Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition 2017
I am thrilled to have work included in this exciting exhibition coming up soon at the Museum of Futures. The exhibition is curated by poet and artist Steven J. Fowler as part of The Enemies Project series, in collaboration with Kingston University London and cool Surbiton venue, the Museum of Futures, http://museumoffutures.org.
It is an exhibition of avant garde text art and visual poetry of various kinds. It includes work by some poets with whose work I am already familiar ( Lucy Furlong, Julia Lewis, Hannah Lowe etc.) as well as many others I am excited to get to know. There is an launch event on February 23rd (more details to follow) and the exhibition will run until March 12th 2017.
My own piece is a multi-part visual poem, called ‘Suicide Is Not A Political Issue’. The title is a quotation from an article defending the government, claiming that suicides associated with the DWP and benefits assessments are entirely personal matters devoid of any political significance. The visual poem that emerges is an attempt to disrupt a reactionary political narrative that tries to locate mental health problems (including suicide) totally within in the frailty of the individual psyche in order to deny any socio-economic responsibility. My piece takes as one of its starting points the image of Ophelia, seeing her as a romanticised icon of madness and suicide, described by Shakespeare and later projected onto the suburban Surrey landscape in Millais’ famous painting.
Do drop in for the opening event or to the exhibition itself, if you are in the area or feel like a visit to the future….
If ever a pamphlet was written fast and furiously, it is my second pamphlet The Frock Enquiry edited by Claire Trévien and published by Annexe Magazine on this day last year. It draws on material from an early 20th Century enquiry into women’s sweated labour in London but is fuelled by the contemporary inequalities in women’s work across the world. Here it is, now available online, in all its gobby fury:
My fascination (obsession?) with Louise Bourgeois continued during my recent visit to Paris. Surprisingly, this was not through visiting Paris’s contemporary galleries,
but rather the hours I spent at the Musée de Cluny, the museum of the city’s medieval history, and its rooms of tapestries, carved reredos screens, and stained glass windows.
The notion of the grid as a conceptual framework is a striking aspect of Bourgeois’s work but I realised how much the notion of series and sequence features in these medieval art forms.
Of course, Bourgeois grew up in the workshops of her mother’s tapestry restoration business – she must have been, I realised, very familiar with this history. I remembered seeing a photograph of her New York studio with a framed tapestry panel on the wall – hmm, something in this? It was only when I got back to London, however, that I realised how much Bourgeois worked directly in this medium herself. My Bourgeois-inspired sequence of poems has just taken an interesting new turn…..
NOTES ON VISITING THE LOUISE BOURGEOIS ARTIST ROOM – TATE MODERN
I visit the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition and the new Switch building. Buy three O’Keeffe prints and lie on the floor of one of the video rooms like an excited kid. Realise there is a Bourgeois Artist Room and make up my mind to come back the following week.
A week later. Hesitate on the threshold of the Bourgeois Room. Too many people. I don’t want to deal with them. In the end the spider draws me in. Not the giant one although this one is still pretty damn big.
Artist Room – Tate Modern
Although a lot of the work is familiar, for some reason it all strikes me as much richer this time. Freed from the context of the Freud Museum (where I last encountered much of it) it seems more mysterious, more plural in meaning. Takes me back to the unexpected intoxication of finding a small Bourgeois/Emin show in Venice some years ago.
I realise again – how do I keep forgetting? – how much she works with fabric and stitching (like Emin). The loose threads dangling from stitched lips fascinate me.
Couple 1 dangle from the ceiling. Like an adult ‘upside down doll’, two in one. The very thing I have been trying to achieve in poetry – voices sharing borders, scaffolding each other, permeating each other – done in stuffed fabric and blanket stitch.
I don’t know if this is possible to do in language – does it need this three dimensionality? Do you need to be a spinner, a worker in stitches, a spider?
The hiatus I mentioned in my last post has stretched on for longer than I had imagined it would. Illness (not mine), cuts in public spending (and ensuing expansion in work responsibilities) and then the painful, upsetting post-referendum turmoil have all taken me away from this blog. Some good things have happened – more details to follow! – and I have been privileged to participate in some anti-racism demos and protests that have restored a wee bit of my faith in people (although there are days when I feel increasingly like one of those Bond villains who wants to rid the earth of parasitical humanity- in an entirely peaceful way, of course!).
I rarely mention my day job on here, which is in the public sector trying to improve services for disabled children (including special educational needs)and their families, but the biggest change in my circumstance has been taking on the additional responsibility of managing a children’s race equalities and minority achievement team. I am awed by the commitment, skill and knowledge of the people I manage – including ninety bilingual workers who represent an enormous range of languages and cultures. I am not at all bilingual. In fact there are days when I am barely lingual. There is much joy in this work – not least the congruence between my activism and my day job (a rare privilege) – but post-Brexit, mid-public spending cuts, much challenge too. For this reason, I will disappear from this blog from time to time…and sometimes I will disappear just because I am being lazy!
Here’s a picture to make up for my long pause between posts – I wasn’t able to make it to a dear friend’s engagement celebration (for some of the same reasons as I described above) so to make it up to her, I sat at home and watched Bridesmaids instead. So if my posts disappear for a while you will know I am either too busy with work, writing hard…. or I’m watching Bridesmaids/the original Ghostbusters/Buffy (again)/Pushing Daisies (again), beer in hand, not missing you at all.
…you can catch all the amazing performances here – using this unmissably large link – plus details of how to become a member of English Pen.
Like 1D, this blog has been on a bit of a hiatus since Christmas but I had to come back on here to spread the word about the unmissable The English Pen Modern Literature Festival, happening as part of The Enemies Project this Saturday 2nd April. Thirty UK-based writers will be performing new work dedicated to writers at risk around the world in a mini-festival curated by Steven J Fowler and The Enemies Project for English Pen https://www.englishpen.org/event/modern-literature-festival/
It is taking place from 2pm to 9.30pm at Rich Mix 35-47 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LA. It is free but English Pen ask that people consider becoming members or making a donation to support their work supporting writers facing persecution or difficulty across the world. For more details about it, http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen
I am really excited about this one – the chance to listen to some amazing work and to support some courageous and inspiring writers is going to get me on a train to London this weekend. If you are in or around London on Saturday, why not come along?