Writing / Performance
30 January 2020 to 31 January 2020 | 10am 6pm
Battersea, Gorvy Lecture Theatre
£15 full rate / £7.50 concessions
Free for current RCA students and staff
‘…when we’re writing music, that’s what’s important, and when we’re writing ideas, that’s what’s interesting. And I would like to extend it to as many things in my life as I can — to cooking, to answering the telephone…’ — John Cage
Writing and performance have long, perhaps always, been intimately linked. The most obvious relationship between the two may be the script and its enactment – how can one have a reading if there has not previously been some writing? – but there are many other connections, some of which might be considered even more fundamental. Performances that might seem spontaneous – whether they occur with the gallery, or everyday life – are likely to be based upon actions previously learned and rehearsed, and whether or not these have literally been written down in advance, they have been inscribed into the communities to which we belong. Even those performances that are most ‘lifelike’, and might be considered most ordinary, draw our attention to the repetitions and rituals of our everyday lives. Alison Knowles’ performance The Identical Lunch (1969) was developed from her habit of eating the same lunch – ‘a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast, with lettuce and butter, no mayo and a cup of soup or a glass of buttermilk’ – at the same time every day. When Knowles acknowledged this daily ritual as the performance it was, and invited others to join her, it enabled her to notice the differences that occurred within the repetitions, and to pay attention to the uniqueness of the moment, and the actions that occurred within it.
This two-day conference will bring together practitioners in live art, performance, dance and the visual arts, with poets, choreographers, essayists, historians and others considering writing and performance in aspects both broad and particular. What are the most urgent considerations in our understanding of contemporary performance and its relationship to writing? How important is writing — especially with regards to the possibility of repetition and to ritual practices? If, to follow Richard Schechner, every performance is a ‘twice-behaved behaviour’ even when seemingly unscripted, how might the body be inscribed and, as such, is every act a palimpsest? How might literary or linguistic theories or practices inform a performance that may not itself be verbal? Writing / Performance aims to consider, celebrate, and criticise this expanded field of performance practices in contemporary art.
Speakers and performers include: Tai Shani, Sophie Jung, Sally O’Reilly, Keith Jarrett, Ian Saville, Shirt, and many more.
See below for the full listing and bios.
Isabella Streffen: Proposals For Enchantment
Isabella Streffen is interested in manifestations of power and myth; moments of dazzlement and the slippery, contested territory between image and text. In pursuit of this she has illuminated Hadrian’s Wall from end-to-end, flown prototype drones inside the Library of Congress, camouflaged tourists in Monet’s garden, chased vampires in the Palais Garnier, followed Sophie Calle to Venice, performed in cabaret en unicorne, transformed apples into gold and developed close reading as a methodology for writing through. She leads the MA Fine Art at De Montfort University, and is currently close reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
Erica Scourti: 8 things to be scared of instead of death
Erica Scourti is an artist and writer based in London and Athens. Her work explores biographical writing and bodily inscription in the performance and representation of subjectivity. Recent solo shows include Complaint at Almanac, London and Spill Sections at StudioRCA (both 2018); group shows include the High Line, New York, Wellcome Collection, Kunsthalle Wien, Hayward Gallery and EMST Athens. Her writing has been published in Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota Press, 2018) and Fiction as Method (Sternberg, 2017) amongst others. Scourti is guest editor of the Happy Hypocrite journal (2019) and was a resident at Rupert, Lithuania, in summer 2019.
Richard Layzell: How to Name a Tree (and see it as a political animal)
Richard Layzell has been a leading innovator in the fields of performance, video and installation art since the 1980s. He’s also pioneered socially engaged practice and worked with dozens of diverse communities, including in the private sector. He was a board member of O + I, the successor to the Artists Placement Group, and as a result led residencies as an artist in industry for 8 years. This award-winning practice as a ‘visionaire’ took place in a number of UK companies including AIT Plc, Unilever and DHL. Bringing performance art to young people for the first time, he was commissioned by ACE to write Live Art in Schools in 1993. His interactive installation Tap Ruffle and Shave was experienced by 100,000 people of all ages and abilities across the UK, including at the Southbank Centre.
Tai Shani's multidisciplinary practice, comprising performance, film, photography and installation, revolves around experimental narrative texts. Shani creates violent, erotic and fantastical images told in a dense, floral language which re-imagines female otherness as a perfect totality, set in a world complete with cosmologies, myth and histories that negate patriarchy. Tai Shani's project DC Productions (2014–2019) proposes an allegorical city of women, is an experimental and expanded adaptation of Christine de Pizan's 1405 pioneering feminist book, The Book of the City of Ladies, within which Christine builds an allegorical city for notable women drawn from a medieval conception of history, where fact, fiction and myth are blurred. The collected texts were published in 2019 as Our Fatal Magic.
Tai Shani was born in London. Shani has presented her work extensively in the UK and abroad. Recent exhibitions and commissions include: Turner Contemporary, Margate 2019, (Turner Prize Nominee), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (2019); Athens Biennial, (2018); Nottingham Contemporary (2018); Tetley, leeds (2018), Glasgow International (2018) Wysing Arts Centre (2017); Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2016); RADAR commission, Loughborough University, (2016), Serpentine Galleries (2016); Tate Britain (2016).
Juliet Jacques is a writer and filmmaker based in London. Her most recent book was Trans: A Memoir (Verso, 2015). Her short fiction, journalism, essays and criticism have appeared in Frieze, Granta, Sight & Sound, London Review of Books and many other publications. Her short films have screened in galleries and festivals worldwide.
Nisha Ramayya: ‘The discharge of something long held – in the body’: Translation, Performance, and Sacrifice
Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and is currently based in London. Her debut collection States of the Body Produced by Love was published by Ignota Books in September 2019. Recent publications include: In Me the Juncture (2019) published by Sad Press; Threads (2018), a critical-creative pamphlet co-authored with Sandeep Parmar and Bhanu Kapil, published by clinic; and ‘Secreting Blackness in the Poetry of D. S. Marriott’ (2018) in the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. She is a member of the Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK research group; the interdisciplinary practice-as-research group Generative Constraints; and a lecturer in Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London.
David Grundy: ‘Trying to keep things together’: Dance and Text in the work of Ishmael Houston-Jones
David Grundy is a poet, academic and publisher. Having previously taught Literature and Film at the University of Cambridge, he is currently a British Academy Fellow at the University of Warwick, where he's writing a second book, on queer poetry in Boston and San Francisco. (His first book, A Black Arts Poetry Machine: Amiri Baraka and the Umbra Poets was published by Bloomsbury in 2019.) With Lauri (Ramey) Scheyer, he is co-editing a Reader of work by poet Calvin Hernton; other editorial work includes a feature on the poet Tom Weatherly recently published on Jacket 2. He previously taught literature and film at the University of Cambridge, and co-runs the small press Materials and the little magazine Splinter.
Marita Fraser: Feminist Frottage: 'Speaking with' off the page
Marita Fraser is an artist, writer and researcher exhibiting internationally, including exhibitions with Kunsthaus Vienna, Städtisches Museum Engen, Atelierhaus Salzamt Linz, and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. In 2016 she was artist in resident at Museums Quartier Vienna (Q21) and in 2017 she was awarded the ArtReview Casa Wabi Residency Award. She is currently undertaking a PhD by practice at the Royal College of Art, titled 'Speaking With: New Forms of Notation for Scoring Excess'.
William Cobbing: What Are Words Worth?
William Cobbing studied sculpture at Central St Martins (1994–7), De Ateliers artists’ institute in Amsterdam (1998–2000) and a PhD Fine Art by Practice (2004–10) at Middlesex University (2010). Cobbing undertook residencies at Tokyo Arts and Space in 2014, Turquoise Mountain in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. He was awarded the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at Ruskin School and British School at Rome, resulting in the Gradiva Project exhibitions at Freud Museum and Camden Arts Centre (2007–8).
Sean Ashton writes fiction, art criticism and poetry. From 2007–11, he was associate editor of MAP Magazine, and from 2012–17 wrote for Art Review. His 2007 book Sunsets (Alma Books) is a collection of reviews of imaginary artworks and books. His novel Living in a Land (Ma Bibliothèque 2017) is a fictional memoir written entirely in sentences constructed in the negative. He has also contributed essays and stories to other publications, including the philosophy journal Collapse and the book Walking Cities. His poetry collection Sampler, a selection of excerpts from an imaginary encyclopaedia, is published by Valley Press in 2020.
George Steven (b. New York, New York), publicly known as Shirt, is a multiform conceptual artist working in rap music, performance, multi-media sculpture, painting, photography, and installation – with a lens focused on everyday people and common things. In his work, Shirt offers critical interpretations of art history, popular culture, and philosophy and references a wide swath of diverse and potent artistic traditions – from New York City rap, to twentieth century Black Dadaism, Conceptual Art, and Performance Studies – to map out an ongoing conversation in a language uniquely his own. He has an MFA from the Academy of Art & Design in Basel, Switzerland where he studied with Chus Martinez; during which time he also exhibited a number of site-specific public works through Europe. He currently lives and works in New York, on a wide array of creative projects for various individuals and companies, alongside his own vast multi-media and cross-genre practice.
Ken Hollings: Ideas Are One Thing, And What Happens Is Another
Ken Hollings is a writer, broadcaster and lecturer. He is the author of the books Destroy All Monsters, Welcome to Mars, The Bright Labyrinth and The Space Oracle. The first volume of his three-part Trash Project, Inferno, is due from Strange Attractor Press in January 2020. His writings have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies; and he has written and presented critically acclaimed programmes for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and Resonance 104.4FM. Ken has collaborated as a writer/performer both live and in the studio with Howlround, Biting Tongues and the Radio Science Orchestra. His spoken-word project Works for Magnetic Tape is available from Touch/Tapeworm. Ken teaches at the RCA and Central St Martins and has presented his work at the Royal Institution, the British Library, Tate Britain, the International Space University in Strasbourg, the Venice Biennale and TED.
Rathna Ramanathan: Ideas Art One Thing, And What Happens Is Another
Dr Rathna Ramanathan is a graphic designer and historian known for her expertise in intercultural communication and alternative publishing practices. She is Dean of Communication at the Royal College of Art, London. She works in international cross- disciplinary teams whilst leading the research, design and delivery of communication on projects for BBC World (Hindi and Bangla), British Council, UNICEF India, World Bank, as well as publishers Tara Books and Harvard University Press. Themes of urban and cultural heritage resonate in Rathna’s work including the relevance of tangible (archives) and intangible heritages; cities envisioned through rural/tribal creative imaginations; dialogues of people, politics and place; as well as working with endangered Indian heritages. Rathna is interested in the relationship between technology, society, craft and culture and the role of the communicator within this.
Rebecca May Johnson: The Recipe as an event score? Performing Disobedience in the Kitchen
Dr Rebecca May Johnson is a writer, academic and cook who completed her PhD at UCL in 2016. She is interested in food, cooking, eating, translation and radical domestic practices, among other thigns. She is writing a creative non-fiction book about cooking and gender. Her monograph about a contemporary German reworking of the Odyssey, ‘Unweaving the Odyssey: Barbara Köhler’s Niemands Frau’, was published in August 2019. She currently works at UEA.
Neil Luck: Writing as Composition: a musicological reading of the script as score
Neil Luck is a composer, performer and scholar currently completing a PhD at the University of York, UK. His practice-led research focuses on the relationship of experimental music-theatre to other interdisciplinary art forms. As an independent artist, and as the director of the ensemble ARCO he has created and presented work at music venues, festivals and galleries, theatres, and public spaces internationally including the ICA, Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, in Lithuania and Denmark as part of their Capital of Culture celebrations, the Tokyo Experimental Festival, and MATA festival (USA). As a curator and producer Neil has curated a number of events and festivals which reflect his interests in live performance. This has included Notations and The Voice and Nothing More in collaboration with Sam Belinfante, and two festivals festival of interactive and participatory live art at the Tate Britain. Neil also works as a broadcaster, making radiophonic works focused on contemporary music and performance for stations including BBC Radio 3 and Resonance FM.
Roberta Minnucci: Performing the Score: Writing, Music and Dance in Kounellis’ performance Da inventare sul posto (To Invent on the Spot)
Roberta Minnucci is a PhD candidate in History of Art at the University of Nottingham. Her AHRC-funded PhD examines the role of cultural memory, as well as the use of citation and appropriation, in the late 1960s Italian avant-garde movement Arte Povera. She is particularly interested in investigating the use of art historical references and cultural heritage in Arte Povera in relation to the specific Italian artistic and political context of the time. As part of her doctoral studies, she has recently completed a placement in the curatorial department of Tate Modern, London. In 2018 she was curatorial intern at the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin, while the previous year she collaborated with the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, in the role of exhibition assistant and catalogue contributor for the show Poor Art⏐Arte Povera. Italian Influences, British Responses.
Irene Revell is a curator and writer who works closely, often in ongoing ways, with artists who work across sound, text, performance and moving image. Much of her work since 2004 has been with the London-based organisation Electra. She has worked closely on the Her Noise Archive since its inception and is a trustee of the Cinenova feminist film and video collection. She is Visiting Curator on the MA Sound Arts, London College of College of Communication where she holds a TECHNE AHRCE scholarship for practice-based doctoral research on the 'feminist performance score' at CRiSAP.
Sally O'Reilly writes for performance, page and video, interleaving academic research and technical knowledges with the comic, the fantastical and the psycho-social.Besides contributing to several art magazines and numerous exhibition catalogues, she has written the novel Crude (Eros Press, 2016), the libretto for the opera The Virtues of Things (Royal Opera, Aldeburgh Music, Opera North, 2015), a monograph on Mark Wallinger (Tate Publishing, 2015) and The Body in Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson, 2009). She was writer in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (2010–11) and at Modern Art Oxford (2016); producer and co-writer of The Last of the Red Wine, a radio sitcom set in the art world (ICA, London, 2011), and co-editor of Implicasphere (2003–8), an interdisciplinary broadsheet.
Keith Jarrett lives and works in London. Poet and fiction writer, he is currently a PhD scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, where he is completing his first novel, exploring the migration of religion from the Caribbean to London. He is a former UK Poetry Slam Champion; he also won the International Slam Championship at FLUPP in Rio. His short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including Attitude and Tell Tales IV, with influences ranging from Caribbean trickster figures to Latin American surrealism. His play, Safest Spot in Town, was performed at the Old Vic and on BBC Four in 2017 as part of the Queers series. His book of poetry, Selah, was also published last year by Burning eye.
Sophie Jung (lives in London and Basel) works across text, sculpture and performance. She received her BFA from the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam and her MFA from Goldsmiths, London. Recent projects and exhibitions include Äppärät at Ballroom Marfa, Paramount VS Tantamount at Kunsthalle Basel, Unmittelbare Konsequenzen at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Producing My Credentials at Kunstraum London, Come Fresh Hell or Fresh High Water at Blain Southern, London, Dramatis Personae at JOAN, LA as well as The Bigger Sleep at Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart, CH and Block Universe, London. She is currently working on a body of sculpture for her upcoming solo exhibition at Casino Luxemburg. In 2015 Sophie has spent six months in New York at ISCP, courtesy of the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg, in 2016 and in 2019 she won the Swiss Art Award and in 2018 she was the recipient of the Manor Kunstpreis. She is a freelance educator and is currently on the jury of the Swiss Performance Award.
Jonathan P. Watts: Some Proximity
Jonathan P. Watts is a critic and collaborator based in London. He is a contributor-editor, with seven others, of A-or-ist, a magazine of new art writing.
Adam Linder: Some Proximity
Adam Linder is a choreographer based in Berlin. His new Choreographic Service, Some Riding, will be at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in September.
Ian Saville began doing magic tricks at the age of ten or eleven. Since then he has studied Drama at Exeter University and worked with the touring political theatre group Broadside Mobile Workers' Theatre as well as in community theatre. Around 1979 he started developing a "socialist magic" act, using magic tricks and ventriloquism to present and celebrate a socialist view of the world which has been performed in theatres, cabaret clubs and festivals, as well as at conferences, demonstrations and on picket lines. This developed into one-man shows such as Brecht on Magic (in which a ventriloquial dummy of Bertolt Brecht encourages the magician to incorporate socialist ideas into his tricks), Getting Nowhere Again (an examination of utopias in the company of William Morris) and The Free Money Magic Show (an examination of money and the magical way it works). Ian's PhD is on the history of workers’ theatre groups in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s and he taught for many years on the Theatre Arts course at Middlesex University.
Tickets for the event can be purchased here. £15 full rate/£7.50 for student/unwaged.
Free for current RCA students and staff, but you must reserve a place by booking a free ticket using your RCA email address.
Please note that tea and coffee will be provided, but not lunch.
A detailed schedule with timings can be found on the Eventbrite listing.
If you have any queries, please contact [email protected].
‘Writing / Performance’ is organised by the MA Writing programme and MA Contemporary Art Practice (Performance) pathway at the Royal College of Art, London.