A note on: Illumations - Thomas Bernhard at Austrian Cultural Forum

]another grand entry into this event series i'm lucky to be curating for the austrian cultural forum, this time celebrating thomas bernhard, an author who has always been important to me, seeing the world as it is, and not the plastic rendition of optimism that creates an opposite feeling in the hearts of those with their bloody eyes open. 

The lineup was really stellar, I got to work with the amazing Maja Jantar once more, and the equally inspiring Tereza Stehlikova, and discover two visiting austrian poets, Raphaela Edelbauer and Sophie-Carolin Wagner, who i had naturally researched but never seen perform live.

as ever what the artists do in these events, recreating the authors in question through such innovative means, is inspiring, and the ACF couldnt be cooler to work for http://www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations

A note on: beginning production on Land of Scoundrels, new theatre at Rich Mix

I'm to write a new short play, called Mayakovsky, as part of a night of theatre at Rich Mix, commissioned for their Revolution 17 season, on the centenary of the Russian Revolution. It will be staged with an amazing set design by Thomas Duggan, who has designed for Vesterport's theatre's Faust recently amongst other things, and placed alongside new works by Austrian playwright Petra Freimund and Larry Lynch, who often works for the Belarus Free Theatre. We began our production proper this week and already the project is inspiring, I'm learning immensely from the experience of these three deeply intelligent people. Actors will be cast soon, a score written, and then we'll build to June 9th 10th 11th, which will be intense. www.stevenjfowler.com/mayakovsky

A note on: my top poetry reads of 2015 on 3am magazine

Tom Jenks, Spruce (Blarts Books)
One of most overlooked poets in the UK, doing the work conceptualism should be doing, getting to the heart of uniquely British ennui through splicing methodology and jet black humour.

Sandeep Parmar, Eidolon (Shearsman Books) 
High modernism powerfully maintained and redeployed by one of the most interesting poets crossing the American / UK scene.

Tom Chivers, Dark Islands (Test Centre)
One of the clearest voices in British poetry in his finest work to date, beautiful rendered, written and designed.

Emma Hammond, The Story of No (Penned in the Margins)
Powerful for it’s immediacy, incredibly sophisticated for it’s lack of pretension in the face of profoundly personal poetry. Amazing book.

Christodoulos Makris, The Architecture of Chance (wurm press) 
This is the future of a poetry which reflects our world of language without dispensing with the expressionistic skill of interpreting that language. Found text lies with lyrical poetry, a thorough achievement to balance them to such effect.

Peter Jaeger, A Field Guide to Lost Things (If P Then Q press)
Clever, resonant and profound, as all of Peter Jaeger’s works are, a fine example of the possibilities of contextual, process-orientated thinking getting to the heart of contemporary poetry.

Bruno Neiva & Paul Hawkins, Servant Drone (Knives forks and spoons press) 
Brilliant collaborative poetry collection (of which there are far too few) taking on a necessary issue in necessarily disjunctive ways.

Michael Thomas Taren, Eunuchs (Ugly Duckling Presse) 
Best possible example of what is possible in contemporary American poetics of my generation. Excessive, authentic, ambitious.

Rebecca Perry, Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe Books) 
Reflective and observational in the most well conceived way, a clear poetic experience as a book, it accumulates and resonates as a collection.

Lee Harwood, The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon Press) 
The last work by one of the most interesting poets in the English language in the latter half of the 20th century, a typically beautiful book.

A note on: The Frontline Club, a World without Words IV - November 13th 2015

A really resonant and powerful evening at the Frontline Club. The highlight of what has been a wonderful journey so far, curating www.aworldwithoutwords.com with Lotje Sodderland and Thomas Duggan. During this night It became clear to me what this project was really about, there was a sense of clarity and the brilliant Professor Barry Smith and I both came across it in our discussions before the event. It is about will. A will to life, an affirmation of the continency of language, on life, and how Lotje represents to me, in the most deferent, humble, inciteful and beautiful manner, a pure engagement with being alive. And so through her presence, the lynchpin of the project, so my work, the films of Vincent Moon and insightful thoughts Barry himself shared, to a sold out room of over 100 people, became about that - a celebration or affirmation of life and language. An amazing chance for me to be associated with an institution I have been going for many many years too. Such a privilege, a very special and dear evening to me.

 

From Sufi rituals in Chechnya, to ancient folk songs in Columbian’s pacific rainforest, we experienced how the brain ascribes meaning to music and sound - even when words are obsolete through a selection of Vincent Moon’s short observational documentaries — shot around the world and capturing local folklore and diverse musical rituals. They were screened in alternation with an informal discussion by the director of London’s Institute of Philosophy Dr Barry Smith, who explored the neural correlates of meaning, music, and language in the context of each film, to offer the audience an explanation of the role of language in subjective mental life.

Upcoming: a World without Words III at Somerset House - September 30th

A WORLD WITHOUT WORDS III
September 30th | 7pm-9pm

Somerset House
Screening Room
South Wing
Strand
WC2 R1LA

For A World Without Words 3, a short segment from multiple-award winning documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain will be followed by talks from a highly accomplished selection of speakers. 

The first speaker will be philosopher Jamie Brassett who will discuss the emergent properties of consciousness, elaborating on philosophical and physiological interactions.

Next up, computer scientist Conrad Wolfram will speak about computer human-machine interaction in the age of mass data, and the need for linguistic evolution to enable verbalization of technical ideas. 

Finally, biologist Rupert Sheldrake will close the evening’s talks with an exploration of his work on Morphic Resonance. He will speak about the dominance of scientific materialism, citing what he believes is the interconnected intelligence of all matter. 

The audience will have a chance to ask questions for 15 minutes following the final talk.

Drinks will be available from 9.00 until 9.30pm in the Drawing Room at Pennethorne.

Admission is free. Booking is essential. 

a World without Words explores the nature of human language, bringing together contemporary practitioners & pioneers in neuroscience and sensory aesthetics, to offer a fascinating and playful exploration of how words form our world. www.aworldwithoutwords.com The project is curated by writer & filmmaker Lotje Sodderland, artist & material engineer Thomas Duggan, and myself. 

a World without Words IV will take place in October and the program will come to end for now, for our fifth and final event in November 2015.

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 begins May 6th at Apiary studios

I'm delighted to announce a new project: a World without Words, exploring the nature of human language, bringing together contemporary practitioners & pioneers in neuroscience and sensory aesthetics, to offer a fascinating and playful exploration of how words form our world. www.aworldwithoutwords.com

Co-curated by writer & filmmaker Lotje Sodderland and artist & material engineer Thomas Duggan, a World without Words will present artworks, installations, performances, talks, discussions and readings that call into question how meaning maps into the brain over a series of events throughout 2015 & beyond, taking place in bespoke venues across London.

Across artform & discipline each event will explore that notion that while language is considered perhaps the most characteristic ability of the human species, very little is known about it. When curator Lotje Sodderland had an unprovoked brain haemorrhage, she woke to find a familiar stranger inhabiting her body, where her 'self' used to be. Unable to read, write, speak, or think coherently, she used this unique opportunity as a lens through which to explore the everyday assumptions of how we wield words to express ourselves, bringing a profoundly personal perspective to the contemporary Copernican revolution of neuroscience. A World Without Words is the latest in Lotje's body of work around visual perception and neurolinguistics, and you can read / see more about her previous work in the Guardian & in the film, My Beautiful Broken Brain.

The first event takes place at Apiary Studios May 6th 7pm - 10.00pm
458 Hackney Rd, London E2 9EG. Entrance is free. http://www.apiarystudios.org/

The event will feature:

Noah Hutton & Ben Ehrlich: founders of The Beautiful Brain, a website that explores the juncture between neuroscience and art, based in New York. They will present on the theme of discontinuity in neurobiological, cultural, and linguistic systems. As well as discussing The Beautiful Brain, Noah will show a brief clip from his most recent documentary film Deep Time (SXSW 2015) and Ben will share from his research about the life and work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, "the father of modern neuroscience."

Harry Man: will lead an artistic examination into dyslexia and its potential advantages including identifying black holes and visualized data based on research by Dr Matthew H. Schneps at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. Using gravitational wave detection data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration, Harry hopes to illustrate how dyslexia might be an advantage to those studying the origin of the universe.

Malinda J. McPherson: a neuroscientist and musician who studies the link between emotion and musical creativity. Malinda will be discussing the human ability to ascribe meaning to sound, as well as the connections between abnormal brain states and creative musical expression.

Nick Ryan: a multi award winning composer, sound designer, artist and audio specialist, widely recognised as a leading thinker on the application of emerging and future technologies to the creation and performance of sound and music.

Lotje Sodderland: artist, writer & filmmaker, who present framed artworks created after she lost the ability to communicate with words, exhibited in Apiary Studios. An excerpt from her documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain will also be screened as part of the evening's program.

a World without Words will present further events in June, August, October & December, with more details to come.
The project is generously supported by Arts Council England

www.aworldwithoutwords.com
www.theenemiesproject.com/aworldwithoutwords
www.stevenjfowler.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.

Rest is Noise festival - on Thomas Bernhard & the Black Mountain college

A day of two halves. The first, a bite talk, 15 minutes on Thomas Bernhard. It was a failed experiment. I overwrote the content, wanting it to be so good because of the passion I have for Bernhard, and was far too loyal to the text. I was boring. The art of lecturing is a practice I am engaged in learning. You learn more from a 'loss' I suppose. Still annoying to speak so poorly about an author I love so much, and if anyone stayed awake through my monotone the actual content had some moments of insight I hope. / I then went on to chair a panel on the Black Mountain college with Alyce Mahon from Cambridge Uni, and my old friends Tim Atkins and Peter Jaeger. It was a brilliant hour, fluid, insightful and balanced. Each speaker brought information from differing perspectives, and were all very generous with their thoughts. Peter offered real insight into John Cage and Zen, Alyce opened up the history of the school with its creative spark offset by administrative suicide, and Tim told everyone that poets killed the college. The list of alumni or teaching staff is unbelievable - Duncan, Olsen, Williams, Cage, Cunningham, Albers, Twombly, Creeley, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Dorn. The questions were also very positive, and we ended up talking about the modern state of the education system and how restricted it is, against such a hotbed of radical innovation and collaboration as the BMC. / The rest is noise is an awesome opportunity to open up so many discussions that rarely get such a platform. Next up, Walter Abish and Jack Spicer in November

Fight Music & Silk

A week of seeing my work thrown back at me in forms that utterly supersede my perception of its initial value. First I got to sit anonymously in St Lukes in Old st. and see the work of Philip Venables crescendo with our piece the Revenge of Miguel Cotto. It's been said before but Phili's ability to set music and text is truly groundbreaking and it was such a lovely moment to see our work appear so dynamic and valuable, it made me feel a poet, though Id normally eschew or ignore that feeling. Quite rightly the concert was a laudable success for Phil, whose application to his craft is intimidating. I hope we get to further Cotto. It was a nice audience to be in too, friendly and erudite and I took the time to chat to people afterwards, asking their opinion of Cotto without telling them I was involved in it. All good. Richard Baker conducted the balls off it too.

Then I had the joy of seeing my old friend Thomas Duggan before he jetted off again, and took possession of our work for the Hardy Tree Enemies exhibition. The glory of the work is not that is utterly unique, made of a material never seen in public before, that it is technologically trailblazing, the future of biodegradable material and has world significance in that, and that it probably cost a fucking packet, but that it is aesthetically so understated it appears before one as a jelly film on black, unassuming and gentle. People will walk past it in the gallery, such is its precision. Little will they know what they are walking past. So precious is it that a framer turned down setting the material, for fear of destroying it. For if water touches the silk, it disappears.

Silk & Thomas Duggan

This is the most groundbreaking collaboration I've ever been involved with, and one of the highlights of my career as a writer. All thanks to the remarkable artist, Thomas Duggan, who has been a friend of mine for nearly twenty years now. What he has gone on to achieve professionally is really no shock to me, he was always ahead in his thinking, and somehow he has managed to turn his powerful mode of thought and aesthetic engagement under really strict and challenging, self-imposed, expectations of quality and validity into a vocational life practice that benefits not just himself, not just his peers, not just those who might attend a gallery, or handle an object, but our entire understanding of materiality and form and presence and environment and permanence. It's breathtaking. I feel privileged to have reconnected with Thomas in such a fashion, our artforms fusing, coming together, like our corporality, after so long, into a palpable thing which has a life and legacy all of it's own.

He has printed a poem of mine in silk – silk fibroin, entirely biocompatible and biodegradable and programmed to disappear, when required, without leaving any trace – it is three dimensional poetry in a revolutionary new material developed using the very latest design technology, that has the potential to realise new environmentally sustainable modes of substance - material never seen in public before. It is actually a world first. Hard to say how much that means to me. The poems were written for Thomas and his work, and now seem a feeble gift in the light of what he has given back to me.

Come and see the piece on July 6th, at the Hardy Tree gallery in St Pancras London. http://hardytreegallery.com/

Fighting Cocks - the beginnings of a collaboration with RDG Thomas

Fighting Cocks


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they are trying to break you

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you are like a plastic bag blowing in the wind

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until I get caught on you, you big barbed wire fence. Together we are urban pollution

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you pollute me with your magic. Where did you learn such devilment?

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I am a gigantic dark vessel, those who embark will not regret

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I heed your warning. I take note of both size and colour. There are Jurassic park-esque tremors in my gallery. Is that you, travelling?

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I travel through concrete like a worm, like the popular film tremors. I’m never far from the action.

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All teenage French girls have good quality cameras to record their blossoming sexuality. It will in fact document their deflowering.

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As you spread the young French girls legs you should bellow “Agincourt” at their soon to be taken flower!

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It is not I who will work the foliage. It is thou! Worm devourer, I hold them as sacrifice for your bored worming revelation