Queer-feminist Ecocriticism in Live Art & Visual Cultures
presented as part of EcoFutures Festival
Sat 13 April 2019
Queen Mary University of London, Arts Two Lecture Theatre
Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS
10:30am – 07:00pm
This one-day international conference brings together artists, theorists and activists to cover topics ranging from non-human ethics to ecosexuality. Invited guests include Gaia Giuliani, João Florencio and Silvia Federici. Artworks by Wangechi Mutu, Adelita Husni-Bey and Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle will be screened for this occasion.
[all abstracts and bios in text format at the end of the page]
10:30-11:00 – Registration
11:00-12:45 – Non-Human Ethics and Xenopolitics
Wangechi Mutu The End of Eating Everything, 2013. 8mins (video screening)
Ama Josephine Budge
12:45-13:45 – Walk to the Mile End Art Pavilion accompanied by performance by Liam Geary Baulch + public showcase of Quimera Rosa open lab & talk in the gallery as part of ‘Staring at the Sun’ exhibition
13:45-15:00 – Lunch break
15:00-16:30 – Sexing the Planet: Performing Ecological Intimacies
Isabel Burr Raty
Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle, Ecosexual Wedding Project, 2008-2014. 10mins (video screening)
16:45-18:45 – Repair, Resist, Revitalize: New Synergies in the Anthropocene
Nadja Verena Marcin
Adelita Husni-Bey, The Reading, 2017. 15mins (video screening)
18:45 – 19:45 Drink Reception
This conference has been generously supported by the Doctoral College Initiative Fund at Queen Mary University, Arts Council England, the British Association for American Studies & the U.S. Embassy in London and the Tower Hamlets Event Fund.
If you are unable to afford the ticket please get in touch with us.
Accessibility: The venue is fully accessible.
General info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstracts & Bios
Animism, Climate Change and Extinction – film and lecture-performance practice
In present times, climate change means that contemporary societies are making “natural history” and that climates become “inscriptions of human culture”. Conversely, climate change is also about the “intrusion of non-humans” into human temporality. This generates a kind of geo-subjectivity (the Anthropocene), where one can no longer divide nature and humanity as clearly separated representations and models – a divide that has structured Western tradition until today. In a way, the eventfullness of the Anthropocene disturbs the opposition between ontologies of naturalism and animism (Descola, 2013), insofar as it builds common imaginaries around extinction, the agency of non-humans, the fragile distinction between life and non-life (Povinelli, 2016) or the interconnectedness between coloniality and the perception of nature as mere resource. In this process, carbon capitalism, extraction and disposal become intimately connected with aesthetic experience.
In this session I will discuss the re(presentation) of climate change, extinction, or biocentric approaches in contemporary film practices, particularly in indigenous filmmaking projects like Video nas Aldeias (Brazil) and Karrabing Film Collective (Australia). I will also convoke two lecture-performances developed in my own artistic practice – “The Anthroposcenes” (2017) and “Geophagy” (2018) – where climate change and extinction are addressed by way of performance and poetry, expanding the field to other artistic practices. We will think about how to counteract the dominant visuality that traditionally divides a political image, an anthropological image, and an artistic image.
Rita Natalio is currently preparing a double PhD in Artistic Studies (FCSH/NOVA – Lisbon) and Anthropology (USP – Sao Paulo) with an FCT scholarship. Her focus is on the Anthropocene and perceptions of humanity-nature, particularly in the case of indigenous cinema and multi-species ethnography.
Rita works primarily with poetry, dramaturgy and performance, and is presently involved with the creation of a series of lecture-performances (“Anthroposcenes” 2017, “Geophagy” 2018, “Fossil” 2019 /in process) that are directly linked to her PhD research. She holds a BA in Choreographic Arts (University Paris VIII) and a MA in Contemporary Culture, and has also published two poetry books, Handicraft (2015) and Human plants (2017). Together with André e.Teodósio, Rita is co-editor of a Portugal-based publishing project, Ed. __________, which is dedicated to the performing arts and a broader range of aesthetic and political studies. Recently, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, she co-organised a showing of Amerindian cinema with indigenous filmmakers and curators, along with a collective platform of researchers and activists from Portugal.
The End of eating Everything, 2013
Video animation, 8mins 10secs
The End of eating Everything explores themes of migration, Afro-Surreality, environmental destruction, as well as human greed and human potential.
The slow metastasizing movement of this magical monstrosity points towards latent anxiety we all share about humankind and earth-life extinctions; stemming from our destructive predilections for manufacturing and over-consumption. All of this is explored through a poetic animation featuring a gigantic female-headed form (the protagonist, as such), a swarm of hungry birds and, to conclude, a host of floating, chattering, disembodied heads. The viewer and these characters are witnesses to sounds of nature, together with an industrial cacophony and a short dialogue which contextualizes this curiosity. Adapted from Mutu’s “Tumor” series, this bulbous body is covered in malady. This figure could be described as a sort of self-contained planet-semi-human hybrid: it wanders across a bleak atmosphere, polluting it with its own body, only to eventually self-destruct and shatter into multitudes of new forms, unencumbered by the enormity of one corpus.
Wangechi Mutu explores questions of, and interconnections between, selfimagery, gender constructs, cultural trauma and environmental destruction through a variety of media, including painting collage, sculpture, performance and video. With her characteristic morphing, hybrid, and organic forms, she portrays shared and inherent alienations. In Mutu’s work, identity has performative qualities: she calls upon the figure as a place through which to rewrite and reimagine oneself and break codes of the man-made and natural world. Her visual language is further enriched by experimentation with unexpected materials, some imbued with cultural significations, like Kenyan tea and volcanic red soil, gems and seeds.
Mutu’s work presents a visceral and compelling discourse with dominant modes of representation. She has been featured in 56th International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Venice Biennale: All the World’s Futures (2015) and the subject of major solo exhibitions at institutions worldwide, including the Musée D’art Contemporain de Montréal, Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden Baden, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, The Contemporary Austin in Texas, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina. Most recently, Mutu had a solo presentation at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston “A Promise to Communicate.” She is also the recipient of the African Art Award (2018) from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, National Artist Award from Anderson Ranch Arts Center (2017), Cultural Leadership Award from the American Foundation of Arts (2016), United States Artist Grant (2014), and Artist of the Year Awards from both the Brooklyn Museum (2013) and Deutsche Guggenheim (2010). Mutu currently works between New York and Nairobi, Kenya.
AMA JOSEPHINE BUDGE
Towards an Intimate Ecology
As the effects of climate change become increasingly violent along its multifarious front lines in the Global South, human and non-human worlds are forced to ‘become with’ (Haraway, 2016). The many slippages, and unexpectedly wet openings, of alternative, rhizomatic and tentacular engagements with environmentalism, feminism, decolonial practice and pleasure make up the assemblage that I call “intimate ecologies”. Theoretical and literal afflictions of depression and “anthropocenic despair” (Canavan, 2016) can be hazardous when studying climate colonialism. Instead, I utilize the erotic, speculative and theoretical landscapes of resistance that are present in feminist practices of “vulnerable writing” (Page, 2017). Aspiring to José Esteban Muñoz’s notion of hope as critical methodology – ‘a backwards glance that enacts a future vision’ (Muñoz, 2009) –, I aim to delineate a future vision built upon and sustained by co-dependant pleasure practices rather than conditional exchanges of extraction and power.
Ama Josephine Budge is a Speculative Writer, Artist, Curator and Pleasure Activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism. Her practice aims to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental evolutions and troublesomely queered identities.
Ama’s fiction and non-fiction has been published internationally, in Aperture, The Independent, Dispatch Feminist Moving Image, Skin Deep, CHEW Magazine, among others. She is convenor of I/Mages of Tomorrow anti-conference, co-founder of The Batty Mama queer black club & performance night, and initiator of Self Love and Ecstasy pleasure collective (aka SLAE). Ama has a background in performance art with a BA in Contemporary Performance Practice (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Subsequently, she undertook an MA in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy (Goldsmiths) and produced a thesis which explored Queer Modes of Encounter with Climate Colonialism and Black speculative art practices. Now a PhD candidate in Psychosocial Studies with Dr Gail Lewis at Birkbeck, Ama’s current research takes a queer, decolonial approach to challenging climate colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on inherently environmentalist pleasure practices in Ghana and Kenya.
Monsters in motion between colonial archives and postcolonial iconographies
My paper investigates how contemporary hegemonic readings of the border, of bodies and of people’s life and mobility trajectories, as well as the geographic/social context in which this reading takes place, is profoundly shaped by an iconography of monstrosity (Giuliani 2016a) that can be traced back to national and colonial archives (Wekker 2016; Stoler 2009). This iconography – fed by the media as well as institutional debates – is based on the gendered/sexualised “figures of race” (Giuliani 2016b) that have made up the symbolic material of (post)colonial imaginaries of Otherness throughout global and capitalist modernity. Considering current migrations towards Europe, my analysis reads borders as polysemic (Balibar 2002) (bio)technologies (Tazzioli 2017) and mobility as a process of subjectivation (Mezzadra & Neilson 2013) in which levels of constraint depend upon the tension between the process of differential inclusion serving labour exploitation and the reading of the subject’s racialised, gendered and sexualised body.
Gaia Giuliani is researcher at the Centro de Estudos Sociais – University of Coimbra, Associate Professor in Political Philosophy (ASN 2017, Italy), PI of the FCT project “(De)Othering. Deconstructing Risk and Otherness in Portuguese and European mediascapes” and founding member of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Race and Racisms (Italy).
Gaia’s research focuses on visual constructions of race and whiteness from an intersectional viewpoint. Her methodology crosses political philosophy, critical race and whiteness studies, postcolonial, cultural and gender studies. Her recent publications include Zombie, alieni e mutanti. Le paure dall’11 settembre ai giorni nostri (Le Monnier 2016) and Race, Nation, and Gender in Modern Italy. Intersectional Representations in Visual Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). She has co-authored the award-winning Bianco e nero. Storia dell’identità razziale degli italiani (Le Monnier 2013) with Dr. Cristina Lombardi-Diop and edited Il colore della nazione (Le Monnier, 2015), a collection of writings on visuality and race in post-colonial Italy. As well as her own academic work on the racial and colonial imaginary entailed in British, Australian and Italian imperial experience and the contemporary Euro-American debate on race and racism, Gaia has translated texts by R. Guha, G.C. Spivak, T. Asad, J. Butler and Ch.T. Mohanty. Her monograph Environmental Disasters, Migrations and the War on Terror: A Postcolonial Investigation of Cultural Constructions of Monstrosity will be published by Routledge in 2020.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH
As the seas temperature increases so does its mass. Will we wait for the rising mass of the sea, or the rising of the masses, before we act on Climate Change?
The Sea Squad uses cheerleading to discuss climate change, colonialism and capitalism.
Cheerleaders are individuals, working together as a team. They are a rhizomatic network. They are a model of group leadership, making statements in formation. They are power in a union. A body of water is comprised of individual water molecules, each invisible. And yet the sea as a mass contains so much power. Dressed in royal blue, Sea Squad model their choreography and chants on the sea, right down to the molecular structures. Sea Squad is rising up and acting as a model for action. “Let’s chant it, Let’s Rhyme it, Let’s cheer to save the Climate! Goooo Sea, Rise Rise Rise!” -Sea Squad
Liam Geary Baulch creates live performances, video, sound, and drawings. His practice uses the structures of songs, which provide familiar and appropriate contexts, for performances of writing, music or dance with political impulse. In previous work Liam has taken the forms of historic working songs to create new works about the contemporary conditions of work and unemployment, and led a community choir, ‘The Deptford Shanty Crew’, to reclaim an area’s history through singing against gentrification.
Costume plays a vital role in Liam’s work, acting like sets for plays. In ‘All Around My Hat’ costume provided a backdrop; becoming a character mash-up of many parts which came together as a sort of indigenous folk dress for contemporary London. As an artist, Liam is now focusing his practice on climate change. In Summer 2016, during an artist residency in Quebec Canada, Liam developed a performance in which he represents the sea as a cheerleading squad, using chants, dances and costume to discuss colonialism, capitalism and rising sea levels. Previously, he has curated a memorial march through London, to remember the whale which died swimming up the Thames. Liam sees himself continuing to engage audiences creatively in solving the crises of climate change. His current project is about air pollution.
Trans*Plant is a transdisciplinary project at the intersections of art and science, initiated by the trans-feminist artistic collective Quimera Rosa in 2016. With a commitment to creative self-experimentation and biomedical research, Trans*Plant is invested in current debates surrounding the effects of the anthropocene. This work urges us to develop a non-hierarchical approach towards nature, therefore rejecting altogether Western anthropocentric binaries that separate man/woman, white/non-white, straight/queer, science/witchcraft, normal/abnormal. Quimera Rosa approach identities and bodies as embedded in multiple interactions and relations with both human and non-human entities. The collective encourages participants to experience self-experimentation as a collective process which can dismantle any essentialist idea of identity.
Quimera Rosa [Pink Chimera], created in Barcelona in 2008, is a nomadic lab that researches and experiments on bodies, technoscience and identities. Quimera Rosa develops practices that produce non-natural cyborg identities from a transdisciplinary perspective.
Informed by transfeminist and post-identitarian discourses, the collective deconstructs sex and gender identities as well as the interactions between body/machine/environment. Their performances and projects see bodies as platforms for public intervention that can test the limits between public and private as well as explore aspects of subjectivity which result from the incorporation of prosthetics. For Quimera Rosa, sexuality is understood as a technological and artistic creation with which to experiment, hybridize and blur the frontiers between natural / artificial, normal / abnormal, male / female, hetero / homo, human / animal, animal / plant, art / politics, art / science, reality / fiction. Most of their work is conducted in a collaborative manner and free of patents and proprietary codes. It has been presented in streets, contemporary art centres, bars, galleries, universities, concert halls, colleges, discos, museums, squats, festivals and theatres most recently at Ars Electronica, Linz (2019), CyborgGrrrls Encuentro TecnoFeminista, Mexico (2018) and My Disease is an Artistic Creation, University of Davis, California (2018).
ISABEL BURR RATY
The Beauty Kit Focus Group
Isabel Burr Raty creates hybrid participatory performances and installations that invite the public to queer fixed categories of production understandings and experience the benefits of embodying utopian Sci-Fi in real time. The Beauty Kit Focus Group is a hybrid narrative device that hacks the focus group format. In this lecture the artist presents the beauty bio-products that she conceptualized, invented and manufactured using the sexual juices harvested in her Portugal and Amsterdam Farms. Conjugating medical and ancestral perspectives, she exposes how the nutritious properties of these fluids can replace components of beauty products that we find in the market and points out empty gaps of scientific perspectives concerning the female body’s full agency.
In Catastrophic times, can the orgasmic body be a source for sustainable electricity production? Can the cavities that make up the landscapes of the human sexual organs be a territory for agricultural development? Can sex hormones offer alternative components for psychopharmacology and recreational drugs formulas?
Isabel Burr Raty is a filmmaker and performance artist who explores the ontological crack between the organic and the artificial, the unlicensed knowledge of minority groups and the official facts. Her artistic work interweaves new media, body art, lectures and participatory performance, proposing hybrid narratives and bio-autonomy practices that play with synthetic magic and compose in situ Sci-Fi.
Isabel’s work and collaborations have been shown at venues such as KVS (Royal Flemish Theater), ZSeene Art Lab, Palais de Tokyo Paris and ISEA Hong Kong. She has presented artistic research internationally, at festivals and conferences including Taboo Transgression Transcendence in Art and Science (Corfu, Greece), Human Enhancement Clinic at Border Sessions (The Hague) and Trans-disciplinary Trans-national Festival in Art and Science ( Humbolt University, Berlin). Since 2013 Isabel has been based in Brussels, developing her second feature film (supported by Media Fund). She is associate researcher in a.pass.be, New Media Art lecturer at École de Recherche Graphique Brussels and one-year artist in residency in Waag and Mediamatic Amsterdam, after obtaining a grant for outstanding international artist given by the ministry of culture of this city. Isabel currently runs a mobile Farm that harvests human female genital juices, which will evolve into an “Eco-erogenous Para-pharmaceutics Village” in the Atacama Desert, where “every-BODY” will harvest and recycle each other.
BETH STEPHENS & ANNIE SPRINKLE
Ecosexual Wedding Project, 2008-2014
Video documentation, 10mins 28secs
In order to create a more mutual and sustainable relationship with nature we orchestrated 19 ecosexual wedding performances over the course of 9 years in 9 countries. We, along with our guests/audiences, made wedding vows to various nature entities. At the invitation of Linda M. Montano, our project used the structure of her 14 Years of Living Art, where we incorporated a new theme and colour each year. We asked for no material gifts, but invited people to collaborate with us on the creation of the weddings. Over 1000 people contributed, most of whom we had never met. Here’s documentation from 7 ecosexual weddings.
Green – 2008 – We married the Earth in Santa Cruz, CA
Blue – 2009 We married the Sky in Oxford, England
Purple – 2010 – We married the Moon in Los Angeles, CA
White – 2011 – We married the Snow in Ottawa, Canada
Black – 2011 – We married the Coal in Gijon, Spain
Golden – 2011 – We married the Sun on Bernal Hill in San Francisco, CA
Brown – 2014 – We married the Soil in Krems, Austria
Beth Stephens, Ph.D. has been a filmmaker, performance artist, activist and educator for three decades. Stephens is the Founding Director of E.A.R.T.H. Lab at UC Santa Cruz where she is the Department Chair and a Professor of Art. In the last five years she has produced two new feature documentary films, exhibited installations and done performance art in galleries, museums and public spaces.
Annie Sprinkle has been creating multi-media projects about sexuality for four decades. She made adult films and B movies from 1974-1994 and earned a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality. Her artistic and theatrical work, about her life and work in sex, has toured internationally. Her newest book, which she co-authored with Beth Stephens, Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm—For Every Body, is all about orgasm.
Stephens and Sprinkle live and work together in the redwood forest of Boulder Creek and in an old Victorian cottage in San Francisco. As founders of the “ecosex movement”, they are devoted to pollinating this movement through art, theory, practice and activism Together they aim to make the environmental movement a little more sexy, fun and diverse. Since 2004 they have produced numerous performance art works, ecosex symposiums, weddings to nature entities, workshops, award-winning documentaries, walking tours, and art exhibits. As official Document 14 artists (2017) they premiered their new film, “Water Makes Us Wet—An Ecosexual Adventure”, about the pleasures and politics of water. This was recently screened at the NY Museum of Modern Art. They are currently completing a book about their 18 years of collaborations, Assuming the Ecosexual Position for University of Minnesota Press. They are in love with each other, and the Earth.
“You’re toxic, I’m falling under”: gay ‘pig’ masculinities, toxicity, and more-than-human intimacies
Taking a cue from Britney Spears’s “Toxic” (2003), this presentation will explore the role of toxicity and self-intoxication in the performance and representation of so-called gay “pig” masculinities and the forms of more-than-human intimacies they facilitate. Gay “pig” masculinities have emerged in the last two decades in tandem with the introduction of combination antiretroviral therapies for the treatment and prophylaxis of HIV infection. Characterised by an eroticisation and pursuit of relentless multiple penetrations and exchanges of bodily fluids, gay pig masculinities violate the boundaries of the male body as it has been conceptualised throughout Western modernity – as autonomous, rational, impenetrable and impermeable – in order to become the material substrate for the idealised and therefore abstract liberal subject.
Developed at the intersections of HIV discourses and iconography, contemporary biopolitics, 21st-century media and the pharmacology of prescription and recreational drugs, gay “pig” masculinities reveal bodies on the threshold of nature and technology in times of urban gentrification, liberal identity politics, and increasing atomisation of the social body. Drawing comparisons between the spatiotemporality of gay “pigs” and the ways in which actual pigs have been thought of during the transition to Western modernity, I will approach “pig” masculinities as an aesthetics of existence and explore their potential as existential territories, not only of queerness and excess, but also of intimacy with the more-than-human at a time of deep ecological uncertainties.
João Florêncio is Senior Lecturer in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter. His research navigates the intersections of Visual Culture with Queer Studies and the Posthumanities in an attempt to rethink the body, desire, pleasure, ethics and community.
Between 2019 and 2021, João is a fellow of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, with a project entitled Masculinity and the Ethics of Porosity in “Post-AIDS” Gay Porn. His work has appeared in various edited collections and journals, including Porn Studies, Performance Research, GPS: Global Performance Studies, and Performance Philosophy. His first monograph is forthcoming with Routledge.
NADJA VERENA MARCIN
OPHELIA is a site-specific video installation and live performance which draws from the Shakespearean character Ophelia and alludes to John Everett Millais’s homonymous painting (1851-52). Marcin re-imagines this mythical character within the framework of gender inequality and climate change, by displaying the relationship between the destruction of the biosphere by the hands of mankind and the history of female hysteria and women’s oppression.
The 21st century OPHELIA has been the symbol of thousands of counterfeit Ophelia memes by various authors, playfully multiplying and democratizing the icon’s one-dimensional symbolism. By invoking the historical icon of Ophelia, Marcin offers a contemporary feminist critical gaze to denounce the violence carried out for centuries on both women and Nature.
Nadja Verena Marcin lives and works in New York and North Rhine-Westphalia. In her performance-based work and immersive environments, Marcin exposes hidden social or cultural codes through hyperbolic – sometimes humorous – interpretations of scenarios and symbolic actions. Through the appropriation and subversion of familiar images, her work reflects the ambiguity of human behaviour and psychological mechanisms.
Marcin completed an MFA in Visual Art at the Department of New Genre, School of the Arts, Columbia University, New York in 2010, following a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Münster. Nadja has taught and lectured at P.I. Arts Center, New York, City College of New York and Brooklyn College. She is also the Founder and Creative Director of Kunstraum LLC, that promotes local and international emerging artists in Brooklyn. She has received grants, residencies, and prizes, such as the Fulbright Award, Int. Artist Career Development Grant, ISCP Residency and Franklin Furnace Grant. Her first museum solo show Ophelia is currently on view at SCHAUWERK in Sindelfingen, Germany, till June 2019. Prior locations included CONTEXT Art Miami, special project (2017); solo exhibition at Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco (2018) and Nube Gallery, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (2018). Marcin’s work has been shown internationally at ICA Philadelphia; Berkley Art Museum; ZKM – Museum for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; Garage Museum for Contemporary Art, Moscow.
Helena will share a selection of works from her ongoing research project, which investigates the perceived ‘silence’ or gap in forms of language and representation that occur within human-non-human encounters. This project has resulted in a series of artworks with minerals, algae and organisms in a range of settings: from environmental site-based work to museum collections, and collaborations with scientists and technologists. The work blends performative and fictional writing with scientific research to reimagine language, taxonomies and forms of representation in relation to broader issues of environmental change. Helena will present poetic-visual texts, sound and film from recent works. This will include readings from Holding the Herbarium, created during research in the botany collections at the Natural History Museum in London, and Falling Birds, developed during her research residency in the Horniman Museum in London.
Helena Hunter blends languages of science with art, poetry and fiction to reimagine material agency and forms of ecological (un)knowing. She works across text, film, performance and sculptural assemblage and has a Master’s in Fine Art from Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Her poetic-visual texts works have recently been featured in MAI Journal of Feminism and Visual Culture, SomethingOther and an in an essay by Jussi Parikka in Posthuman Ecologies edited by Rosi Braidotti and Simone Bignall.
Helena has presented her work at ICA, Ambika P3, The Showroom, V22, The Silver Building, IMT Gallery, Barbican Art Gallery, [space], Art 13 Art Fair, Tate, Arts Catalyst, DAM Projects A_SPACE (London); Tramway (Glasgow), Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester), mima (Middlesbrough) HIAP Frontiers of Retreat (Helsinki), Dalane Festival of Culture (Norway), Jerome Zodo Contemporary (Milan), Bòlit Contemporary Arts Centre (Girona), Lydgalleriet (Bergen) OFF COURSE Art Fair (Brussels), ArtVerona Art Project Fair (Verona), City of Women Festival (Ljubljana). Helena also works collaboratively under the name Matterlurgy with sound artist Mark Peter Wright. Their work intersects art, ecology, science and technology, and operates across multiple platforms including installation, performance and sound. Matterlurgy will be UK Artist Associates as part of the Delfina Foundation’s Art, Science and Technology programme in 2019.
The Reading/ La Seduta, 2017
Video, 15mins 33secs
Commissioned for the Italian Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, Italy
‘The Reading/ La Seduta’ (2017) is a video installation resulting from a workshop held on Turtle Island (Manhattan- Lanape territory) in February 2017. Through an open call, ten participants, tarot reader, Adelita, and the artist Tina Zavitsanos engaged in an unscripted reading of ten Major Arcana based on extraction, value, what we owe each other and how we are implicated in land-use. In preparation for the tarot reading session Hannah Black, Evan Calder Williams, Julian Noisecat and Elizabeth A.Povinelli were invited to elaborate, in dialogue with the participants, on the ten cards created for the workshop: Extraction, Soil, The Ongoing End, Dirt, Vulnerability, Value, The Colony, Abstract Threat, Simulation, Real Threat. These themes were produced through the course of research conducted on Standing Rock, the indigenous protest against the laying of the Dakota Access Pipeline north of the Standing Rock Reservation, but also reflect on larger issues like the permeability of borders, simulation and the function of different perceptions of threat. In turn, Gus Moran, Nia Nottage, Farhan Islam, Nudrat Mahajabin, Katya Dokurova, Charlotte Lewis, Sandra Wazaz, Shao Lei, Amir Akram, Amanata Williams – the participants – authored and performed a series of scenes based on Theatre of the Oppressed exercises.
The cards reflect the operation of the Major Arcana in a standard tarot deck, illustrating an archetypal situation which the readers have to interpret in relation to their position on the table and to their chosen question. The Celtic Cross spread, used in this tarot reading session, ascribes a temporal position to each card, such as ‘recent past/ present’, ‘how we see ourselves’, ‘how others see us’, ‘obstacles’, ‘hopes and fears’ and an ‘outcome’. The question, collectively chosen by the participants, was ‘what is our spiritual tie to the land?’ This generated debate around what ‘land’ one was referring to, who ‘we’ constituted. Tarot reading is re-intepreted here as a pedagogical practice, where the reader and the participants collectively craft a narrative to understand, analyse and overcome the obstacles presented to them by their question. This is driven by a shared notion of protection and reparation which will have to account for the uneven distribution of the fallout from climate change.
Adelita Husni-Bey is an artist and pedagogue interested in anarco-collectivism, theater, law and urban studies. She organizes workshops, produces publications, radio broadcasts, archives and exhibition work focused on using non-competitive pedagogical models through the framework of contemporary art. Collaborating with activists, architects, jurists, schoolchildren, spoken word poets, actors, urbanists, physical therapists, athletes, teachers and students from different backgrounds her work focuses on unpacking the complexity of collectivity, to make good what can never be made good – what we owe each other.
Adelita’s recent solo exhibitions include: Chiron, New Museum, 2019, White Paper: On Land, Law and the Imaginary, Centro de Arte dos de Mayo, Mostoles and A Wave in the Well, Sursock Museum, Beirut, 2016, Movement Break, Kadist foundation, 2015, Playing Truant, Gasworks, 2012. She has participated in Being: New Photography 2018, MoMA, 2018, Dreamlands, Whitney Museum, 2016, The Eighth Climate, 11th Gwangju Biennale, 2015, and has held workshops and lectures at ESAD Grenoble, 2016, The New School, 2015, Sandberg Institute, 2015, Museo del 900, 2013, Temple University, 2013, Birkbeck University, 2011 amongst other spaces. Adelita is a 2012 Whitney Independent Study Program fellow, a 2016 Graham Foundation grantee and has represented Italy at the Venice Biennale of Art, 2017 with a video rooted in anti-extractivist struggles.
Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women
We are witnessing a new surge of interpersonal and institutional violence against women, including new witch hunts. This surge of violence has occurred alongside an expansion of capitalist social relations. In this new work, which will revisit some of the main themes of Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici examines the root causes of these developments and outlines the consequences for the women affected and their communities. She argues that, no less than the witch hunts in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe and the “New World,” this new war on women is a structural element of the new forms of capitalist accumulation and processes founded upon the destruction of people’s most basic means of reproduction. Like at the dawn of capitalism, what we discover behind today’s violence against women are processes of enclosure, land dispossession, and the remoulding of women’s reproductive activities and subjectivity.
As well as an investigation into the causes of this new violence, the book Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women (2018) is a feminist call to arms. Federici’s work provides new ways of understanding the methods by which women are resisting victimization and offers a powerful reminder that reconstructing the memory of the past is crucial for the struggles of the present.
Silvia Federici is a feminist writer, teacher, and militant. In 1972 she co-founded the International Feminist Collective which launched the Wages for Housework campaign internationally. Her previous books include Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (1998) and Revolution at Point Zero (2012). She is a professor emerita at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor. She worked as a teacher in Nigeria and was also the cofounder of the Committee for Academic Freedom for Africa.