‘Purgatory’ (acrylics on cardboard) was used as the cover for the debut release of my solo EP, ‘Fragments’ on cassette tape.
Meet the Speakers
Rachel Churner is the director of the Carolee Schneemann Foundation. She is also an art critic and editor, whose writings have appeared in Artforum and October magazine, among other publications. She was a recipient of The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant in 2018 and was the editor of Hans Haacke (MIT Press, 2015), two volumes of writings by film historian Annette Michelson (MIT Press, 2017 and 2020), and Yvonne Rainer: Revisions (no place press, 2020), as well as books and exhibition catalogues on Jaime Davidovich, James Ensor, and Charlotte Posenenske. She owned and operated Churner and Churner, a contemporary art gallery in New York, from 2011–2014. Churner holds degrees in Art History from Stanford University and Columbia University and currently teaches in the Department of Visual Studies at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School.
Cathy Wade is an artist and writer who investigates how practice can be created and distributed in collaborative partnerships and through the creation of commons. Their work seeks to understand the experience of contemporary conditions through exchange with others. They are course leader for MA in Arts Education Practices at BCU; and are currently curating new work with artist Hannah Sawtell at Vivid Projects alongside facilitating Black Hole Club, Vivid Projects’ artist development programme.
Lotte Johnson is a curator at Barbican Art Gallery, London, where she is curating the forthcoming retrospective Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics, opening in September 2022. Her work as a curator, writer and art historian focuses on interdisciplinary artistic expressions, feminist practices and transcultural dialogues, with a particular interest in performance. At the Barbican, she has curated solo artist commissions by Toyin Ojih Odutola (2020), Jamila Johnson-Small (2019), Yto Barrada (2018) and Bedwyr Williams (2016) and contributed to a number of major exhibitions, including Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art (2019), Basquiat: Boom for Real (2017) and The World of Charles and Ray Eames (2015), editing and authoring publications for many of these projects. She previously worked at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, contributing to exhibitions focused on Jean Dubuffet, Ellen Gallagher, Paul Gauguin, Jasper Johns and Dieter Roth.
As part of the upcoming performances of ‘Noise Bodies’ and ‘Saxony’, myself and musicians Fred Fuller, Mark Abbott and Death Knell have explored concepts and techniques for these pieces. ‘Saxony’ will be performed on piano, bass guitar, electric guitar and electronics.
Counter | Culture takes place on Sunday 8th October at Cafe Oto:
AN EXPLORATION OF COMMUNITIES, ISOLATION, MENTAL HEALTH AND ACTIVISM.
– Screening of ‘Estate’ dir. by Andrea Luka Zimmerman (2015) 85 mins and Q&A with Andrea Zimmerman.
Filmed over seven years, Estate, a Reverie reveals and celebrates the resilience of residents who are profoundly overlooked by media representations and wider social responses. Interweaving intimate portraits with the residents’ own historical re-enactments, landscape and architectural studies and dramatised scenes, Estate, a Reverie asks how we might resist being framed exclusively through class, gender, ability or disability, and even through geography…
– Shy Radicals: The Anti-Systemic Politics of the Introvert Militant (2017) Hamja Ahsan book talk
Shy Radicals are the Black Panther Party of the introvert class, and this anti-systemic manifesto is a quiet and thoughtful polemic, a satire that uses anti-colonial theory to build a critique of dominant culture and the rising tide of Islamophobia. Shy Radicals author Hamja Ahsan is an artist, curator and activist based in London. He is the Free Talha Ahsan campaign organiser.
– Screening of ‘Lift’ dir. by Marc Isaacs (2001) 24 mins
A quietly fascinating meditation on the mundanities of London life. Installing himself inside the lift of a high-rise block of council flats, Isaacs and his camera patiently observe the residents as they go about their daily business. As each of his subjects enters the lift, it’s interesting to note their reactions to him being there; some are suspicious, others curious, and then there are those who seem more comfortable in his presence.
ORAL ORAL formed via a request from artist Wolfgang Tillman’s to perform at his annual end of summer party in September 2009 What started as an ‘art happening’ evolved over a period of time.
Initially Princess Julia wrote a ‘monologue’, which questioned the structure and landscape of change, both on a physical/mental level and in an architectural sense with references to Wolfgang’s work. Our repertoire expanded to include subjects which deal with various (un)comfortable zones of flux and interaction within the human condition.
We work within a framework of minimal preparation but with a true sense of direction.
Oral Oral is a collective, current members are Dee Sada-drums/bass/electronics, Max Allen-vox, Princess Julia-vox.
The Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, in July, 1967, sought to demystify violence in all its forms. The need for demystification and clarification of our situation is no less needed today than it was in 1967. Many of the speakers nearly 50 years ago were right on the mark for what would ensue if we continued on the ignorant and often perverse paths.
We’re recalling the Congress tonight, perhaps a preliminary to really reconvening a new Congress, to address the ongoing if not even more mystifying and violent world today.
But let’s consider the profound questions, which we can barely allude to tonight, of what forms of liberation we aspire to and require? Liberation from what and toward what, liberation from what and by who, and how?
What and who constrains our diverse possibilities of liberation, including the liberation from the ignorance and delusion we’re caught up in, until we begin to awake from a dream like state that prevalent political/economic/social systems encourage us to buy into …and we all too often collude with…Including identifying with the reflections our minds mirror, with all the distortions introduced by self and others, rather than getting to know the empty but lucid and cognisant nature of mind, akin to the clear surface of the mirror and inviting the possibility of spaciousness, wisdom and compassion, taught by prophets and poets of diverse spiritual traditions.
Today, corruption and injustice is all pervasive. We see it in our national and local politics, institutions and, if we’re honest and look closely, all too often in the far from ethical and caring ways we treat each other.
The manifestations of varieties of ignorance, including greed; dogmatic and inflexible positions; mindless hatred, as well as of corruption and injustice, include the pervasive murderous violence of nation states, militias, fundamentalist organisations as well as groups fighting for what they take to be just and necessary causes, the later particularly the case when no mediated alternatives seem open.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A RADICAL?
Radical change is needed. But what are the possible meanings, directions and ways of being radical?
Can we start with an etymological meaning, going back to the roots of the word, in this case literally meaning roots?
Can we research what might be the roots of living ethical lives, with awareness, in a ways that lead to, encourage and are ‘in sync’ with the possibility of just societies?
Can we rediscover the roots of the possibilities of living in harmony with each Other and with nature so as to really prioritise not destroying our life support systems, our ecology?
Can we discover the roots of compassion so as to say NO, ‘Not in My Name!’ to vastly unequal distributions of wealth and power?
Can we research and find the roots of speaking freely and acting openly and transparently, about all matters that people feel to be unjust, without having grounds for fearing for our liberty or even our lives, and find optimal ways to acknowledge and respond to the cries and calls of those who feel done in by whatever prevailing unjust system?
Can we do this without obfuscating the issues we’re concerned with because of our own (perhaps unwitting) attachment to our own views and needs?
There are signs that large numbers of people feel it’s time for a change. and of substantial minorities being open to the critique of our current corrupt political systems, indeed beginning to respond actively to the heavy weight of injustice impinging on their lives.
One fundamental question ought to put to ourselves and each other tonight is:
What does it mean to be in act in a radical and radically ethical manner, with profound (radical) awareness (of body, speech, mind) at this time, for those of us who can acknowledge the pervasive corruption and ignorance that prevails in and pervades our economic, political, social and other systems?
How and where can we find common ground (perhaps requiring distinctly uncommon ‘common sense’) enabling a turn in a direction that most of us can agree…IF we can…a turn in the direction of ethics, justice and compassion….and a turn toward enhancing our collective intelligence, sensibilities and responsibilities in the direction of greater vitality and, dare we say, without embarrassment…sisterly and brotherly love, enabling cooperation in working toward a world that we can say ‘Yes, Yes’ to…rather than, ‘No, not in my name’?
Perhaps the most radical starting point (but not end point!) for each of us ought to be to understand the roots of violence in me-centred, or we-centred (‘our’ nation, ethnic group, religion, subculture, etc) ways of being. But we have to continue from there to see and transcend those limitations and find ways of collective action toward which we can say’ ‘Yes, Yes!’
How can hone our individual and collective abilities for both really critical and really fundamentally naive questions… Like intelligent fearless children… As well as the intelligence, humility and responsibility to put ourselves in question.
THEN AND NOW
What social change did the Dialectics Congress set out to actualise? I think there was a lack of agreement as well as commitment re what social and political change people wanted and were committed to. That was, and likely is, inevitable.
The micro-experiments ‘in psychiatry’ that were on-going in the 60’s and into the 70’s, that the 4 organisers of the Dialects were deeply engaged with, have continued but have largely lost their radical edge. The communities of the Philadelphia Association and of Arbours, for example, have become pale shadows of the radical vision of 40-50 years ago. While there are movements like the Critical Psychiatry Network, in the UK, and Open Dialogues, which may retain their potentially radical edge, the fact is that Big Pharma and the Psycho-Pharmacological Industry, like the military-industrial complex, are stronger than ever.
So where does that leave us?
Can we deepen links with each other and others in creative ways? With what other initiatives, anywhere in the world, including in virtual space, do we want to link up with?
These are some of the thoughts and questions I have at this time.
Three Candles is the first sound piece from The Hollow Tree, an EP inspired by the artist Mary Barnes.
It’s amazing how many connections I have made since R.D. Laing 50. I feel so inspired and driven to do more events and work with more amazing people.
I connected with Carolee Schneemann via the filmmaker Peter Davis, both of whom I have just met in the last week. I am inspired to do an event based on the Dialectics of Liberation conference which was organised by Dr Joseph Berke.
As a seminal feminist artist, Carolee does not need much of an introduction. I recently read her essay about her experience at the Dialectics of Liberation conference in her book, More Than Meat Joy. She performed a happening at the end of the two week conference and there was also the UK premier of her film, Fuses.
Carolee was one of the few female voices at the conference, the other being IKON’s editor, Susan Sherman. I am intrigued by the lack of female visibility at the Dialectics of Liberation. It was an occasion where race was given a platform (with the inclusion of Stokely Carmichael) however women remained on the fringes. My research will hopefully uncover more…