sometimes I wonder, are they rational? (Maybe the question is insulting for animals.) But there is no doubt that to fulfil the epic migration, the animals need a maniac collective, an irresistible force, to conquer all rivers and predators. Marching, to some extent, is to put down personal wills and to combine individuals’ strength to form a united force.

As a visual manifesto of the relations between individuals and collectives, marching also reveals diverse possibilities; how an individual can integrate into or isolate from a bigger system. Milan Kundera described the sensitive character in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, ‘I’ cannot voice together with the other ‘comrades’ for the fear of losing the ‘small self’ and ‘I’ cannot leave the march either as the marching demands uniformed actions. Such marching in the Soviet Union excluded individuality. Also, the image of ‘we’ was formed by invisible suppression and delicate calculation. By contrast, the proliferated queer pride marches in metropolises celebrate personal freedom and call for individuals’ initiatives. Like a carnival, pride marches are composed of all kinds of performances and call for bald imagination against banality and social conventions. So, to march collectively is to ask how to interweave your self-awareness into a chord? What is your position in the marching, an avant-garde or a winger? How will you form the authority that is going to be superior than you?

Marchers may gradually lose their physical strength, but the march absorbs the energy and accumulates the inertia along the way. It is like reading aloud together, with a loose and idle start when people hardly dare to open their mouths, gradually they find a shared rhythm, word by word, like singing, more voices join in, the small combined voice grabs more volume and the voice eventually forms its own life. A marching collective brings a micro society to the most detached places and it politicalises everyone and everything. Moving towards the same direction is associated with not only army and war but also pilgrimage and protests. It is endowed with the atmosphere of tension and at the same time, bringing the sense of shared mission and self-devotion.

The group of participants, the new collective, the micro society, negotiate and interact with the outsiders and overshadow what they are marching into. The explorers to Antarctica and the astronauts to the moon transformed the emotionless landscape into the witness of humans’ curiosity. The marchers on Women’s Day in Russell Square also imposes a pressure on everyone standing nearby and make them ask themselves: should I join them? Should I even look at them? To march is to be seen, to be asked and to answer the question: why you are marching?

Marching is not specific to one approach of movement like walking, running, crawling, riding, flying… It is not necessary that every participant in the march moves in the same way or every moment of a march copies its previous one. As marching already suggests a long distance and a long duration, the changing and unpredictable dynamics comes together with the excruciating process. Marching is a comprehensive method of moving together and as the participants are united with one simple principle, there is a huge space left for diversification of the process.

The collective march has its own image. The changing spatial orders and rhythms are visualised by the moving bodies. Usually shot from an observation point or by a drone from the sky, the images of collective marching make individual faces unrecognisable and average the participants: male or female, young or old, short or tall, even human or not human. Inner differences are omitted in the image to allow space for a portrait of a group to emerge within the mass. With an image of marchers, few people would question who they are but many would wonder what they are marching for.

Collective marching is also generating conversations while creating shared experiences: seeing, meeting new people, having food, fixing problems, making the choice of where to go, and taking care of each other. As the context of marching changes along the way and the discussions are not rehearsed with an agenda like academic symposiums, people exchange far richer ideas between themselves and in return their mutual relationships grow deeper and new thoughts are formed on the road.

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Intellectual Mothers
A text for The Feminist Library, Hobart and Dr. Patricia Brennan

Marianne Mulvey

A longer version of this text was written and performed during a residency at The Feminist Library, Hobart in April 2018. The library is a new space for radical thinking in Tasmania, Australia by James R Brennan and Willoh S. Weiland. It is founded on a personal collection of books bequeathed by the late feminist activist Dr. Patricia Brennan, a leader of the Movement for the Ordination of Woman in the Australian Anglican Church and advocate for forensic photographs to be used as evidence in cases of rape and sexual assault against women and children. During my performance in Hobart, the passages in italics were read from the books themselves by some of the audience.


In her recent memoir The Argonauts (2015), Maggie Nelson writes about a time when she was ‘cruising for intellectual mothers’, looking for nurture beyond the bonds of normative kinship. I picture her wandering through libraries and lecture halls, glancing here and there, open and receptive with a hint of hot pursuit. ‘Keeping an eye out’, as my grandmother used to say.

When the invitation work with The Feminist Library, Hobart I was excited to become acquainted with what had nurtured Dr. Patricia Brennan’s activist work. But I was perhaps even more keen on the impossible task of getting to know Patricia between the pages of her books, searching for traces that might offer an awkward intimacy between us. Perhaps I might even pick up an intellectual mother or two?


A little overwhelmed by the scope of Patricia’s interests, I begin my exploration as planned, letting my hands and eyes alight on whatever piques my interest. Inspecting the texts for the evidence of age, wear and repair, of touch, reading and thinking, pencil marks and pen notes, stamps and stickers, age spots and spillages. I smell their pages. Running my finger over a mended section of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970), I find the Sellotape pleasurably shiny and fresh looking. A book which I’m embarrassed to admit to James later, I have never read. My grazing gaze continues along the shelves, stopping on very aged books or interesting titles. Earlier we discussed Patricia’s focus on the inclusion and role of men in the women’s movement and soon Men Against Sexism comes into view, a collection of articles edited by Jon Snodgrass published in 1977. Inside the front cover I find a pencil mark on the top right indicating the book’s price ‘7.25’ and on the bottom right a faded lilac stamp reading:

315 Balmain Rd.,
Lilyfield N.S.W. 2040

And one more thing: a single, dark, curled hair. Patricia’s?


There are different definitions of ‘cruising’, but each carries a certain kind of movement toward something and nothing in particular. Cruising on a boat, in a car or airplane refers to running the engine at its most efficient speed, a pace allowing one to survey or appreciate the surroundings. This smooth motion is a pleasurable in and of itself. Cruising for sex of course has a different relationship to intention and has long been associated with queer culture and gay men in particular. I remember a discussion with a friend about the erasure of queer spaces from cities, how London’s outdoor cruising grounds are under threat from the privatisation of public space. He tells me that the British Library remains a popular indoor location however, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. The soft silence of the reading rooms, their dark leather and wood, the long sighs and fervent looks up from books, hands on pages and gazes criss-crossing. The many nooks and toilets on multiple floors.


Mothers… mothering… motherhood has been on my mind of late, as I cruise towards my late thirties without having biologically reproduced myself. Recently, I found solace in queer perspectives on kinship, family-making and alternative life lines from Nelson and Sara Ahmed. Visiting Patricia’s books is a different comfort: a vivid, juicy reminder of all the ways in which I am woman. Female Cycles (1976) by Paula Weideger catches my eye, maybe because I’ve recently begun marking the four phases of mine, to better understand my ebbs and flows. Sections of the book are loose and come apart in my hands. Next, I open Woman as Wombs (1993) by Janice G. Raymond, which occupies my thoughts for several days. The title is scrawled in a large, ragged font that recalls horror movie titles, an indication of Raymond’s violent descriptions of reproductive technologies and surrogacy contracts to be found inside.

The next morning over breakfast, I listen to a documentary about egg freezing, with Raymond’s words sticking angrily in my throat:

There is but a short distance from fucking to breeding in the patriarchal picture. In the spermatic economy of sex and breeding, men spend themselves and their vital, life-giving fluid in sex and are entitled to get it back… When women cannot serve as natural reproductive instruments, or when men cannot perform their natural fertilising role, the great technological fuck takes over.


The inside cover and first page of the Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1980) by Julia Kristeva are marked by thick muddy swathes like two sandy banks, with a shaft of pristine white land in between. The tide has gone out leaving behind its hardened furrows. This sizeable stain has soaked the following pages, and two large blotches pattern the chapter ‘Approaching Abjection’. Like an abstract painting, a seeping curve overlaps the edges of text where I begin to read:

There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful – a certainty of which it is proud holds onto it. But, simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned. Unflaggingly, like an inescapable boomerang, a vortex or summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself.

‘Shit!’ I imagine her reader crying out, leaping up to shake off what has been spilled. A brand new academic title, $34.00 from Gleebooks, soggy and forever marked… I plough on, but finding it particularly hard wading through Kristeva’s text, I prefer instead to meditate on those beautiful sandy banks just inside the cover and imagine the coffee-spill incident as the spasmodic leap of abjection she is writing about.


When is a book no longer relevant? The slim volume A Short History of Medical Woman in Australia (1970) by Elma Sandford Morgan hides nearby some others about women in medicine. Inside its modest cover a purple stamp reads ‘University of New England Library’, overlaid with CANCELLED in red capital letters. It has all the hallmarks of an institutional library book: a small manilla pocket carefully glued inside the back cover, stickers and stamps, an array of competing shelf numbers. Deaccessioned, somehow it found its way into Patricia’s hands. What delights me of course, is the precise patterning of coffee blobs, arranged in an arc sweeping right to left across the beginning of a chapter on Flying Doctors onto the adjacent page, connecting two passages:

One enterprising present-day doctor practising in a Queensland country town has her own aircraft for use in her practice. She has held a private pilot’s licence since 1947 and flies a Cessna 182. She flies out to emergency calls, carries her surgeon partner to consultations in surrounding towns, attends medical meetings and so on. On several occasions she has flown the surgeon down to a distant town to operate, given the anaesthetic herself, and flown the team home again. At Ceduna, in South Australia, the Bush Church Aid Society (Church of England) has conducted a Flying Doctor Service since 1937 and Dr. Freda Gibson, An Adelaide graduate, was its first medical officer for 21 years. At first, she worked with her husband, Dr. Roy Gibson, but she carried on alone during his years of war service and after his death in 1948. Then, from 1951, Dr. Merna Mueller, from Adelaide, ably assisted Freda Gibson and has now replaced her.

During a radio interview prior to her death, Patricia described her disappointment in female colleagues ‘making meek statements about what they had been doing’ upon returning home from medical missionary work in Africa. It was her belief that ‘talking is an act of freedom’ and I hear that elocution lessons and a love of poetry paved the way for this strident voice to find form. In the library, a host of English poets that my grandfather read aloud in his droll voice and many Australian anthologies acutely remind me just how far from home I am.


I return to Audre Lorde’s A Burst of Light (1988) several times during these weeks. The cover’s bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds is suggestive of Christian literature. Rather misleading for a collection of essays that includes an interview on Sadomasochism in the lesbian community, Black women organising across sexualities, and Lesbian interracial parenting. I love how direct and readable Lorde’s writing is, how she speaks to me despite such gaps in time and in our experience of the world.

Flipping the pristine pages from back to front, I discover a folded fluorescent post-it note tucked into the secret space between the penultimate and last page. Nothing but the words ‘personal epiphany’ with a scratchy star and a full stop. Did this epiphany happen on the last page, or is that just where the note ended up? A little further in, deep into Lorde’s diaries of living with cancer, a thin pencil mark and another star delicately bracketing off some words. Some sustenance for navigating the conjunction of feminism and spirituality perhaps:

I require the nourishment of art and spirituality in my life, and they lend strength and insight to all the endeavors that give substance to my living. It is the bread of art and the water of my spiritual life that remind me always to reach for what is highest with my capacities and in my demands of myself and others. Not for what is perfect but for what is the best possible.

Between the outer margins of pages 102 and 103, the body of a tiny fly and its yellow juice have made a faint, Rorschach inkblot.

How easily I could have missed these small reading marks and personal epiphanies. I think of Audre speaking to Patricia and me about ‘the nourishment of art and spirituality’ and my idle search for pencil marks and squashed flies and slips of paper.

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Loving and motherhood and kittens: thoughts around empathy
Sarah Eliza Kelly

“anti-empathy [is] like saying I am against motherhood; surely empathy is so obviously a Good Thing that if someone is against it, either there must be something wrong with him, or he must be confused as to what it is” Goldie, 2014.

“being against empathy is like being against kittens – a view considered so outlandish that it can’t be serious” Bloom, 2017.

Some humans do not like cats, their independence and stealth perceived as selfish or untrustworthy. Though I grew up mostly around dogs, and occasionally hamsters, I am not in any way against cats. I am especially not against kittens, and also, I experience considerable feelings that also confuse the simplicity of this statement. Faced with the peculiarly fetishised beauty of all things tiny, tiny paws and tiny ears, I may screw my face up, shut my eyes and clench my muscles in an inextricable mix of seeming distress and complete delight. Recent explorations in psychological research have linked these kinds of responses to a host of similar ones now tentatively referred to as ‘cute aggression’ (Aragón et al, 2015). Most commonly seen as responses to infants and small, fluffy or baby animals, the so-sweet-Icould- squeeze-you-to-death drive also surfaces as the pinching of ‘adorable’ chubby cheeks, squealing noises and smothering embraces for fluffy rabbits.

The paradoxical urges toward things that are simultaneously bringing intense pleasure and yet also expressed through relations of discomfort are understood to be a form of emotion regulation, not dissimilar to nervous laughter or tears of joy. A system of mechanisms to provide counter direction sensations in order to aid the body in adjusting to and balancing out intense experience. The complexity of connections between pleasure and some kind of pain has been widely documented across various fields, and this is not a point of focus for me here. What does interest me is how affect, both the affirmative and the adverse, can be felt so keenly as to be too much to somehow neurologically manage or contain on its own. How, in the face of this too-muchness any corresponding intentions, experiences and expressions can also criss-cross, confuse and contradict. Sat beside a kitten, showering it with love and attention I am almost so much ‘for’ the kitten that I induce for myself a dose of ‘against’.

To say that emotions are neither truly inside nor outside is not merely to say that they are always already both, individuals producing the cultural and culture producing the individual in an all-pervasive and de-located sense. Rather it is to suggest that the conditions for relationality itself are made through situated contact and located orientating. I do not only turn towards you, or you toward me, but through turning we come into a specific, orientated relationship with each-other, a form of contact that not only impresses itself upon the surface of our bodies but in doing so is also then situating, creating, forging and shaping this surface. There is specificity to our turning; who turns toward who, how do we turn and when, and the ways in which subtly different words such as sympathy or empathy act to angle us differently toward each-other and so turn us differently. These processes are also bound to repetition, as it is through a repeated orientation that we sustain narratives about ourselves and another.

Emotion generates forms of association and repeat past associations and so in this sense they are not only a make-up of the impressions left by others but also involve investments in the social, political and cultural ideals and conventions inherent within them (Ahmed, 2015).

Though empathy isn’t ‘in’ a body in the sense of its emerging independently from within it, it can and frequently does, along with other emotions, dwell in bodies and come to reside, however temporarily within them: it is never outside of contact. Words like empathy are also themselves situated, geographically and historically, changing through the different contact they share with different peoples in different locations at different times. Empathyas- being, like Aladdin’s genie, emerges only through contact, and is itself in continual flux and process, like the stream in ongoing-flow. To invoke empathy, to speak its name, is always to pause the stream at a particular moment and place. Not at all paradoxically, empathy is only the stream and only the snapshot, only the smoke and only the mirror, and only ever the relationship of itself to this.

As humans orientating, indeed just as kittens, with the position of our spines and eyes, turning toward one place also inevitably (if we are to follow an arguably western, linear approach) appears to turns us away from another. We cannot conceivably face everywhere equally at once. To suggest we become more expansively fungal, more tentacular (as Donna Haraway might), or more chameleon-like with their full 360 degree rotations of vision, is to stretch at the imagination of both our physical and metaphorical humanity. It is to take us into decidedly post-human, not-quitehuman or otherwisehuman territories. At the same time the expansion of our capacities to be more than human, as opposed to inhuman, leads us to the heart of arguably humanitarian, and often problematic ideals; notions of social equality, reconciliatory peace and perhaps ultimately, love.

If my capacities for empathy were not so limited and if I could flex in such a way as to turn toward without simultaneously turning away, would it be possible to cast a wider net of relating, including a kinship of many as much as the intimacies of a few? Peace and love, when combined in this way are themselves the words of absurdists, laced with a simplistic naiveté, and to speak of ‘peace and love’ critically and academically is also to border close to the limits of subcultural taboo. Likewise, the ‘outlandishness’ of becoming-chameleon circles back again, to the outlandishness (evoked by Paul Bloom) of being against kittens, where it becomes important to remember that the choice of this word is itself heavily loaded. To be outlandish is to set limits and boundaries, the outlander is foreign, the unfamiliar is othered, the other, when not feared and repressed, is receiver of ridicule and disregard.

Actions undertaken In the Name of Love themselves stretch the entire spectrum of human experience, the most beautiful, frenzied, selfless, murderous, merciful, unimaginable, selfish, generous, merciless, admirable imaginable. Acting out of love is a way of being for others that protects with violence and fight, sticking people together in fraternity and patriotism as well as in kinship and complex constellations of care. Narratives of love bond us to some others and not other others, and by doing so reproduce a particular structure of othering in relation to an ideal. This ideal guides us into our loves, it leads us toward those that are visible and worthy of loving and away from those invisible or unworthy, along the way forming and moulding legitimate bodies and their illegitimate counterparts.

An illegitimate body is often also a disposable one. Love “reproduces the collective as ideal through producing a particular kind of subject”, one that sees itself to some degree similarly reflected in the faces of others (Ahmed, 2015). This is an other we can identify with, an other with whom we could empathise. Sara Ahmed explains that “love becomes a way of bonding with others in relation to an ideal” and this ideal takes its very shape from the repetitive patterns formed as an effect of such bonding (Ahmed, 2015). Being-for-others is then a kind of for-ness orientated around an against-ness, those who fail the collective ideal of any particular grouping and from whom we must protect our loved ones, or whom become irrelevant or disposable in our quest of satisfying the needs of our loved ones. Love is a love with limits.

The body arguably does have its limits. My limit for kitten affection overdrive syndrome may be particularly heightened, or otherwise decreased depending upon many factors, not dissimilar to a court judge whose likelihood of giving a favourable ruling declines steadily before lunch from 65% to 0% only to jump back up to 65% again after eating (S. Danziger et al, 2011). My levels of stress, glucose and cyclical hormonal changes among other things make for a limit also in flux and ongoing flow. While the limits of my physical body (with all its many openings) are not the same as the limits of my emotional body nor those of my neurological flexibility nor even the limits of my imagination (perspective-shifting abilities included).

To talk of a limited capacity is also then, to talk of containment and, crucially, containment’s inherent leakiness. When I-love-you-so-much-Icould- just-eat-you-up, I invoke a drawing of you not just toward me but right down into me, a consuming and subsuming of you and a breaching of the me-ness of me. It is important to draw our attention here to the distinction made between identification ‘love as being’ (I love you and want to be you or be with you) and idealisation ‘love as having’ (I love you and want to have you) which summon further muddy streams running deep with the currents of Freudian ancestral flow. Here, questions of loss or gain of self twist around like the ouroboros serpent: a pregnant mother and feeding baby; a doting mother feeding upon delighting baby.

Love, it is crucial to remember, is itself a sign of ‘respectable femininity’, tied to a narrative whose ideal “confirms heterosexual love [as] an obligation to the nation” (Ahmed, 2015). Alongside this runs the ideal of reproduction and erasure of gender nonconforming experience. First an assumption and obligation that a woman has a womb, followed by the unquestionable goodness and for-ness of the choice to engage that womb for motherhood.

To be touched by another, moved by another, to care for another, receive another in and open out toward another are culturally positioned as highly maternal and feminised qualities. It is no coincidence then, that to be ‘against empathy’ in its perceived absurdity is akin to being ‘against motherhood’ within these frameworks of reference. The reproduction of femininity is also no stranger to structures of appropriateness, nor to the use of the words reason and rationality as tools to repress emotional toomuchness, itself almost always inappropriate.

Passionately unruly or uncontainable displays of emotion that span a particularly feminised end of the register of love (of which also empathy and the circulation of related words listed previously) tend to be set clear limits, to feel too much, to give too much of oneself is something to be wary of, to ridicule or to resent. Interestingly, such limits often do not apply in the same way to uncontainable displays of violence or defence, or emotions such as disgust and anger, despite also being closed tied in relationship with love. To wish to harm the one who caused me grave harm is widely more culturally appropriate, or at least significantly more understandable as a response, than the ability to unequivocally forgive. The person who indiscriminately loves, inappropriately generous with feeling, is perhaps almost as untrustworthy as the independent cat.

To be independent is also to not align with a grouping, to be free from borders, to be impartial and neutral in bias and with fairness and equitableness, synonyms for justice, also comes detachment, disinterest and dispassion, just as much synonyms for freedom. It is not as simple then as saying that feeling attaches us to some others while detaching us from other others, nor are there clear paths that lead toward expanding and including more of both ourselves and each-other. Given this, what could it then mean to respond to another in so called ‘ethically appropriate ways’ or to be appropriately empathetic without ‘losing’ our self, while navigating the regulation of our affective states and the distresses they may incur?


Ahmed, Sara. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge, 2015.

Aragón, Oriana R., et al. “Dimorphous Expressions of Positive Emotion.” Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 3, 2015, pp. 259–273 Bloom, Paul. Against Empathy. Bodly Head, 2017

Coplan, Amy, and Peter Goldie. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford Univ. Press, 2014

Danziger, S., et al. “Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 108, no. 17, Nov. 2011, pp. 6889–6892

Table of Contents

Jacqueline Felstead

Gatwick Private Hotel, 2018.
Archival pigment print from 3d model 150 x 70 cm.
Gatwick Private Hotel, 2018.
Archival pigment print from 3d model 110 x 150 cm.

Table of Contents

Lovers’ Quarrel (after a weekend together)
Charan Singh

at the doorway, whilst almost kissing

‘It has been nice spending time with you, but as all good things must come to an end, this has to come to an end too. And so, for the moment, we must say our goodbyes.’

‘Well, yes or do you want me to sing a song for you? What was that song, ah… Aaj Ki Mulaqat Bas Itni, Kar Lena Baatein Kal Chahe Jitni.’ (today’s meeting must end here, tomorrow you can talk however much you desire)

‘No, no, I can sing for you, Abhi Naa Jao Chhod Kar, Ke Dil Abhi Nahi Bhara.’ (don’t leave me yet, my heart is still unfulfilled)

‘Aww, I want to have you in my life forever.’

‘Yes, I would like that too.’

‘Then, let me stay.’

‘I wish, I could. But you are married and… you have children. So, what would be the future of it all?’

‘Yes, but we both are here, this is about us.’

‘How can this be about us, when there are other lives involved that are suspended somewhere else?’

‘They are all in the village. I go there to see them, almost every weekend. They are doing fine. It would suit everyone. And here we can live together and remain friends.’ An attempt was made to explain to him.

‘I believe you, and I hope this is all true and possible. But what do you think I would be doing on those weekends when you go? When that us would no longer be an us? And I would be a mere them. Just an abandoned me.’

‘Babu, don’t say such things.’

‘What do you want me to say?’

‘Well… soon, you should get married too. This way, both of us will be married. We will be able to fulfil our duties by having families and children. Then nobody will be able to point fingers at us, we will be free. And more importantly, we will have you and me for ourselves; for eternity.’ He explained further, this time in a more hopeful way.

‘How would we be free then? If we are not free now.’

‘That’s what everyone told me.’

‘Err… They also said that this is a phase, but it is clearly not.’

‘Yes, but I thought that’s what others have done, all along, everywhere.’

‘They might have. But do we have to do the same?’

‘How can we change society?’

‘Maybe we can’t. Perhaps our desires are so dangerous to society’s guise of respect, that they get buried in the darkness of shame and sorrow, repeatedly. Something that has never been talked about, is that there can be other ways of living, other ways of being, and that there can be other ways of seeking love.’ Their eyes were looking for an answer, but no one could say much at this point. They both were quiet, looking at each other for a while. But then faintly someone uttered.

‘You know that I love you.’


This word ‘us’ always mystifies me. How is it being used, in what context and by whom? Who is included in this ‘us’ and who is excluded? It seems to be holding the places of power and at the same time it also occupies a void where vulnerabilities lie. Often, it gets difficult to separate the isolation of an ‘I’ from a meaningless ‘us’. How has this ‘us’ been produced and reproduced repeatedly? How does a new ‘us’ get made from within? How can one sell and buy these currencies? And who benefits from all this ‘us’? However, it is such a frightening thought to be left behind by the ‘us’. What would we ‘be’ without the ‘us’? Oh, well never mind, we were talking about these lovers here. Let’s get back to them. So, the ‘us’ between them was an ambiguous trajectory. An assumed, unspoken and blurry ‘us’. Perhaps this strange ambiguity had brought them together; a queer togetherness. Could love transpire from this strangeness? I yearn for this strangeness to be love itself. Although I despise that it is lingering between carecontrol, fidelity-betrayal, and the us-them. But this might be true for all of us.

It is curious that the lovers can’t speak for themselves, perhaps we came too far from them or maybe we just don’t want to hear them anymore. Is it because they do not conform with the remains of us or is it because they were led astray? See, they both are attempting things that would suit them the most, which we would all do at any given point of time. However, they require others to be involved in their pursuits, to disguise their wants which now would be impure and immoral (at least society has told us this). This could only fulfil their wants and others would be ignored. Is it too selfish to desire what they long for? As others gave them a disguise in the first instance, so others will have no say in what their own future will be, unless they believe that their future is inconceivable, thus the others don’t care anymore. Both the lovers seem to be struggling with the question of marriage, from either side of the door. This ghost of marriage haunts us all. And why wouldn’t it? It has been a significant institution and an almost inescapable destiny for most of society in India. Where marriage is often paraphrased as responsibility, a way of living and a way of being. It is a system where desire and love do not matter. Most of the ‘us’ are born into it and feel the moral burden. The burden that demands our hearts die first, then the mind, until later only the soulless bodies remain, hanging in between the two worlds. Now, we must go back to the lovers.


She seldom leaves me alone. Out of sight is out of heart, she says. She tells me that I look like her and my eyes and chin resemble hers. She puts my hand close to her face, then she whispers something. She has given me a name ‘Sonu’, it means pure gold or a gift from God. I don’t know what it means to be a gift from God, only she can tell. She is the sole source of all my knowledge and sense, and she is my universe. She waits for hours to have a glimpse of my eyes when they open, the ones that look like hers. But I mostly sleep, yawn and cry. My only encounter that brings me to life is when my mouth touches her breast. I am the infant she snuggles in her lap.

(epiphany. probability. pure want)

‘I am a very rational person and I don’t believe in love at first sight.’ He told me, and he insisted that I must think twice before falling in love with any old stranger. And I said to him that I do not contemplate, it just happens. I have no control over it, the ache doesn’t let me decide, nor let me sleep until I see a glimpse of him before my day finishes. Even in my dreams I long for him. The biting of nails, the waiting for his text message, even hoping that those stupid marketing calls would be his, and unconsciously making two cups of tea in the middle of night, even if I’m alone in the house; what is all that? About which, he said ‘I have seen too many Bollywood movies, I should stop watching them.’ And then he laughed at me.

(without risk is an impossibility)

‘Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hain Mujhe Sab Apne Gam De Do’ (If you love me, give me all your sorrows) was the song playing in his mind when he said to him ‘I love you and I want you so badly’. October 2004, two men are in love; at least they think they are. A is HIV positive and B is not. They are so deeply in love that they want to become one. They do not want to live with constraints, they are aspiring to similar living conditions, negotiations, and almost equal to one another. March 2005, B tests positive. They are uninhibitedly, limitlessly intimate, ever after.

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anatomy lesson (an open letter, in friendship, to Sigmund Freud)*
Johnny Golding

1. dear Sigmund

It gives me great pleasure, untold pleasure, to be able to stand here today, near your study, in your house- and breathe it all in: totems, couches, swathes of red worn carpet, books, marble staircases, draping air and light! Everything here plays with and against your absent-present voice, mind, cocaine nights, tiny curls of handwriting, cigar smoke – all long gone but still vibrant and alive.

2. I can hear you

with your perfect manners saying: ‘it is a real pleasure, Johnny, to have you here’ whereupon I will have responded with equally perfect manners: ‘no, no, dear Sigmund, the pleasure is all mine’. All mine; indeed, mine alone.

3. this form of ‘pleasure’

this ‘mine alone-ness’ sort of pleasure, could be but a stale and impoverished marker, a stale and impoverished exchange of the real le petit mort. But with two super-egos outstretched and dancing on the rim of pleasantries and non-sequiturs, it might just be closer to a kind of masturbatory-lite ‘being-with-togetherness’ – our bodies, ourselves, notwithstanding.

4. Sigmund, my dear friend

this ‘mine-alone-ness’ masturbatory-lite pleasure chest of encounter creates – rather than a smash-up of two entities crashing into / onto the same place at the same time, exploding in fire, brimstone and blood (apologies to Newtonian physics and all those who insist that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time without turning into one big ugly car crash of Concept and Universality) – instead creates, has created, does create, continues to create an opening in the best sense of the word: bridge (though picture a plane of immanence surface going out in all directions, thick with fissures, prospects, unlockings, unfastenings, intelligences, and, if one checks the thesaurus: lucky breaks!).

5. lovely Sigmund, I want us to grasp, together

this connection, this diffracted and entangled connection, itself forming one big, fat, huge, wide super-sized ego webridge; a grand ‘ego-us’ surface! whose very ‘mine-aloneness’ masturbatory-lite pleasure chest of encounter expresses, indeed, in-forms a multi-dimensional sensuous now, an aliveness that, in its aliveness, is thick with erotic-intellectual hunger, energy-twists and decay! An erotic, ‘little deaths’ manifold ‘it’self– this multidimensional- ego[we]self-us of encounter! A pluralised ‘I’ compulsive carnality ‘to know’, ‘to grasp’, to ‘get it’ (and to be known and be grasped and be gotten) this odd, delectable, ecstatic cannibalism, caught in the rough and tumble of what could quite reasonably be called: the mind fuck. A knowledge-wondermentmagnetism, a kind of exquisite method, which starts at the attraction itself, this =, this pleasured semi-athletic reaching out, this workout projection encounter and exchange of the pluralised egomulti- storied-I chin-ups and squats, with and amongst the purveyors of pleasureknowledge- exchange in a self-to-self kind of way. This floating suck of jouissannce, requiring no insides or out, no boundaries or in between; only the attraction that makes it stick, sticky, wild and alive. Masturbation-lite, a sorely underrated pleasure.

6. but Sigmund, we both know

that this mind-fuck, whilst divine, is not enough. I suppose what I want to say is this: that its ‘exquisite method’ belies a something often buried in your work and in some cases – and I say this with love – ignored or lost altogether (say when you speak of poor Dora or Ratman or Judge Schreiber, or that bloody child being beaten – or even something as basic as the Oedipal Complex or [heaven forefend] its phallic-less counterpart, the lovely Electra). Grab your cigar, my dearest friend, put on the fire and your comfy shoes, pull out the cocaine, alongside your paper and pen, lean in and listen, listen to what I have to say.

7. Underpinning most of my life since a wee lass,

when for example at the age of 5 or 6, I managed to ingest the entire second floor of the library’s poetry section in less than a month or managed the art of climbing trees/not being seen so as to witnessencounter the ‘whatever’ that lay to hand (which, if truth be told, included watching the inanity of military troops marching up one way and down another, often watching, I might add, not from outlying trees but from some neatly parked jet plane in large unheated hangers with the scent of military police closing in, watching with one eye, the troops, watching with another eye, the movement of the guards approaching, looking, investigating; figuring out with my third eye, what would my super-fabulous escape route, my exit be {– another thrill, but I digress..} All this mind fucking fuckity-fuck taught me one basic thing, one very basic thing. No, no, no. It did not ‘teach’ me that I didn’t have a cock, that I was cockless; that I was some kind of big gaping wound-hole needing something to fill it [say, for example a cigarette, a nipple, a thumb, or a dildo, attached, unattached or otherwise [and for either hole)]- though in all example-slices the pleasure could be / would be ‘all mine’. Nor did it teach me that I needed something to extrude from that sometimes blood soaked ‘hole’ (a moment of silent respect for periods – for which I seem to be the only person on the planet who has always loved, deeply loved that monthly bleed – perhaps the vampire within me. Perhaps just the possibility of drip drip dripping on a public or semi-public carpeted walkway or marble hall). No, it did not ‘teach me’ that I needed any kind of plugging, unplugging or extruding from that hole (including for example, needing a very big and wild horse between my legs or a very very fast car under my bum). Rather – It taught me the pleasure of the fuck, mind or otherwise in all its self-toself kinds of ways. I suppose Nietzsche’s comment comes to the fore, paraphrased more or less as: One must learn to want and in so wanting, know that they want.

8. So, Sigmund, I hope you are still with me

for there are in fact two things still left unsaid which need to be said, right here right now, in your lovely home: First. That I do not (and perhaps never did) have, a problem with being female, female genitalia included. I love female genitalia. I’m a Lesbian Amazon for god’s sakes (and don’t even get me started on where this mouth, these fingers, my fire last was). My problem is not that I am female. My problem is the rest of the world’s misogynist version of what it means to be female. That’s my problem. Second, and here I’m going to sound like a grumpy old feminist drag artist butch dyke radical fairy promiscuous hunger risk experiment gone slightly off-piste: biology is not destiny. Let me repeat that again, in case you didn’t hear it the first time: biology is NOT destiny (which does not mean it does not matter). It just doesn’t matter like that. It is no more a dualist split, that disgusting Aristotelian stupidity that we keep returning to, millennium after millennium, decade after decade, fuck after fuck (interesting fashion statements notwithstanding) Female is not the opposite of Male; is not the superior of male, is not its inferior. Gender has fluids, is fluid. Orientations have fluids are fluid – which at least in my case and the case of many other holes big and small, smelly and not, enables whole series of mine-alone-togetherness solitary pleasures of the fuck.

9. Which Sigmund my dearest fellow traveller,

is to say one last thing. We live in a world where block-chain derivatives and the buying/selling of futures, drone strikes and the zero-zones of time pervade the everyday. We live in a world where carpet bombing and refugee drownings are discussed (if at all) on page 7 after sports news, Brexit and the latest idiotic tweet from an American president, a British home secretary or a North Korean leader. We live in a world where racist, sexist, homophobic deaths and mutilations are on the up and up. We live in a world where nuclear underwater testing beaches droves of whales, dolphins, sea creatures great and small. Sigmund my friend, my interlocutor, my fellow traveller, if ever there was a time to refuel the proverbial tank, to want and to know that one wants, well, that time is now. This is of course not to suggest that we turn our worlds into a scene out of Cronenberg’s Rabid (though this might be more interesting than the current obsession with mass killing on an unfathomable scale). It is to suggest that we think in radically plural dimensions – singular, multiple, edgeless, sticky, encountering – where hopelessness, wild gluttony and mass destruction are not the only solutions on the horizon. One does not have to be sad to be a militant. Dear Sigmund: read between the lines.

With love,


* Johnny Golding, Senior Tutor for Research and Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art, SoAH. Originally presented at the Solitary Pleasures conference 28 April 2018, organised by M. Smith. The Freud Museum, as part of Solitary Pleasures, 18 April – 3 May 2018, London.