Berlin: events, talks & performances: 2013 to 2016
I've had the pleasure to present my work in Berlinworking with Humboldt University, Berlin Poesie Festival, Lettretage, Wortwedding and the Österreichisches Kulturforum amongst others. Please scroll down below for a sample of blogs and videos.
Kakania in Berlin at Lettretage - October 11th 2016
A brilliant night of performances from contemporary European poets and artists, radically recreating and responding to figure of Habsburg Vienna, around one century past, at Lettretage in Berlin, supported by the brilliant Osterreiches Kulturforum.
I had a blast putting this one together, it ended up being so easy to work with everyone from start to finish and the event was welcoming and dynamic in good measure. The performances ranged from playful poetic texts to tech savvy sound performances, and some conceptual performance too. I admire the work, and the generous personalities, of Lea Schneider, Rike Scheffler, Kinga Toth, Norbert Lange and Fabian Faltin, and they made it something special.
Kakania Berlin – May 9th 2016 at Österreichisches Kulturforum
A wonderful thing to be able to travel to curate something, to be able to leave my home and bring together artists who genuinely excite me, in Berlin. A chance to watch people who offer permission to push boundaries and to learn. Thanks to the generosity of the Österreichisches Kulturforum, I was able to put together a Kakania project in Berlin. I brought together 5 artists from across Europe and each presented a new work responding to a figure of the Habsburg Era, 100 years ago or so. We were in the grand performance space of the Österreichisches Kulturforum itself, just off Tiergarten, an imposing curved hall with giant curtains and high ceilings. The Österreichisches Kulturforum couldn’t have been easier to work with and the performances on the night had some real highlights, definitively making an impact on the audience with some of the best sound poets in the world interspersed with conceptual text performances. There was a really dynamic energy to the evening and a clear enthusiasm and intensity, as I’ve often felt in Berlin. Just great to spend time around so many artists I admire under such professional conditions, and to visit Berlin again, having time to bop down Kurfürstenstraße with old friends. www.theenemiesproject.com/kakaniaberlin
A Neuro Retro Spectro Scopic View: speaking at Humboldt University, school of Mind & Brain, Berlin - October 2015
An amazing opportunity to speak at Humboldt University Berlin, in the lofty environs of the Mind & Brain school, for an event called, which celebrated the art competition. The event brought together artist Mriganka Madhukaillya, curator Elena Agudio, Daniel Margulies, neuroscientist and head of the Max Planck institute and myself (!) and we each delivered talks that somehow related to art and science interdisciplinary practise and the efficacy of such collaborations. It is the only thing I have developed any expertise on really, the nature of collaboration and through the Enemies project, the Hub residency, the Salzburg Global Seminar and A World Without Words, the neuroaesthetics field, though still often opaque to me, is increasingly of interest. My talk went well, seemed generally uncontroversial, despite my relatively critical stance and in fact seemed to stoke a really positive energy with the scientists who attended. Brilliant for me to be beside such lofty peers and learn from them.
Berlin Poesiefest 2015 - June 2015
Though I have had the privilege to present my work a few times in Berlin, the first time reading & presenting at the Berlin Poesiefest was an intense experience. I had the chance to stay for nearly a week thanks to the festival and the time in the city, as is often the case – that is the process of being there, rather than the work I presented – will be the enduring legacy of my participation. I had the opportunity to turn acquaintances into friendships, and to make many acquaintances which will become friendships, with people who had travelled from across the world. http://www.literaturwerkstatt.org/en/poesiefestival-berlin/home/
I presented a keynote on collaboration, in a colloquium which featured Cia Rinne, Ricardo Domeneck, Kenneth Goldsmith and others, over a four hour session. I laid out the principles behind the Enemies project, engaged in a few discussions and then ripped up another of my books to give to the audience, and ask them to read back to me. A privilege to be there and share my ideas with such a discerning audience.
The Berlin Camarade at Lettretage : June 23rd 2015
Really the hospitality Lettretage had shown me on our first meeting, in early 2015, and the interest I have in so many poets in the city of Berlin, how exciting I think their work is, drove me to put on an extremely ambitious Camarade event in June 2015. Thanks to the generosity of Daniela Seel, I was able to invite poets from different scenes in the city, as well as people I knew and followed, and some British poets visiting. The end result was really one of the better events in the history of the Enemies project, with 28 poets in 14 pairs each presenting really high quality work, with such a variance of style and approach, yet with a palpably shared sense of community and aesthetic. Amazing to have the likes of Cia Rinne, Uljana Wolf, Jeroen Nieuwland, Sam Langer, Alexander Filyuta, Tom Bresemann, Catherine Hales, Max Czollek, Ernesto Estrello, Rike Scheffler & many others involved. It was not one of the easier events to put together, the city not being without it’s literary politics, but the result was worth the labour and for the sheer pleasure of seeing such brilliant poets, some of whom were discoveries to me, in terms of live performance, I could not help but feel humbled by people’s enthusiasm and engagement.
You can see all 14 performances here: www.theenemiesproject.com/berlin
Lettretage - a conference of literary activists : January 2015
I was properly excited to attend this unique conference of literary organisers and activists, hosted and led by the extraordinary Lettretage - Tom Bresemann, Katharina Deloglu, Moritz Molsch & co, in Berlin, precisely because, absurdly, it seemed wholly focused on the extremely niche thing that I have found myself doing in poetry - that is organisation, curation, innovation, but also something more fundamental than this - the two extensive days of discussion in a room in Kreuzberg were about action. and the possibilities of doing that across Europe, with ambition and energy, while maintaining consideration and ephemeral sensitivity to what literature might be, rather than what it should be.
Lettretage itself is cutting a path for things like the Enemies project. It is doing what I've often inadvertently found myself trying to do. This conference was the best possible example of this, having been around near a decade, Lettretage is now innovating ways to grow and centralise a network of similarly minded people and organisations. They have secured fantastic funding support from creative europe and many others to create a tour of Europe, through their CROWD project and to develop things like an app which will allow visitors to new cities to get 'local' information on readings and performances. Always their emphasis is on the ground up outfits, the artists and curators who are building up from communities and live, contemporary cultures of poetry, literature and performance arts. Rather than shutting up shop after their successes, they are aggressively searching out those who share their mission and their general attitude of openness and innovation.
I have waffled about so many theoretical notions that gel perfectly with their approach, it was genuinely gratifying and made me feel wholly at home visiting them. So I trotted out these ideas again in Berlin - people before poetry, process over product, respect in the world, disrespect in the text... The guerrilla nature of Enemies was brought into sharp focus here, how reactive I am, and how grounded Lettretage and the many other organisers here are in their worlds and communities. I realised London is different place to organise, in a sense wonderful and anonymous and incremental because of its sprawl. The participants here are more rooted, they take responsibility with deeper ties, and all the while they maintain these positions of giving space to mostly avant garde, or contemporary, work and supporting artists while reaching actual people with that work.
I came across so many artists and organisers I had never met before and felt a genuine kinship with so many of them. I got to know the brilliant Daniela Seel and admire her incredible editorship of Kookbooks, I met the committee from Forumstadtpark in Graz, with the immensely charming Max Hofler leading their poetry program, Andrea Inglese too, who runs Nazione Indiana. Valgerður Þórodds from Reykjavik who has revitalised the poetry scene in Iceland with her ground up, community led, handmade press medgonguljod. Sasha Filyuta, Lily Michaelides & many more - it was such an intense two days, 10 hours of talking and listening back to back, it's not yet really sunk in how the environment was such a gift to someone like me, because really its purpose to was affirm the notion of mindful, self-orientated activity that stakes out the ground of our generations literary spaces. This has always been in my mind curating Enemies, but as an emphemeral notion. Lettretage solidified this idea, gave it back to me in a way.
I'm sure this will be the beginning of many relationships that Lettretage provided me, friendships I would venture to say, and I hope my work intersects with theirs often, for they are lighting a path I want to follow. www.lettretage.de
“Quo vadis, world of language?” Evening events on the 23rd and 24th of January 2015"
Friday, the 23rd of January and Saturday, the 24th of January, 8pm, free entrance Lettrétage, Mehringdamm 61, 10961 Berlin
What fascinates us in texts? How do we make literature glow? When does the spark ignite? Quo vadis, world of language? The self-starting network in the European independent literary scene CROWD invited exciting, impulse giving literary activists from the UK, Serbia, Italy, Latvia, Cyprus, Finland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Iceland to Berlin, to discuss all their different ideas of literature during a two day conference.
During the evening events CROWD will present the Berliner public texts of contemporary authors from all over Europe: Aesthetic fascination and political discussion potential make a diverse picture of contemporary European literature tangible. Texts that pulsate here and today in the truth of the present. Texts that show us why it is worth to formulate again and again literature as an invitation to discuss. Lily Michaelides (Cyprus), Max Höfler (Austria), Laura Serkosalo (Finland), Ana Pejović (Serbia), Ondřej Buddeus (Czech Republic), Andrea Inglese (Italy/France), Valgerdur Thoroddsdottir (Iceland), Inga Bodnarjuka (Latvia) and Steven Fowler (UK) will read and discuss.
// CROWD is an independent network of the free literary scenes of Europe. International literary activists meet for the CROWD kick off conference in Berlin, in order to discuss the circumstances of their work.
Wortwedding - performing & exhibiting in Berlin - January 2013
the Lesson of Wortwedding was a conceptual installation and a performance collaboration between Alessandra Eramo and myself that took place in the Wortwedding gallery, Berlin, during the early part of 2013. The work took many forms and was a long while in preparation - we met at the Liverpool Biennial 2012, hosted by Mercy's one day Electronic Voice Phenomena symposium, thanks to Nathan Jones. We began a collaborative correspondence of some intensity, and when Alessandra was offered a residency at the remarkable Wortwedding project, she invited me to go to Berlin to produce something that explored what we had been discussing - notions of performative ritual, martial physicality, personal historicity and collaborative conceptuality. We wanted to use different mediums, certainly I'm always keen to learn and expand my practise, so we decided to produce a video installation alongside a performance, and what turned out to be much more than that in fact.
After spending a week or so in Berlin, I wrote a poem I called Eight Lessons at Wortwedding that would go on to be published in my collection the Rottweiler's guide to the Dog Owner, and have a poem commended for the Forward prize. It's intention was to be purely reflective to the environment I found myself in, but, as I often do, to use irony, humour and disjunction in syntax to create occlusion in the text. WS Graham was a huge influence on the piece, and it grew into a fat beast of a poem, which again was an intention - I knew I'd be performing it in English and I knew my performance style was one of deluge - so I hoped to swarm the audience in so much Second language that as the performance went on, the abstract sound and voice work Alessandra would be producing would actually become the more concise and sensitive and sensible medium that they could experience. I knew our performance would be by its very nature be muddled (because of our contrasting styles and aesthetics, and because of the short time we had to create it) and a sort of cacophony (because of the three mediums in play - voice, dance, video), so my hope was to accelerate that confusion, to inculcate it.
Poetry and sound / song / voice doesn't sit well together, and so I wanted to emphasise that, just as the languages of English and Italian / German cannot sit snugly, I wanted to admit that lack from the beginning. Just as our performance utilised an exchange of martial arts exercises (a dance, in fact, a first for me) to begin, so I thought this would be a little bit silly, and hoped for that, because I thought Alessandra and I's physical stature would provide a slightly unsettling aesthetic contrast to the expectation of the performance. While we performed the video installations were also projected behind us. The hope was for the poem, which referred to the very specific happening of the poem often, and to the city in which happening in, to open up into a space which allowed Alessandra to be bold and free with her improvised soundwork. And here is Our Daily Rituals, the video installation we created, unexpurgated. It's concept was one minute of our daily lives, filmed in the 16 days leading up to my time in Berlin, filmed at the same time of day each day .I think the strength of this exchange is its juxtaposition of aesthetics - that mine is quite offhand, and I hope, ironic and funny and weird, where as Alessandra's is graceful and tailored and artistic. Lobster, monkey slippers and co. are my daily rituals. Also, behind the scenes of our preparations, here are two videos of us prepping and rehearsing for the performance:
After the performance and my return to London, the work from our collaboration remained on exhibition for the Kolonie Wedding route, a kind of roadmap through the traditionally working class area of Wedding in Berlin that navigates different galleries, performances and artworks. Alessandra and Nicola were on hand to discuss the piece and my poems were hung on the walls of the Wortwedding space. Nicola even reread my First Lesson to those in attendance.
The collaborative exchange is something I have wholly embraced over the last year or two for the Enemies project and my experimentations with performance and form. It is never easy when you don't have a pre-existing personal relationship with your collaborator, one in which aesthetics, and vitally, humour, is pre-established within your working relationship. It was precisely the boundaries of city / language / nationality / medium / aesthetics / physicality that Alessandra and I did not share that attracted me to this exchange and so it proved to be amazingly beneficial for my own understanding and creative enterprise. It was precisely in our differences that interesting space was opened up, and Alessandra is a erudite, powerful and brilliant artist who brings so much to the process of collaboration which was valuable and interesting. Though not always comfortable, the Feinde work was engaging and that's all that matters. Moreover, my time is Berlin was inspirational, and to link projects like Wortwedding, Corvo records, Enemies, Mercy and so forth, is the kind of work that needs doing, and the reason why Enemies was created in the first place. http://www.weareenemies.com/enemiesberlin.html
The culmination of one of the most engrossing collaborations of the Enemies series will come to a head this February when I'll be working with Alessandra Eramo on a brand new performance. She has been an extraordinary correspondent and is an artist I really admire, so it's very exciting prospect.
Alessandra Eramo (IT/Berlin) & poet Steven J. Fowler (UK/London)
“Poetry, Sound, Voice, Object: A journey through our daily rituals”
Presentation of the Residency:
19.02.2013 20:00 || Live Performance and Installation
22.02.2013 19:00 - 23:00 & 24.02.2012 14:00 - 18:00 || Exhibition
The ongoing research of sound artist, vocalist and performer Alessandra Eramo explores the interferences between Sign and Voice: writing and sign in their multiple forms, and the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument. Cultural and language interactions have strongly influenced her art, which focuses also on relational aesthetics, action and site specific interventions rather than object-making.
After meeting at the Liverpool Biennial 2012, hosted by Mercy's one day Electronic Voice Phenomena symposium, Alessandra Eramo and London based poet SJ Fowler began a collaborative correspondence of unusual intensity and design. Brought together from across Europe to discuss the new creative possibilities in those art's which approach performance/voice/text/sound/video as one holistic art practise, their collaboration has engaged the full energy of their collective practises, exploring notions of performative ritual, martial physicality, personal historicity and collaborative conceptuality. For Wortwedding, their work will utilise collaborative performance and interactive sculpture alongside a video installation that presents a sixteen day journey through their daily rituals, simultaneously recorded, presented as the heart of a wholly unique and intensive enjambment between two artists whose work together attempts to find shared localities in the compassion of the physical and the gentility of force.
Alessandra Eramo is a sound artist, vocalist and performer based in Berlin. She creates text-sound compositions, live performances, videos and installation that have been exhibited and performed in Europe, Canada and USA, among others, at: Italian Pavillion in the World - Venice Biennale, Sonic Circuits Festival Washington DC, Lyd & Litterature Festival Aarhus 2012, Roulette New York, Festival Bandit' Mages Bourges, Harvestworks New York, Galerie Haus am Lützowplatz Berlin. Since 2010 she is co-founder of the vinyl & sound art production Corvo Records in Berlin. Currently she is conducting her PhD Research at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Furthermore she is active in educational and cultural programs in Germany.
The residency and performance is being hosted by wortwedding - wortwedding is a space for interdisciplinary and interactive poetry projects, which opened in the spring of 2009 by Nicola Caroli. Artists of all disciplines are invited to explore their art form in connection with poetry. There are exhibitions, residencies, workshops, performances ... wortwedding is also a place of service - at exhibitions, there are actions to participate in residencies and visiting hours, where you can meet the artists. wortwedding is part of the project area network colony Wedding Association. On the last weekend of the month, the project rooms opened and guided tours are available for visitors.