A note on: an interview with Kate Mercer for Wales Arts Review on Night-Time Economy

In the run up to the opening of the Night-Time Economy exhibition in Newport April 6th 2016, Ben Glover of the Wales Arts Review has interviewed Kate Mercer and I on our collaboration. The full interview is here http://www.walesartsreview.org/24536/

"Welcome Kate and Steven, I was hoping initially to find out a little bit about your project The Night-Time Economy. What drew you both to explore the night-time economy?

SJ Fowler: For me, it was meeting Kate, and discovering her work when visiting Newport for a poetry reading last year. I believe collaborations fundamentally grow from relationships between people, creative friendships, and a desire to see them grow, and the concept or direction comes as a secondary focus. Undoubtedly what became the subject of our eventual collaboration emerged from experiences I’d had in years past, things that have shaped my experience in much wider ways, but none of this would’ve been actualised into this exhibition without it being a shared point of contact between Kate and I.

Kate Mercer: I have to concur with Steven. It started from a shared experience that Steven and I found we had much to talk about and identify with. When we began discussing the respective roads we’ve since travelled, for example, pursuing poetry and photography as our careers, it struck us both how pivotal these experiences had been on us as individuals, but equally how far apart these two mediums are with regard to how they communicate with others, either explicitly, emotionally or figuratively. Whilst the experiences, anecdotes and observations we have shared have been helpful through out his project, it has as much as anything been an exploration of the capabilities and limitations of the others’ medium, developing a creative partnership therewith.

How to you think that previously working in this environment has influenced this project?

SJF: I think working in such environments changes your perception. This is true of all work perhaps, that one gains new perspectives when you are present for money and not pleasure. And Britain’s nightlife, it’s social culture, is extraordinarily intense. I think witnessing that intensity, the release people seek in such environments, has formed the underlying impetus for the whole project – because I think we’re not trying to document, nor judge, nor comment even, but rather encapsulate this intensity and its ambiguities.

In the new Lighthouse magazine

Really pleased to feature in the special collaboration issue of Lighthouse magazine, thanks to Meirion Jordan, Angus Sinclair & co. My Estates of Westeros collaboration with the artist Ben Morris remains one of my very favourite works and in typical fashion, Lighthouse did an amazing job of rendering the visually complex work. A great magazine, one of the best in this country, supporting new writers as a mission, so pleased to be included

Buy it here : http://www.gatehousepress.com/

a World without Words at Apiary Studios was wonderful

The premiere event of a World without Words was an extraordinary night, well over one hundred people crammed into Apiary Studios in Hackney to watch six presentations from neuroscientists and artists from around the world. What really emerged from a night of big ideas and great personal passion, was how much the unique format we had aimed to provide appealed to both the speakers and the audience. The presentations were not centred about the sharing of knowledge, but of personal passion, and experience, and how the former came through the latter. The event was not one of provocation but curiosity. Lotje Sodderland, Noah Hutton, Ben Ehrlich, Harry Man, Malinda McPherson and Nick Ryan all found their journey into the human brain and our ability to wield language in different ways - through pain and illness, through study and discipline, through travel and creativity, yet they all shared an open, inviting, discursive evening where everyone left with more than they had a few hours before. It was also, what I had already known, a real joy to share the curating with Thomas Duggan and Lotje, we all seem to compliment each other and the process couldn't have been more gratifying. Four more events to come this year... www.aworldwithoutwords.com

a World without Words

I am so so happy to announce a new project, co-curated with Lotje Sodderland and Thomas Duggan, called a World without Words. www.theenemiesproject.com/aworldwithoutwords

A World Without Words is an exploration of how aphasia effects our fundamental understanding of human language, how it interrogates our static notions of meaning in this language and how it calls into question the very character of self-knowledge. Through a program of exhibitions, newly commissioned artworks, poetry and sound performances, and talks that explore the nature of human language to illuminate this profound investigation of the human brain, a World without Words will bring together some of the most dynamic scientists and artists working in 21st century London.

A World Without Words marks a pivotal moment when breakthroughs in neuroscience mean there is greater understanding of those who possess atypical language function. Today, aphasia is more prevalent than Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as over 250,000 people in the United Kingdom alone live with the condition. Yet in spite of its high incidence, aphasia remains a hidden disability. 

Language is considered perhaps the most characteristic ability of the human species, a World without Words aims to be on the frontline of our social, aesthetic, creative and experiental understanding of this ability, working back through aphasia and into the potential of the human mind.

A World Without Words invites audiences to explore the nature of human language, offering a fascinating and playful exploration of how words form our world. The project presents a unique opportunity to explore how loss of language impacts on losing internal definitions of "self" in relation to everything "other" in the external world, while breaking apart assumptions of how we wield language to express ourselves.

a World without Words has emanated from the experiences of Lotje Sodderland, ably documented in this article: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/22/it-felt-as-if-i-had-become-fear-itself-life-after-a-stroke-at-34

The first event will be held on May 6th at Apiary Studios http://www.apiarystudios.org/
with contributions from Lotje Sodderland = Malinda MacPherson - Noah Hutton - Ben Ehrlich - Harry Man & more.

the end of Kakania, for now...

In uploading the videos of the 4th and magisterial final act of the Kakania project I waded through all the Kakania webpages to change the tense from future to past. Not too sad a labour as I have stated so often, especially in the light of such an amazing final act, how satisfying the project now seems, how complete.

You can read all my past tenses here www.theenemiesproject.com/kakania

Kakania at the Austrian Cultural Forum - March 26th 2015

The end, for now. But as Kakania ended with war, perhaps our hopes should be too high. This incarnation of the time certainly ended with a beautiful, graceful, varied and dynamic evening of works in the appropriately resplendent salon-like surroundings of the Austrian Cultural Forum. A night for me personally to appreciate just how extraordinary the project has been, and how much this is owed to the generosity of the artists and the almost unheard of support, trust and enthusiasm of the Austrian Cultural Forum itself. Theodora Danek and her colleagues have been remarkable, and this was a night where I able to thank them.

The final event was not to be a culmination, it was, as each event has been, it's own entity, curated with it's own rhythm and feel, relative to the venue and artists. Yet, there was a natural build towards it. It was built on language works, poets, both new to Kakania and those who have acted as a sort of creative spine to the project, read - Stephen Emmerson so beautifully engaging with Rilke (his son is called Rainer), Colin Herd so brilliantly evoking Kokoschka, George Szirtes born to write about Schnitzler. These poets were complimented with some radically different mediums, Josh Alexander with his abstract film on Paul Wittgenstein, which when screened in the dark of that room genuinely moved me, Fabian Faltin with a conceptual performance on Otto Wagner which was utterly unforgettable and witty and energetic, and finally Ben Morris, a sound art beast, on Ernst Krenek. 

The point was to create a specific energy and experience throughout the evening that rested upon complimentary and responsive artforms, artworks and artists. And more than that to show how powerful the connection is in 21st century London to the iconoclasts of early 20th century Vienna. Each work spoke to the next, as together they were far more about the artists through the ghost voices of their Habsburg predecessors, than the details of the individual artworks themselves. It was like all of Kakania, unique, and warm hearted and brilliant.

Kakania IV at the Austrian Cultural Forum – March Thursday 26th 2015

The Kakania project closes its program for now with a grand event at the Austrian Cultural Forum, just off Hyde Park, in London. Four new commissions, and four new iterations of previous commissions blend poetry, avant-garde music, performance art and video art, all from contemporary artists and poets each responding in their own unique way to a figure of Habsburg Vienna around one century ago.

George Szirtes reads poems on Arthur Schnitzler
Ben Morris offers experimental music on Ernst Krenek
Joshua Alexander screens his video art on Paul Wittgenstein
Emily Berry reads poems on Sigmund Freud
Colin Herd reads poems on Oskar Kokoschka
Fabian Faltlin performs in response to Otto Wagner
Stephen Emmerson shares things in response to Rainer Maria Rilke
eff Hilson reads poems on Ludwig Wittgenstein

The event is completely free, but please do use this link to book your place

Both Kakania publications, the Kakania anthology with over 40 contributors, and Oberwildling: On the Life of Oskar Kokoschka by Colin Herd & I, will be available to buy at the event.

Once this phase of Kakania is complete, the remaining copies of the books will be available online and the anthology will have a special reading launch in June at the Hardy Tree gallery in Kings Cross, London.

Also in situe at Kakania IV will be books from the imitable Pushkin Press, who have generously supported the Kakania project and who publish some of the finest authors of the era we are emploring. http://pushkinpress.com/kakania/

Thanks too to Theodora Danek, Elisabeth Kögler and the team at the Austrian Cultural Forum and all those who’ve helped make the project so special. www.kakania.co.uk

Wildermenn exhibition at the House Gallery, Peckham

the premiere exhibition of the Wildermenn collective, beginning December 18th and closing just before Xmas, will take place at the House gallery in Peckham, London. http://www.house-gallery.co.uk/ Wildermenn combines visual art, poetry, sonic art and sculpture into one wholly collaborative art collective about urban transhumance.  http://wildermenn.weebly.com/  https://twitter.com/wilder_menn The exhibition is curated by Gabrielle Cooper.
about Wildermenn: transhumance in the city, animalisms across four art mediums, wholly collective, fundamentally collaborative - the Wildermenn produce artworks that subvert and celebrate the rituals and rites which are essentially linked to that which is forgotten in the sprawl - fertility, procreativity, seasons, elements, creatureliness and death. Anthropomorphic modernist folk practise from cultures now unknown find form in sculpture, noise, performance, fragmented poetry and mud paint. about the exhibition: Wilder is a decomposing cathogan sculpture piece, which has been wholly  constructed from the beach detritus that litters the banks of Thames and is the  common quarry of mudlarking. A beast, the Wilder is a rotting, half animal, half vessel, castrated and jawheavy - assaulting the eyes, ears and nose, the mansize figure is a grotesque vision of what the city and it's river has spewed up realised in it's skeletal, lackadaisical glory.

A special view and performance evening will take place on Thursday 19th, doors opening at 7.30pm, entrance is free. It will be an unforgettable evening of organic mush and destruction. Please come along, a poster attached.

Review of Enemies by Ben Armstrong


Literature Review: S.J. Fowler ‘Enemies’Posted by  on November 14, 2013 in Books, Reviews| Leave a comment

'Enemies' (Penned in the Margins, 2013)
‘Enemies’ // Penned in the Margins 2013
“I imagined a man and a woman copulating and I was disgusted because their union might produce life”
As poets, that is to say, as either writers or readers of poetry, we are deeply connected to conflict; how our opinions clash, how our perceptions are distorted, how words bleed into one-another, reject eachother entirely, sit side by side as friends. We are both lovers with the text, and by extension, are at war with it as well. Moving forward from poetry as Homeric storytelling, the modern poem is a forum for debate, for contention, and for conflict: such is its place within a literary world as ‘other’, as either misunderstood, or ignored entirely by the majority. For those that do choose to embrace poetry, though, for those that learn its language, there are many ways in which it can be life-changing and more often than not, life-affirming. ‘Enemies’, a collaborative anthology of works by S.J. Fowler and ‘friends’, is a strong embodiment of the modern poem and an ideal work through which to discuss how reader, writer, and text become something altogether more than the sum of their parts.
Reading ‘Enemies’ over the past week has been an experience, not an easy one, but a deeply rewarding one. At 168 pages, there is a lot of material here to mull over, dissect and absorb, and not a single piece within this book is simple. It is impenetrable from cover to cover; Fowler does not give away his secrets easily. The opening poem here, ‘The Mechanical Root’, is narrow, cluttered; a train of thought which achieves its rhythm through shifting fragments of meaning, forcing the reader to move on restlessly picking up what they can along the way. It is both frustrating and incredibly liberating. The confusion of not understanding juxtaposed with the freedom and beauty of the word choices and turns of phrase becomes pivotal.
When reading ‘Enemies’, it becomes quickly obvious that to search for a narrative, for some shred of authorial intent, is to miss the point somewhat. As Fowler states in his eloquent introduction, ‘I hope for you, it ['Enemies'it might take on another meaning that I cannot possibly fathom from my privileged vantage’. As a primer, the author’s words do a great deal to assure us that the collection is as much our work as his, that he would prefer us to ascribe ourselves upon it and find our own meanings within it. With this in mind ‘Enemies’ become less intimidating and something hugely immersive.
“The voice from the central tower went silent,
however, the words continued:”
For all its depth and density, for its chaotic and confusing stylistics, ‘Enemies’ is a work of great breadth, too. Fowler’s selected collaborations pull in a varied assortment of mixed media including doodles, artwork, Rorschach blots, musical scores, advertisements, YouTube links, emails, &c.,&c which both add to, and alleviate us from, the chaos. Many of the pieces which combine art and poetry revealFowler to be a master of ekphrasis, as his words push and pull against the images, painting their own pictures. As readers, we are given something physical to cling onto and an insight into Fowler’s mind first hand. It is hard to tell if these pieces were written spontaneously, almost reflexively after seeing the art, or in an altogether more meticulous and planned fashion. It could be both, but impressively, these poems explode with the energy of a first draft and shine with the coherency of having been edited many times over. In this sense, the ‘enemies’ of the book’s title, the collaborators, prove themselves to be worthy assets in charging Fowler’s writing with considerable power and insight.
It would be easy to write thousands of words about all of the ideas and themes on display here, but as Fowler so aptly states, it’s all about finding your own way through the works and also through yourself, in order to come to your own conclusions. It would simply be impossible for two people to come out of Enemieswith the same interpretation, except maybe for having the opinion that we are all its authors. I would also argue that it is impossible to love, or even like, every single piece in this collection, such is its multiplicity. You will make both enemies and friends within its pages. Perhaps its greatest strength is in its putting on a banquet for the reader, putting everything on the table and inviting you to sit down. Importantly, this is a book to own, a book to keep lying around for that moment when you want to challenge yourself, a book which you can watch change as you do.
Personally, I’m looking forward to reading ‘Enemies’ (which, to add, has been beautifully printed on glossy paper – which will certainly assist its longevity – byPenned In The Margins) in several months time, or several years time, and see how differently I approach it. For Fowler’s  collection, in its writing on art, allows us both to read and write a version of ourselves.
“This book is a confusion as well as a testament, a symbol of community and accord, as well as a record I cannot fathom on re-reading”
‘Enemies’ is highly recommend for those with an open-mind and for people unafraid of innovation. As with many collections of poetry, but especially with this one, the author rejects his Virgil-esque role, refusing to hold your hand all of the way. Instead it is infinitely up to you, as a fellow artist and an equal, to get out as much as you’re willing to put in. Reading ‘Enemies’ is an experience of relationship-building at its most visceral, vital and organic, and one that cannot afford to be missed.

Gilles de Rais / Estates of Westeros exhibition at the Rich Mix Art Centre Gallery Cafe!

an Enemies exhibition
Gilles de Rais / The Estates of Westeros
David Kelly / Ben Morris / SJ Fowler
Tuesday October 22nd - Sunday 26th
in the Rich Mix Arts Centre Café Gallery http://www.richmix.org.uk/venues/spaces/cafe-gallery/
The Enemies project presents poetry & avant-garde illustration exhibited in the unique ‘bearpit’ café gallery of the Rich Mix Arts Centre. Two exchanges between poet & artist aim to break ground in the collaborative relationship between text, image and form, as published portable exhibitions, or books in boxes, are wallhung and ceiling strung. / Gilles de Rais – an interchangeable narrative reflection on the life and legend of Gilles de Rais – this fusion of avant garde poetry and modernist line drawing aims to satirise and subvert the manner in which the monstrous myth surrounding such de Rais is echoed in our own time by Jimmy Saville. This is the disjunctive folklore of idiot's resounding through the ages, from 15th century France to 21st century Britain. / The Estates of Westeros is where avant garde poetry meets avant garde illustration. Whether perception or reality, housing estates are environments of occlusion, claustrophobia and damage, and poetry about them has a responsibility to reflect this complexity and intensity in its tone and form. The Estates of Westeros is a meditation on this living space through the universe of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones, and where Gilles de Rais explores the absurdity of mythmaking in that which once was real, the Estates ... explores the grinding realism at the heart of the fantastical. / Both books can be purchased for £9 direct from Like This Press: http://www.likethispress.co.uk/publications/sjfowlerandbenmorris
A special viewing of the exhibition will take place on October Wednesday 23rd at 8pm. The event is free to attend and features:- Eirikur Orn Norddahl, one of the most amazing poetical performers in Europe, award winning novelist / sound poet. Here’s what he did last time he visited London http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P4beEsNIcQ (Preview He will be reading from his new publication. / Ondrej Buddeus, a pivotal part of the post-millenial new generation of Czech poets, a brilliant young poet joining us from Prague, http://bodyliterature.com/2013/06/25/ondrej-buddeus-2/ / There will also be the launch of my collaboration with the photographer Matteo X. Patocchihttp://www.matteopatocchi.com/ ‘Twins born Triplets’ is a unique poetry object, a fusion of experimental portrait photography and typographically innovative poetry (about Russia, Putin, Khlebnikov, Pussy Riot – an excerpt read here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-b8KL8StMU ) printed as a newspaper in a limited edition.
Please join us for the crescendo week of the Enemies project year one on

Enemies at the Hardy Tree closing night

Thanks to the 40 + poets & artists who performed / exhibited over the two weeks. Thanks to the over 200 people who came to the events all told, the others who came to view the work in the gallery. It was a very special few weeks in the rarest of London weather, and the second week rounded off an immense enterprise all told. Thanks to Amalie Russell, Cameron Maxwell, David Kelly, Catherine Carncross and the many others who gave of their time to help it on. Tamarin Norwood http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtE2sBTai1A
Sandeep Parmar & James Byrne http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUhLczT7Wl4
James Davies (& Tom Jenks) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUyGoEE94UQ

Everybody's people

I performed twice for the Voice art night. An epic experience for me hard to put it into concise sentences of any cogent value...newness, consistently attempting to find discomfort in the growth of new work and collaborators and practises has led to some of the most creatively profound experiences this year. It was a farewell to Ben - a friend who had given so much to me - a new world's poetry - a reluctant educator  - a moment he passed over to me something significant just before he leaves for China. and on top, to do this in tandem with dylan nyoukis - a true pioneer, a batwing sound artist, and for us to achieve real moments of synthesis fused was amazing, quite emotional. All I can say is that it felt overwhelming to be a part of a creative moment harrowing love happening live in a room full of very generous warm spirited people. It was also great fucking fun and shall not be quickly forgotten. Another Muay Thai poem, where 666... was attempting to be attritional and meditative this was intended as amusing energetic and explosive and still retain the sense of authenticity of practise amidst the silliness so vibrantly Central to old school sound poetry practise. Chris page again is a fine friend to help 

new 3am poets - Neiva, Kiely, Stainton

Three new tremendous writers up on 3am, in the poetry section, which I have the privilege to edit. Bruno Neiva, bringing avant garde visuality out of Oporto in Portugal / Robert Kiely, scholar of the CPRC, Irish rebel language masher / Ben Stainton, witty, multimedia understatementist.

Ben Stainton http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/ben-stainton-short-fish/
Robert Kiely http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/robert-kiely-attempt/
Bruno Neiva http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/bruno-neiva-pastoral/

the Synesthesia exhibition

My own personal trajectory working in collaboration, like so many things (perhaps sadly) comes, in some part, from the last five years I've spent working at the British Museum. Some of the most remarkable artists, and people, I've ever met work there (among some of the least remarkable) and inevitably, as people such as this become your friends, you work with them. Last night when I attended the private view of Gabrielle Cooper's wonderful Synesthesia exhibition at the Darnley gallery just off Mare st in Hackney, my work with Ben Morris and David Kelly was on display, alongside work by Robert Hitzeman, Francesca Marcaccio while Alexander Kell took photographs, and curators / artist like Siobhan Feeney, Mamiko Karusudani and others attended. Everyone has or had worked at the museum. Whatever must be said about working a dead end job for food moneys, it does produce art.
Gabrielle did an extraordinary job with the exhibition, she was so remarkably professional and the books in the boxe with David and Ben were hung beautifully. Ben and I's work was nailed to the wall, while my work with David was strung like leather floor to ceiling. Such a privilege to be part of an exhibition such as this, most especially because I write first and foremost and rarely get to it back and admire stuff on walls. Moreover, with David and Ben's achievements being so considerable with these pieces, I can hide behind their talent. The pictures here, again remarkable from Alexander Kell, are a proper testament to the exhibition.