Image: Little Riot Press
We're getting rather excited as our packed programme of debate, performance and rants is now only six weeks away...
Taking place next month, in the gorgeous Fearon Hall, this public symposium is the first part of a two day long festival of sorts celebrating the rich history of the political pamphlet and the enduring influence they have upon contemporary art practice and practitioners.
11 am Introduction – Gillian Whiteley and Jane Tormey
- Mark McGowan
The political pamphleteer in the age of social media. Nothing has changed except its physical appearance but the principle is still the same ... How to carry a message. Going to be talking about not the message but what it looks like and how that influences the potential to change your political position. Shouting crying lying all framed within the screen of multiplicities. The Internet is God. The pamphleteer the disciple of the medium.
One – Urban Pamphleteer, Ben Campkin & Rebecca Ross
This paper will reflect on our experience of initiating and editing the first six issues of an online and physical publication, Urban Pamphleteer (www.urbanpamphleteer.org), from two perspectives. First, we will consider the significance of pamphleteering, in the context of histories of radical pamphleteering, in instigating urban change, and the lessons that can be learned in addressing the most pressing challenges linked to contemporary urbanization. Second, we will consider how the form of the pamphlet relates to the city itself, through its printing, circulation and links to public(s) and public spaces; and how it might prompt us to disrupt and reconfigure problematic aspects of conventional academic publishing.
Urban Pamphleteer (2013 -) strives to engage with contemporary urban questions from academic as well as professional, community and creative perspectives. The intention is to stimulate debate, and in the process empower and inform citizens, professionals, researchers, institutions, and policy-makers, with a view to positively shaping change. The publication is an experiment in the interstices between academic and wider scope publication, and the first six issues have focused on some of the most contested areas of debate, such as the phenomena of ‘smart cities’, ‘regeneration’, and ‘design against crime’, and the social and other impacts of associated discourses and practices. Rather than framing these as polarised debates, the publication has intentionally brought out complexity, and varied perspectives, communicated in a direct and accessible way.
12.30pm Rant one – I am For & Against, Joanne Lee
This rant emerges as a response to the binary position implied by being too neatly for or against. It is also a reaction to what is an increasingly divided country after the Brexit vote, further stratified by unequal wealth and opportunity, economic and job precarity, and counters a culture in which expertise is derided and populism provides oversimplified solutions. It also suggests that those academic arguments producing narrow theses reduce the possibility for a more nuanced understanding of the situations we are living through, and that creative practice can contribute richer and more intricate understanding. I am for sustaining space in which an increasing complexity of expression can be generated. I am for a creative, critical constellation of thought and practice. I propose bringing together the urgency of the political pamphlet with the digressive potential of the essay form. It will find it iteration in a verbal performance accompanied via a proliferation of what I am describing as a digital pamphlet, a scrolling, expanding series of screen-based photographic/typographic illustrations whose aesthetics draw on the history of political and social pamphlet design, and are intended to amplify connections and generate new resonances when ‘read’ with/against the spoken words. This rant is realised in connection with the proposed contribution for a Market Stall made in collaboration with Sheffield design studio dust.
1 – 1.45pm Lunch
1.45pm Rant two – The Curationist Manifesto: A Sonic Pamphlet by Gruppen, Tim Brennan & Dean Brannagan
In 2002/2003 Brennan published 2 works; a treatise entitled ‘Curationism: Nu-Curator as Performer’ and The follow up ‘Curationist Manifesto’. Both outline a radical new way of perceiving expanded activities in contemporary art. Curationism is proposed as a new cultural formation in which its practitioners, Curationists, emerge at the nexus of cultural politics and art production. At first glance the project at hand appears janus faced, involving an unearthing of pre-capitalist approaches to collecting with more recent modernist developments in fine art. However, the Curationist is much more than an eclectic synthesis of these seemingly disparate strands. By drawing upon a range of historical examples it proposes a radical rethinking of what anti-capitalist practice might need to be in an increasingly globalised economy of free trade.
2pm Paper two/ conversation – Silver and Gold: Ryan in Conversation with Silver and Cameron, Evelyn Silver, Shirley Cameron & Miffy Ryan
The performance Silver & Gold (1991) is celebratory in tone and emphasises Evelyn Silver and Shirley Cameron’s investment in ten years of performance collaborations. Their work together, although political was, Silver explains in the pamphlet very friendly ‘we’ve often made cups of tea for audiences’ and ‘often involved people in other ways too.’ The notions of conversation, pamphleteering and friendliness are political in the context of feminist campaigning and feminist enquiry as they promote sideways rather than upwards forms of organisation, and construct the political as well as the aesthetic around personal interaction and everyday experience. This three way conversation is an alternative to presenting a paper with the subjects distanced and consigned to history, academic disassociation is challenged.
Despite Silver & Gold’s celebratory nature and the professionalism of its execution it can be viewed as both ironic and subversive. On page three of the pamphlet Cameron explains ‘I could say a lot more about the financial side of putting on performances, but really this would not fit in with the spirit of celebration! I’ll just say that the Arts Council has a Performance Art Advisory Group, but we have never had any support from them, either directly or through the organisations they do fund. I hope in the future we will be more successful.’ The pamphlet was made in order to be heard but also to protest against being ignored.
2.20pm Rant three – Under the sea light (a manifesto of an immigrant artist), Chiara Dellerbra
I will proclaim the manifesto for an immigrant artist, drinking a glass of water and salt, 1 for each sentence of the manifesto till the end. There will be 10 glasses of water and salt in a circle. In the background, the sound of the sea.
Recently, on the Mediterranean coast, immigrants have protested against the lack of help by the hosting nation by drinking an incredible quantity of seawater, causing a great many deaths for protest. Sea salt, however, contains other elements in addition to sodium chloride. Among these there are potassium salts, iodine salts and Epsom salts. These substances are not poisonous in themselves, but the quantity present in marine water has become toxic to the body. The normal water we drink, the one called "fresh water", contains less than 0.1% of dissolved salts. Our blood contains about 09% of salt and about 0.25% of our body is made from salt. Seawater instead contains 3.5% of dissolved salts and its eventual ingestion can be very toxic.
As an artist I am an immigrant, outsider exploring and discovering new worlds. I am seeking either to uncover what is strange in the familiar, or journey to foreign terrains, in reality or imagination. The manifesto is based on the “Immigrant movement international document”, written in the 2011 in collaboration with immigration academics, activists, politicians, and community members at a convening at the IM International headquarters in Corona, Queens, New York.
2.30pm Paper three – Smart Verbal (1979 – 1981), Mo White
The paper will discuss a historical moment in my early art career when I co-published a fanzine, Smart Verbal, in Birmingham in the early 1980s. This will look broadly at that political and cultural moment and the context in which these fanzines were produced. It will locate this marginal art activity as one that emerged from a punk aesthetic, a burgeoning local music scene and what can be called a period of political disillusionment with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. It will discuss how this context merged with local left wing movements, the women’s liberation movement and the academic work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. This produced the backdrop for the activities of two young women to publish 6 issues of the fanzine between 1979-81.
Smart Verbal was a DIY production, something consistent with the times; this will be looked along with some of the other popular cultural products that were contemporary with it – in particular, the music of the band, the Au Pairs. This will highlight a moment when it was possible, in a local context, to make culture that was both popular and critical.
3.30pm Paper four – There’s no pecking order in poo, Andrew Wilson
This is a playfully provocative invitation to consider our societal contempt of shit, and the associated domestic tasks of dealing with shit, to undermine the dominant human systems that are in decline. Delivered verbally this 10 minute performative lecture is accompanied by a barrage of visual imagery to both authenticate and contradict the recitation.
Given the deplorable scale of our ecological and global humanitarian crises, in a political and economic landscape which aggressively separates and propagates divisiveness There’s no pecking order in poo asserts a need to radically (re)think, not as individuals or nation states but as a species. Citing diverse examples from intellectual studies, popular culture and lived experience artist Andrew Wilson invites us to reflect upon our relationship with everyday waste on both a domestic and societal scale. There is no pecking order in poo is intentionally humorous (though certainly not comedy) to captivate a broad audience, and is intentionally provocative to encourage broad discussion and debate.
3.40pm Rant four – Transform Education – Transform the Economy, Ruth Beale
A proposition for education and childcare (formal, informal and lifelong) to be radically opened out and de-institutionalised, for the good of the economy, happiness, health and wellbeing. Starting with childcare and maternity/paternity leave, to how this affects flexible working, productivity and women in the workforce, through to shifting the school age later, abolishing testing, playfulness in learning, unschooling, and creativity in the curriculum, as well as changing the emphasis from competition to making skills, onto the right to free higher education and the value of ongoing adult education to society.
3.50pm Rant five – SATISIFIED: A 10 Minute Feminist Presentation on the Affective Turn, Andrea Gibson (nee Wheeler)
In this poetic and political text I explore affect and question its significance within the current climate for feminist theorists and teachers working in the academic institution in the US. My feeling, as expressed in the text, and with which I hope there is some resonance, is situated in current feminist philosophy and by contemporary theories of affect. My feeling is of a human being, who happens to be foreign and female in the US and is affected bodily by the loss of all ethical dialogue, of all environmental concern, of a natural human response to others in danger, and of all questions of women, our work for rights, which are falling insignificant by the wayside. The question I ask in the text however, is whether our feelings, our felt-bodies, nature-felt in this current climate, and especially women’s, can be, and even have to be, the start of a new genesis: an energy that must be harnessed to build new conceptions of what could be a shared environment between man and woman, between the human and nature, between one nation and its others. This would be a new feminist politics, post-human but not post-woman, nor post feeling.
4pm Rant six - radical reThink(ing) HE- a polyphonic manifesto for 6 voices – not a rant but an atonic, Radical rethink
We appreciate that historically pamphlets have been more monologic in tone, their rhetoric often verging on the stuff of manifestos and shot through with phallogocentric desires and drives. By challenging these conventions through a polyphonic sensibility, we aim to experiment with a feminist approach to pamphleteering. At stake here is urgent resistance: finding strategies to refuse elite power structures by promoting non-binary alternatives. This aspiration underscores not only the content of our pamphlet but also how this couples with its form. We want to evoke and transcend agitprop, along with other good old-fashioned forms of 'creative comms', as they combine to relay and overlay the vocal lines of our Symposium, 14/01/17: the pamphlet emerges then as both call and response, theme and variation.