Another magic engagement with Surbiton's Museum of Futures, a unique community gallery that I've been able to work with through Writers' Centre Kingston and Kingston University. Students, local artists and writers, and those able to travel to the gallery nearby contributed to a brilliant month long exhibition of writing art, aligned with my poem brut project, on the theme of scribbling and scrawling. The work was uniformly good and once more, by taking on the labour of an open submission process, I had the chance to meet a load of talented new people, from Nicole Polonsky to Denise McCullough, there was some real discoveries for me. Moreover my students had the chance to see their work walled for the first time, and help me, significantly, in the curation of the show and it's events.
A dynamic public facing project from J&L Gibbons, Landscape Learn is an exciting venture that Ive been able to be involved with through my residency and tie into my time at Kensal Green Cemetery, with Tereza Stehlikova, with this event. A one day mix of cemetery tour via geology and lost rivers, to talks on the bones of the city, the urban mind, neuroscience, landscape architecture and finishing with a screening of a film I have small part in, made by Tereza. Tickets were sold to a group of nearly fifty and the day felt really communal and engaged, I met so many really interesting people, all of whom shared a complex and intensive interest in their city and its changing environment - often changing for the worst, as the discussion of the nearby Old Oak Common development seemed never too far from the discussions. It's inspiring for me to work with people such as Jo Gibbons and Neil Davidson, this is the kind of day that feeds into my work, takes it into new places, where it needs to be, always growing.
I conceived of this exhibition for multiple reasons. The first, I wanted to invest in the place. I've been teaching at Kingston University for a few years and wanted to create a platform in the area, outside of London (just) where those living or studying local felt that not everything was east of them, in the city, that there was some focus on the place as other than a place to visit, but to reside, creatively. Second because I wanted students and faculty from across departments to connect, from across ages and years and practises, and I wanted this to happen in the context of the many brilliant poets and artists who were also not associated with the Uni. Too often we're all in our own boxes, in all things, but especially in the pace of teaching or studying. Thirdly, I had hoped new friendships and collaborative relationships would begin and by placing students work next to those who are ostensibly professionals, that many students would take inspiration from that, would get permission to experiment, to follow their own noses, and that it would as a project show them they could go into spaces beyond the university. This is often a problem too, that students feel too safe at university creatively, and this comes to bear painfully when they graduate. Fourthly I had built some fantastic connections with a specific group of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate whom I felt deserved the opportunity to do something special, or unique certainly, and I knew I could rely on them to help me, to make it a collective enterprise. This proved true. And finally, I wanted the actual aesthetic content of the exhibition to be innovative, to explore the potential of text beyond the book, or the visual to be read as a text. In the end we had 40 works of a really striking standard, the exhibition looks genuinely engaging, original and beautiful.
Museum of Futures themselves, Simon Tyrell and Robin Hutchinson, introduced to me by the brilliant Lucy Furlong, were amazingly supportive, doing great work. Myself and the student co-curators, especially Molly Bergin, Olga Kolesnikova and Matt Navey, had a laugh putting it all together on a windy Wednesday in Surbiton. There is real camaraderie to be found in this kind of project. And the opening night was amazing, gratifying. The room was so full someone feinted. Packed to the gills we listened to a host of new collaborative readings I had commissioned for the night and I got to make new friends as well as seeing some of my favourite people, old friends and talents like Thomas Duggan, Alexander Kell and Camilla Nelson. The readings were great and the sense of community, of purpose and excitement was palpable. A special project all told.
All the reading videos and pictures are, or will be, here www.theenemiesproject.com/futures
Very happy to be curating this exhibition in Surbiton next month. It brings together colleagues at Kingston University from multiple departments, students, alumnus and local professional poets and artists.
Opening night, with a camarade reading, is February Thursday 23rd. All info here www.theenemiesproject.com/futures
I'm also still taking submission for the exhibition until February 5th www.theenemiesproject.com/opencallfutures
For latest blogs on the tour visit www.stevenjfowler.com/southwest
A collaborative poetry tour of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset spread over a week in August 2016. A project I co-curated with Camilla Nelson, bringing over 70 poets together over 5 nights, the first Enemies project style tour I've done in England, writing new works every night with core poets JR Carpenter, John Hall, Matti Spence, Annabel Banks and Camilla herself. It was a memorable week, a return to old places and friends, and the beginning of new ventures. For much more information and documentation visithttp://www.theenemiesproject.com/southwest
St Ives - August 1st 2016
I was born in Cornwall, in Truro, and I grew up as a small child in Newquay. This was the first reading I'd ever given in the county and the first time I had been back since I was a teenager. St Ives, famous for its artistic community, welcomed us with torrential rain. Annabel Banks drove me from London, picking up other poets on the way, for a rare and joyful road trip south. We arrived at night, nearly ten hours on the road, and accommodation famously being at a premium in one of the UK's summer tourism hotspots, I jumped out of the car in a dark lane to enter a property called the hobbit hole, which was a shed with a bed in a garden. Actually quite fun to live, briefly, like a hobbit.
The reading itself was held at the Barbara Hepworth museum, and supported by Tate St Ives. I was told afterwards that we were in the very room in which Barbara Hepworth died of smoke inhalation. Surrounded by her sculptures, it was an unforgettable space to read within. I met many poets for the first time, some after long correspondence, met the core touring poets as a group for the first time, and had the great pleasure to read with John Hall. His work has been influential on my own ever since I began to trace the line of my own interests back through British poetry to the 60s and before. He published his first book in 1968, and his rare poise, presence and judgement as a poet and a person was great to share, if briefly, as we read our piece in such a special room. I tried simply to follow his rhythm, his play with silence and pause and I felt very comfortable in that space, almost not like a reading for me, closer to a performance of reading.
St Ives provided a fascinating beginning to the tour, quite intense in a strange way - the weather, the tourists, sleeping in a shed, bombarded with new faces and hearing new poetry and being responsible for that. Already a sense that things are moving quickly, picking up steam, switching modes to performance and travel, and to start this near the very foot of the country, to work north, as feels natural to me.
Falmouth - August 2nd 2016
A journey across Cornwall, weather lightening, energy rising, travelling with Camilla, a remarkable poet and immensely organised and responsible as a co-curator. Luxurious accommodation too, with a landlady who even came to the reading and insisted on baking me vegan cookies. We were housed at The Poly for the event, with young, helpful, accommodating staff. And I got to work with Matti Spence, a fascinating and generous man, a fine poet. I first met him after he returned to London from some years away in Australia and after he had studied a UEA. Completely assured and singular, while being essentially warm hearted, Matti is a peer to learn from. We wrote a poem I was very happy with and decided then to turn it performatively, breaking the fourth wall, and using the assumed context of the reading against the audience, in a light-hearted way. A lovely touch for me was that my old friend and collaborator Thomas Duggan attended, his studio being deep in the Cornish countryside, and I hugged him mid reading. Everyone seemed lifted by the event, the format of collaboration once again creating ties and bonding people from different scenes and styles.
Dartington - August 3rd 2016
Back into Devon, driving up with Camilla and Matti, skirting Dartmoor, crossing the Tamar, heading to Schumacher College, near where I grew up as a teenager in Exeter. Another strange return, but realising on the tour that it isn't a return when the company and purpose is utterly new. And in Dartington it felt the most fresh, like I had not been to this part of England before. This is perhaps because Schumacher College is so unique, set apart in the countryside, an ecosystem unto itself. Staying in dorms too, cells, made the experience feel really embedded and somehow enclosed. This was a remarkable evening of poetry too, a full house again, with some brilliant collaborations highlighting an evening that felt complete, energised, memorable. It was inevitable the lineage of Dartington College of Arts would cast a spell on the reading, and so many in the room had ties to that institution (more here on that), and multi-disciplinary practise and performance art was a key feature of the collaborations.
Collaborating with JR Carpenter was a blast. We took a text she had generated with her computer, basically three simple phrases and then, introducing ourselves with a little bit of water pouring, on theme, used repetition to build an improvisational structure. I love this kind of work, completely open, free and high pressured. It requires time and expertise to do well, and can be a dud on the wrong night. This wasn't, it flowed, as we leaned into each other, swaying slightly, the clear purpose of the work was well expressed, well received and seemed all the more satisfying to me because in a way, it was a small work, miniature and light. It represented the moment, it was of the space, and very much a product of the tour.
We finished the evening in the White Hart, where Dartington College of Art, before it's merger with Falmouth University in 2010, held many events, many long nights. I sat with John Hall, who taught at the institution for 34 years, and he told me of the poets who had read in the room and the history of the place. It felt a very special privilege to hear that from him and to imagine our event as a small, brief, resurgence of that tradition in the area.
An amazing privilege to publicly evidence my association with J&L Gibbons, I was very kindly asked to read a few poems amidst some wonderful, dynamic talks about Tree heritage and city planning and environment at the Garden Museum in Lambeth. It was a major event, absolutely full, and in the ex-church main hall of the museum. I has the chance to read briefly (which I was delighted to do, briefly) and speak alongside Jo and Tim O'Hare, and vitally, read the poems their work has inspired. It was the most appropriate environment for them, and once done I was able to do what I'd always prefer to do, just listen, and learn from the expertise on display, why people had come and filled out the hall.
Brita von Schoenaich (Bradley-Hole Schoenaich), and Anne Jazulot (Trees and Design Action Group) spoke too, and the event was chaired by Evan Davis. More info here. I hope this is the first of many events where I share the stage with the people who have so kindly hosted me over the last year, and it only occurs to me in writing this it has been just over a year & a half since I began my conversations with them.
I have also finally built a dedicated webpage for my residency with J&L Gibbons www.stevenjfowler.com/gibbonsresidency where all the work I've done with them is available.
Very excited to be reading at the Garden Museum this week upcoming. The event is a chance for me to read some of the poems I've written during my residence with the amazing landscape architects http://www.jlg-london.com/ called http://thegreenerinfrastructure.tumblr.com/. The work of Jo and the team at J&L Gibbons has been a real inspiration and they published an extraordinary pamphlet entitled Soil last year, the poems from which I will be reading on the night.
A more beautiful, more fitting setting could not be found for Kakania than the house of Sigmund Freud during his last days in London, now a museum. The Freud Museum showed us the same generosity so many have around the Kakania project and we were allowed to commission five new works, each by a contemporary artist, each taking place in a different room of the house. It's very rare to be able to present works in such a rarified space, one curated so carefully, but also one that maintains a fluency that would us to walk nearly 60 people from room to room on a tour of performances.
We began with Emily Berry reading beautiful new poems appropriated from Sigmund Freud's beautiful correspondence before moving onto Tom Jenks new conceptual work on Otto Gross, read in the exhibition room, Eros around him. We then moved into Anna Freud's study, where the remarkable performance artist Esther Strauss was asleep on Anna's original couch. Esther had stayed up for a whole day to make herself tired enough to sleep, to dream in Anna's room. It was a mesmerising and unforgettable performance. We then moved downstairs where Dylan Nyoukis resurrected Raoul Hausmann in the dining room before Jeff Hilson finished the event, reading his Wittgenstein poems in the landing.
A major highlight for me, as the first Kakania had been, as a curator. To be able to work with such a calibre of artists, thanks to the Austrian Cultural Forum's generosity, and to launch our two new original Kakania publications too, it was a satisfying feeling. I've long wanted to perform or organise in the Freud Museum also in fact it was a motivation for me to develop Kakania to work in that space, having had a long relationship with Freud's text. In the light of these artists works, the museum became something new to me, and Im sure the audience too felt this was a special evening.
Thanks to Lili Spain for all her support. Pictures below by Wanda O'Connor.
In just under two weeks time, on January Thursday 22nd, I’m delighted to say Kakania will once again feature contemporary artists and poets presenting original commissions on the life & work of a figure of Habsburg Vienna from one century ago. This time Kakania will be in the extraordinary setting of the Freud Museum, with the artists performing their works in the rooms of what was once the house of Sigmund Freud in north London. The audience will tour with the artists, going room to room, as each performance unfolds.
Spaces are limited and the event is ticketed, so please do book using this link: http://www.freud.org.uk/events/75773/kakania/
Directions to the Freud Museum can be found here: http://www.freud.org.uk/visit/
Emily Berry on Sigmund Freud
Esther Strauss on Anna Freud
Tom Jenks on Otto Gross
Jeff Hilson on Ludwig Wittgenstein
& Phil Minton on Carl Jung
I’m happy to announce the final details and lineups for the third and fourth Kakania events to take place in February and March. Please pop them in your diaries.
Kakania III at the Horse Hospital - February thursday 19th
Caroline Bergvall on Gustav Klimt
Martin Bakero on Arnold Schoenberg
Colin Herd on Oskar Kokoschka
Marcus Slease on Max Kurzweil
Damir Sodan on Gustav Mahler
Joerg Zemmler on Karl Kraus
Stephen Emmerson on Rainer Maria Rilke
Kakania IV at the Austrian Cultural Forum – March Thursday 26th
George Szirtes on Arthur Schnitzler
Ben Morris on Ernst Krenek
Joshua Alexander on Paul Wittgenstein
Thomas Duggan on Ernst Mach
Fabian Faitlin on Otto Wagner
Stephen Emmerson on Rainer Maria Rilke
Jeff Hilson on Ludwig Wittgenstein
Emily Berry on Sigmund Freud
Colin Herd on Oskar Kokoschka
The Freud Museum event will also be the first time the two ambitious Kakania project publications will be available, with both books to have specific launches later in the program. Both have been designed by http://www.polimekanos.com as part of the Austrian Cultural Forum’s Occasions series.
Oberwilding is a collaborative poetry collection, written by Colin Herd and I, with a poem marking each year of Oskar Kokoschka’s life - an avant garde exploration of the great painters century in collaborative, experimental poetics.
Kakania: an anthology is a groundbreaking collection of brand new works from 40 amazing artists and poets, that features poetry, portraiture, woodcuts, conceptual texts, photography, graphic design and a multitude of arts and artists. It contains work by:
George Szirtes on Arthur Schnitzler, Martin Bakero on Arnold Schoenberg, Emily Berry on Sigmund Freud, Stephen Emmerson on Rainer Maria Rilke, Colin Herd on Oskar Kokoschka, Sharon Gal on Anton Webern, Jeff Hilson on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tom Jenks on Otto Gross, Maja Jantar on Lou Andreas-Salome, David Kelly-Mancaux on Egon Schiele, Diane Silverthorne & Ariadne Radi Cor on Alma Mahler, Dylan Nyoukis on Raoul Hausman, Damir Sodan on Gustav Mahler, Marcus Slease on Max Kurzweil, Joerg Zemmler on Karl Kraus, Michael Zand on Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Jaime Robles on Ludwig Boltzmann, Alison Gibb on Bruno Walter, Pascal O'Loughlin on Wilhelm Reich, Vicky Sparrow on Margarethe Wittgenstein, Kim Campanello on Alban Berg, Jack Little on Peter Altenberg, Eley Williams on Broncia Koller-Pinell, Andy Jackson on Oscar Straus, JT Welsch on Hermann Broch, Fabian Peake on Franz Werfel, Aki Schilz on Hermann Bahr, Fabian Faltin on Otto Wagner, Iain Morrison on Alexander von Zemlinsky, Clare Saponia on Julius Wagner-Jauregg, Rhys Trimble on Felix Salten, myself on Robert Musil, Robert McClean on Max Reinhardt, Ryan Van Winkle on Ernst Weiss, Andrew Spragg on Koloman Moser, Peter Jaeger on Theodor Herzl, Nia Davies on Viktor Ullman and Esther Strauss on Anna Freud.
All Kakania events, including this next one at the Freud Museum, will also feature the beautiful books of Pushkin press, with a book table to peruse, accompanied by a Kakania flyer which offers a discount on buying their Habsburg era books online. http://pushkinpress.com/
& with thanks to the Austrian Cultural Forum http://www.acflondon.org/
I said farewell to Nell and Bee and the others who made up the official part of my trip, having chosen to stay on an extra series of days and see those I met last year and moved into a new, smaller, more ordinary hotel in Roma, a more youthful neighborhood. No one helping me now, strange to get used to cars picking you up and people shepherding you to events. I had more time to write and rest, still a bit weak. The first day 'alone' I did three readings and must have met a hundred new friends.
First we read in the Condessa, launching the beautifully produced Enemigos anthology, what began my ties with Mexico in the first place really. We had 8 poets from London and 8 from Mexico City butcher each others works with the radical translations at the heart of the collection. To see it in print was very gratifying. I saw Ari Chavez Chacon again, who helped me so much in 2013, a brilliant artist herself and a friend, and Jack Little, the Newcastle born poet who has lived here for 4 years, and who runs the Ofi press.
After a long lunch where I really got to talk with the wonderful Amanda de la Garza and Rodolfo Matas, and Ana Franco Ortuna, we headed to the Casa del Lago, an amazing and much lauded poetry venue right on the lake of the Chapultepec park, in the heart of the city. Apparently this ornate lakehouse had housed everyone from Paz onwards, and we set up as a panel to read from and talk about Enemigos. I met Gaspar Orozco here too, diplomat and poet and punk singer, not something I'd think possible in England. The audience was made up of families, a photography class and well wishers. I found it enjoyable, still full of cold, to be rather light hearted with the discussions, but reading the work of my dear friend Tom Raworth I felt quite sad he wasn't with me in the city he resided in during the 70s. We finished the day in a mescal bar, the Mexican hospitality raging as a thunderstorm wracked the city.
I spent much of the next few days simply exploring the city, walking for many hours at a time, intermittently meeting friends like Jack, Ari and Rocio Ceron, and others, and getting to know Roma and la Condessa. It's been a long time since I've had days almost alone, unbusied. All things require adjustment. I spent the last day, the day I write this on, mostly in the anthropological museum. Famed for its grandiose architecture and epic displays, I spent the better part of 5 hours wandering the halls. But again the shadow came back. It was too intense, I became almost entranced, a bit sick even. I had to read every panel almost, to satisfy myself. I didn't take a single picture. There is a richness to the rendering, the animals, the faces of death, to the dwarfed gurning humans, to the very process and intent of the artwork of the indigenous civilisations of Mexico that is like the sensation I had experienced when being unable to escape the potential of the worst suffering and fear and occlusion that this country can produce. It is something of an intoxicant, and for now, just for now, I am okay with going home to London,
JOSHUA ALEXANDER & SJ FOWLER
ANIMAL DRUM is a short, conceptual poetic film about disease, menial work and the remnants of the British Empire. It was born out of a collaboration between two fellow and former employees of a major British Museum institution, and draws on shared experiences of the potential, and actual, vapidity of assumptions of improvement and beneficial pedagogy in such institutions, as well as shared negative experiences of a vast, global tourist deluge. In that sense, the film was born mutually, conceived by the two artists at the same time, and created without much dialogue yet with a certain sense of synchronicity.
Animal Drum calls on the miserabalist, absurdist traditions of post-war European avant garde theatre and poetry. By employing the red herring of the Comedia Dell Arte ‘plague doctor’ mask, as a juxtaposition to the glossed over friendliness of a contemporary ‘happy’ urban landscape it invokes deliberate absurdity in its visuals as well as its text. It is London shot, environment specific and includes performance footage from the Science Museum late where SJ Fowler was invited to create a new work in response to the Exponential Horn installation.
Animal Drum is the first in a series of films that explore the sad, macabre, abstract threat of contemporary London culture and psychological geography.
Lovely 2nd print run of my 1st collection arrived today from @KFandS_press pic.twitter.com/xv3yQbGmsy
— Steven J Fowler (@stevenjfowler) January 25, 2014
Iain Sinclair's Red Museum comments, so humbling 3 years on http://t.co/dT7mccZPQv pic.twitter.com/zIGfDFfC0w
— Steven J Fowler (@stevenjfowler) January 25, 2014
"...In the Middle Ages Dante’s poetry is described as a true umbra, a shadow of the truth. This suggests figura was Dante’s theory of inspiration. Auerbach suggests that ‘… we can say in Europe , the figurative method goes back to Christian influences, the allegorical to ancient pagan ones, and that the first is applied for the most part to Christian materials, the second, rather, to ancient ones’ but then admits that this is too neat and in the High Middle Ages ‘ the Sybils, Vergil, and the figures of the Aeneid, indeed, even the characters from the cycles of mythic sagas from Brittany (Galahad in the Quest del Saint Graal, for example) were absorbed into figurative readings.’
We need an artificial lake.
I have a book I would like to sell you, he says.
He whips back his long grey coat;
Its buttons stitched in blue thread,
And from within produces a book
As deep as a ribcage.’
The Museum of Debt is an exploration of the unspoken in a contemporary British workplace – most specifically a workplace where the task in hand is the preservation of dead objects – inanimate historical trinkets which pass on their own ossification to their watchmen & watchwomen, and breed a myriad of depressions. Between the concussion of photography and irony of poetries, so the Museum of Debt is about mortality, and a mild form of waking death. Both poet & photographer involved were involved doing the job they documented. A project of internal projection with an innately shared set of meanings and experiences. The photographs were taken then the poems were written