Whitechapel Gallery : The Animal Drums / New Concrete / Stateland / Aberrant Modes : 2014 - 2018

At the close of 2018 my debut feature length art film, made with Joshua Alexander, was premiered at Whitechapel Gallery Cinema. Below you’ll find more information on the other projects and performances Whitechapel have hosted since 2014.

The Animal Drums is a poetryfilm exploring the sad, macabre, abstract threat of contemporary London undergoing constant development. https://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/joshua-alexander-steven-j-fowler-animal-drums/

'Manichean visions revive disputed and despoiled London ground. Poetry in light and stone' Iain Sinclair

The Animals Drums emerges from a four year collaboration between myself and Joshua Alexander that began in five experimental shorts about everything from disease, menial work and the remnants of the British Empire to a London in the grips of overcrowding.

The film called on the miserabalist traditions of post-war European avant garde theatre and poetry, leaning into the glossed over friendliness of a contemporary ‘happy’ urban landscape they invoke deliberate absurdity in their visuals as well as in their text. They are London shot, or in commuter towns. Moreover, the film is 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 films are born mutually, conceived by the two artists at the same time, and created without much dialogue yet with a certain sense of synchronicity. The film also explores the particular, baffled and morbid character of English attitudes to mortality, along with the specific influence of place and conformity on the quintessentially English deferral of emotion and melodrama. The films aim to capture the ambiguous menace of an often accidentally humorous resolve, manner, apology and understatement so prevalent in the English character.

The New Concrete: July 2015

A really ambitious program curated by Chris McCabe and Victoria Bean, editors of the anthology the New Concrete, for the launch of the book at the Whitechapel Gallery on July 25th. Over three hours of kinetic poems and performances - screenings, readings and more. It was a really generous, communal atmosphere, good to see old friends and meet quite a few poets I have long admired but had yet to encounter in person.

I really wanted to follow my more conceptual performances at Tate Modern and Cafe Oto recently with something similarly performative and distinct, and thoughts of how one might perform a concrete poem led my to Lego. I had only the specifics of the ideas on the morning of the performance, so after rushing to a Lego shop and dropping more money than Id thought Id need to on the bricks, I had only one chance to practise making the letters, in a coffee shop next to the gallery itself. In the end, it went nicely, I managed to stay within the 4 minute limit.

Stateland: February 2015

Curated by Gareth Evans, Chris McCabe and I were invited to read the American poets Frank O'Hara and Alfred Starr Hamilton to tie in with this remarkable screening of contemporary American art filmmaking. Amazing to have poetry juxtaposed with experimental film, and to have the chance to read legendary poet's work. http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/stateland-american-artists-filmmaking-now/

Modes of Aberrant Research: August 2014

Really pleased to be part of this event with brilliant artists, reading my experimental story MueuM for the first time in public after it was White Review prize nominated in 2014. I wore my museum uniform, the blue shirt I had worn while working at a major London museum for seven years while barking out the story with accidental resentment.

Performance: Modes of Aberrant Research
Thursday 7th August, 7pm: An evening of deviant anecdotes, radical storytelling and narrative segues through archives, collections and institutions. Through experimental fiction, multi-media performance and voice-driven texts, five artists and writers, including SJ Fowler, Patrick Coyle, Holly Pester and Kreider + O’Leary,  examine the subject’s status as agitator, witness and unwitting member of memory institutes.