A note on : Munich with the British Council

IMG_20171122_163833.jpg

A few days in Munich thanks to the hospitality of Elke Ritt and the British Council in Germany, this was a chance to develop a project that I hope will become a significant moment in contemporary British innovative poetry in Europe. Proposed by myself and Chris McCabe, it centres around an exhibition of English Concrete poetry in Munich, that will trace the visual poetry revolution of the 50s through to those making the work on the island now, whom are not greatly well known beyond the UK. It will connect to German vispo too, but vitally, it will show the range of poetic practise that has emanated from visual innovation. From performance, to conceptual work, from kinetic poetry to installation. These few days were spent discussing the idea, touring the beautiful city and meeting some brilliant folk. Discovering the Lyrik Kabinett was a revelation, a library gallery event space, with a really progressive understanding of poetry and art together, and visiting the grand Literaturhaus once again reminded me of what we’re missing, not having these institutions, in the UK. Once again, I’m lucky to be working with the British Council and after this beginning, hopefully this ambitious idea comes to fruition next year. 

A note on: Moot, a videopoem from Iraq via Highlight Arts & The British Council

Almost exactly two years since I spent some time in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq, thanks to the amazing Highlight Arts and the support of the British Council, a video showing me reading one of the poems I wrote about the place and the trip specifically has been produced by Yasmin Fedda and hosted in a series of articles by Daisy Leitch on the British Council Website.

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2016/found-in-translation-part-2/
https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2016/found-in-translation/

eating a book for Enemigos: performing with the video Amanda de la Garza

A series of adaptations were required to complete this collaboration, one taking place on the first night of the London Bookfair, for an event I was hosting & curating, with Amanda de la Garza. In the end, the evening was genuinely beautiful, easy to put together, and the performance between a video Amanda & I was really resonant (to me, I wouldn't presume further than that.)

The British Council have been a great partner on this event, providing lots of support and the presence of the brilliant Carmen Buellosa, and I had some time at the bohemyth bookfair in the day before the evening, where I reconnected with lots of friends I met on my two visits to perform in Mexico. It was during that afternoon, strolling in the Olympia, that I received Amanda's video, and then, with crippling audio problems, at great speed, I rushed home and we hashed out a deliberately unsynched audio reading track which had pauses for me to read in, around her words, and then I came up with some actions, reflecting her own performance in the video, when the audience could see her extraordinary visage, looming large. I bit pages from the Enemigos anthology and crawled on the stage. The final result was gentle, unsettled and singular, I think. I was very pleased.

The evening gave life once again into what has been one of the most exciting Enemies projects, and to see Rocio Ceron, Holly Pester, Adriana Enciso, Fabian Peake, Nell Leyshon, all shine so cohesively, with such clear relationships emanating from the collaborations was satisfying. I can vaguely relax for the rest of the bookfair now, cold selling my cupcakes to the massive trade delegations who also feed on books.

You can see all the Enemigos videos here : www.theenemiesproject.com/enemigos

Enemigos - April 14th at the rich mix for the London Book Fair

Enemigos at the London Bookfair - April Tuesday 14th 2015 at the Rich Mix Arts Centre
ww.theenemiesproject.com/enemigos / @enemiesproject

Held in the Main Space - Free Entry - 7.30pm doors for an 8pm start.
http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/enemigos-poetry-from-london-to-mexico-city/

Join a host of Mexican poets and writers on the first night of the London Bookfair as they collaborate and exchange with their British counterparts in an original evening of literature, read and discussed as part of the Enemies project. Each of the four pairs of writers will present a unique collaboration, varying from art performance, translation, dialogue and discussion. It will be an evening of poetry and literature that is as original in content as it is in form.

Carmen Buellosa & Nell Leyshon
Rocio Ceron & Holly Pester
Fabian Peake & Adriana Diaz Enciso
SJ Fowler & Amanda de la Garza

Enemigos 2015 will also serve as the launch of the Enemigos anthology in the UK. This beautiful anthology of radical translation features new work from 16 poets who have worked in pairs to translate each other's work in aberrant and inventive ways. Available outside of Mexico for the first time, the anthology contains new work from:

Tom Raworth & Rodolfo Mata / Carol Watts & Enzia Verducchi / David Berridge & Alberto Blanco / Tim Atkins & Gaspar Orozco / Jeff Hilson & Pura Lopez Colome / Tom Chivers & Ana Franco / SJ Fowler & Amanda de la Garza / Holly Pester &  Rocio Ceron

Thanks to the British Council, Conaculta and the London Bookfair. More information on the 2015 Mexico market focus can be found here :http://literature.britishcouncil.org/projects/2015/the-london-book-fair-2015

Coming up for the Enemies project in 2015:
Feinde: Austrian Enemies – May 1st to 14th
a World without Words – May 6th
Unesco European Literature Night Edinburgh – May 14th
Gelynion: Enemies Cymru – May 19th to 29th
Mahu: an exhibition – June 6th to 27th
Enemies: a Berlin camarade – June 23rd

The International Literature Showcase in Norwich

An unbelievable week for me in Norwich, an incredible platform for my work and really another grand stage for the testing of my ideas, as an artist and a curator. I was very humbled to be there and lived it to the fullest. I wrote an in depth review of the whole experience here http://www.stevenjfowler.com/ilshowcase


updates on the Enemies project website : www.weareenemies.com

Recently added is a revamped About section detailing future plans and past happenings, an updated 2014 schedule with event information and videos and the beginnings of the 2015 schedule.
http://weareenemies.com/about.html 
http://weareenemies.com/events_14.html 
- an example from the about below

The future
As the Enemies project moves into 2015 there are five key points of its future program:

Innovative event curation: trying to genuinely break new ground in the form and structure of events and exhibitions and programmes between poets and artists. Events include the Kiddy Kamarade, a family poetry day including a creche and children’s pedagogical poetry activities, a collaborative residency with an award winning and innovative landscape architecture form to explore how language can shape the very literal but endlessly complex physical shaping of urban environments and new forms of collaborative poetry readings with established partners like the Hay-on-Wye festival.

Innovative collaborative connections between mediums: marrying poetry with sculpture, with England’s folk music tradition, with sound art and avant garde music, with film and film language, with animation. The new year of Enemies seeks new ground to break across artforms.

a continued increase in our International outlook: an emphasis on bringing other cultures and languages to collaborate in England, and to explore the possibilities of translation as a practise, and what this means to language but also to different artforms, to whom the word is not so familiar and provides unique challenges. Wales, Austria, Norway, Germany, Finland, Mexico and many others are on the slate.

Radical translation: a long term partnership with the Translation Games project, curated by Ricarda Vidal, following on from back to back appearances at the British Library's International Translation Day, situates Enemies at the forefront of experimental translation practise, and events and anthologies will further this pursuit in 2015.

Co-curating collaboration: setting up events that are built on a collaborative partnership in the curating of those events, and exploring how that mediation of exchange in the actual programming of artistic exchange affects, and enriches that practise. The Enemies website will evidence and discuss this process with a series of co-curators for the many projects lined up throughout the year, through video interviews and blogposts and interviews.

Collectives: exploring the notion of collective collaboration and how it differs from binary collaboration, and how it inherently bleeds across mediums in an organic and social manner. Through three recently established and contrasting collectives, involving some of most exciting names in contemporary art writing, performance art, poetry, visual art and electronic literature, the Enemies project will explore whether the Collective is a mode of collaboration still relevant to the 21st century.

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #6

More eye bleed, happy not to sleep in order to do everything I can do, knowing how precious this time in Erbil is, and that while in it, things are so hectic that I won't be able to appreciate it until I'm gone. I finally got a chance to visit the city proper, though the bazaar and up into the citadel. Whereas the bazaar was alive, defined by its use, and the friendly, approachable people who populate it, the citadel, this incredible centrepoint to an 8000 year old city, a place assailed by Hulegu Khan, Timur, Alexander, is in the last ten years, finally defeated, stripped bare, renovated out of its appeal. In an amazing move, and it would seem against Unesco's wishes, the local government has decided to relocate the active, thriving community of people who lived within the walls of the citadel, in their own city within a city, and place them in a community elsewhere (called Citadel!) so that the ancient walls can be a pure tourist attraction. Walls are plastered, knocked down, rebuilt, the roads are dusty and empty, most paths are barred. So innately counterproductive to be breathtaking.

We managed to find the one ray of the light in an otherwise depressing excursion, the textile museum in the citadel. Really a beautiful, careful and honest enterprise, Hoshang met the curator, and discussed the programs they have to support the traditional methods of textile production and support the education of the Kurdish women who are preserving this dying art. Yasmin and I shot a video of me reading in the museum, my poem about Alexander and Diogenes. And I bought some beautiful crafts, all the money going back into the museum that is hanging on like a bastion of authenticity, at the heart of a project that has lost sight of itself/

Another brutal, drenched training session in the carpeted basement gym of the chawarchra, weird scaling the stairs back to my room dripping while all the glad handed, white suits shake and loiter. In the post gym fog, I worked further on my translation of Ahmad Abdel Hussein, and his wonderful declarative poem against the Qu'ran and the destructive legacy of Islam in modern Iraq. I had then the chance to read my workings on Ryan Van Winkle's podcast, where Ahmad and I discussed our exchanges and his courageous journalism. The more I know Ahmad, the more humble, gentle and considered he seems.
We were then invited out to a glitzy restaurant on the British Council, and took minibusses, like a proper tourist party, heaving me with flashbacks to childhood coach holidays. A nice evening talking outside, distracted by a giant screen showing football, but really picking Yasmin Fedda's brain about her documentary work and her thoughts on the medium. Dina Mousawi joined us a little later, having met friends of hers who have just relocated from Baghdad to Erbil. By their account, the difference is incalcuable. In Baghdad, a man and a woman cannot walk down the street together without being married and covered, and the army shakes down houses to rob them while pretending to search. This is not even taking into account the sense of lawlessness, and hopelessness, you get from anyone who lives and or has recently lived in that city. Horrible to hear, and yet, where I was once 'careful' about visiting Erbil, now I feel an urge to visit Baghdad, a very powerful one. This foolishness was dampened further when speaking to the British Council staff who live in Baghdad, and reside only in the International Zone, the old green zone, and see that tiny crop of guarded land alone, unless they are in a convoy of bullet proof suvs.

Night book making dominated the increasingly tested Reel team, they had to prepare a pamphlet of the translations between the pairs that were being read in the big event the following day, and it kept them up (perhaps fueled by Arak?) late into the night, formatting, sorting, printing. Impressive dedication while I swanned about, offering to help, and chatting to the BC pros and some weird poets in the bar before sack hitting far too late again.

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #4

The days are piling up so beautifully, everything has taken on its own rhythm, due to Dan, Ryan, Hoshang & co. I spent the morning in the very last translation session, this time working with Ahmad Abdel Hussein. What can I say about him? He is perhaps so remarkable to be a literary stereotype, in that you might imagine, in your most optimistic thoughts, that poets like him roam the places where they are needed, writing poetry that actually changes the way people think, that actually allows their secular and democratic predilections to not be alien and individuated and lost. He is a beacon of sorts. His work is outwardly critical of Islam, and all monotheistic religion. It dense and profound and full of remarkable paradox and metaphysics. The poem I had the chance to work on, live translated with Ahmed and the brilliant Lauren Pyott begins with the sarcastic invocation of allah, and goes on to pillory the hypocrisy of 'peaceful' religion and the empty promises of monotheism. My own work for this project, the Arbil Suite, maintains a similar innate criticism of what I deem the fundamental meta-fascism of a monotheistic god and it's shifts throughout the history of Kurdistan. Ahmad has twice had to flee Iraq for his safety, both for his outwardly secular poetry and for his investigative journalism, which at one point was heavily focused on uncovering a series of bank robberies in Iraq perpetrated by a religious political party that used that money as bribes during an election. Here are two links to more information about Ahmed's actions, one of them being his death warrant, written and published by a religious group. http://burathanews.com/news/72386.html / http://mail.almothaqaf.com/index.php/reports/4128.html What can one say in the face of such dignity and bravery? It was a true privilege, the admiration I hold for his courage and conviction, and for his unassuming manner possessed as he is with the kind of poetic talent that makes him exceptional, even amongst a generation that has more to write about than it should
Ahmad, Lauren & I
I squeezed one more gym session out of the Stars in Shaqlawa, truly a sweat drenched griefhole after my week of pain in there, before we bundled into a minibus and headed out into the land of the Kurds. Such beautiful countryside, we passed through a series of smaller towns, including Harir, a station on the silk route. I have a bit of a fear when it comes to wild driving, having been in a wreck in my younger years, and this journey, which took place during an epic lightning and rain storm, in a rackety bus filled with 16 bodies, with no seatbelts, on mountain roads, in traffic jams and s-bends leaden with massive dilapidated oil trucks, while immensely loud Choubi music blared from the stereo, to which most of the bus danced and waved tissues, while Hoshang had full conversations with the Kurdish driver, forever turning his head, made me most afeared. The music was good though, I am being won around to the driving beats and epileptic shoulder shrugging of the local musical cuisine. For example, I share with you some OF THE VERY FINEST POMEGRANATES 
We arrived at our destination, a waterfall, surrounded by plastic animal dioramas, in stead of full taxidermy, and proceeded to marvel at Dan and Ryan who floated on a dinghy around the pool beneath the waterfall until it became strange and mesmerising, see below. There was a sharpened cleaver next to the water and the man who controlled the dinghys often picked it up. Again I had some lovely picture requests from friendly, shiny dudes, like I was the new Aziz Waisy. Back on the road, Hoshang showed us the remnants of the road the British cut into the mountain rock, which was once the only way through to Iran, and looked like a perch of doom above the river, before we turned back another 3 hours drive to Erbil. The camaraderie in the van was a beautiful thing, these people, as often happens when one finds oneself held in a kind of benevolent camp environment, have become friends, not something I'd easily say, and taking pictures of Ryan and Dina sleeping, or discussing the title of Hoshang's first autobiography are the small things that will stay in the memory.
Slightly dishevelled we arrived in Erbil, and the hotel Chwar Chra, or something like that, and the Niniti literature festival. Right off the bat I got to meet some of the other writers, the festival being a bridge point between British and Iraqi poets on the whole, and in Kurdistan of course, some amazing Kurdish poets, including Choman Hardi, whom Ive wanted to meet properly for sometime. We had a quick fluff and preen before heading down to the welcome dinner where we were roundly welcomed. It feels like there is real affection and appreciation for the Reel project, for its care of concept and execution, and it also feels like we are the cool kids in the room, at the end of the diner. After the mega buffet we sat around talking until late, the genuinely charming, hospitable and gracious Ted Hodgkinson from the British Council offered me an education on contemporary Iraqi politics in between gently absorbing my stupid jokes. For the Niniti International Literature fest, or NILF, as Im calling it, he flew in from a friends wedding in Fiji. That is commitment. I finished the day in Ryan's room, being regailed with stories as the arak (a local spirit, like aniseed vodka) flowed freely and I sat on, teetotal, as I had spent most of the day, in fits.