Document # - 1 March 2019
This Art Research Seminar comprised three presentations/discussions around feminism and affect, archive, activism, labour, collectivity, technology and storytelling.
The first segment ‘Between the Cave and the Cosmos: A Place for a Feminist Prophetic Gesture’ included contributions by writers Giulia Damiani and Daniela Cascella. Their individual presentations showed the serendipitous overlaps between their research, in a way enacting an unpredictable ‘call and response’. Damiani and Cascella’s shared trajectory is invested in the tension between different places, times and languages/cultures.
The cave of the Cumaean prophetess near Naples is a tunnel to a place that is engraved deep down in the earth’s memory. It is a crack where the dead and the living, the undocumented and history, can feel each other. Giulia Damiani’s presentation draws on the work and archive of the feminist group Le Nemesiache, who inhabited the cave with their actions in the 1970s and 1980s. The group introduced the ‘psycho-fable’ as their method: the presentation discusses how this was a consciousness-raising process to claim ways to approach the land anew and simultaneously to imagine other forgotten pasts and unpredictable futures. It was a specific approach to theatre based on the body: women’s emotional and intellectual repression would have emerged through the physical, affective and symbolic layers of the body.
Damiani seeks connections between Le Nemesiache’s method and its potential appropriation today. In particular, their evocation of a future determined by women’s imagination opens up a space for new prophecies from the present. In the end prophecy emerges as a powerful channel of desire and a spur to action, leading to the following questions: how can we imagine a feminist prophetic gesture today? And what critical space can such a gesture engender?
‘Nothing As We Need It’ by Daniela Cascella.
Nothing As We Need It’ is a performance reading prompted by the desire to rewrite John Cage’s famous statement, ‘I have nothing to say, and I am saying it, and that is poetry, as I need it’, as ‘We have nothing to say, and we are saying it, and that is criticism, as we need it’: replacing ‘poetry’ with ‘criticism’, and ‘I’ with ‘we’.
Layering voice and recordings, I present a number of approaches to writing nothing as criticism: writing when there’s apparently nothing to say, after encounters that leave us speechless, or in the absence of safe reference points, as strangers in a language and in a culture; addressing materials deemed impossible to write because untranslated, inaudible, culturally opaque, not immediately recognised, legitimised, or accessible.
Writing nothing as criticism doesn’t mean that critical writing is useless: we need it. It calls for different modes of attending to the work, not speaking on its behalf, but speaking with it. It does not depend on the accumulation of sources, exhaustive surveys, or virtuosity: it employs instead what is at hand, even in the scarcity of material, and finds knowledge through other sources: textures, rhythms, silences, sounds. And poetry is never erased.
‘We’ introduces a collective space beyond I: writing nothing as criticism is enmeshed in conversations, at times silent or inner.
English is my second language, acquired and performed over the years to the point of fluency, yet still ringing strangely in my ears. I propose being a stranger in a language—being close but slightly out of synch—as a condition and metaphor for critical writing that reaches beyond the limits of textual analysis, beyond the Anglophone canon of hybrid writing established these years, and generates a material engagement with the fabric of languages, the translation of cultures, and the transmission of knowledge.
Daniela Cascella (Italy/UK) writes through sound, literature, and art. Her work is driven by a longstanding interest in listening, reading, writing, recording. She has published three books that articulate various forms of writing-as-sounding: Singed(Equus, 2017), F.M.R.L. (Zero Books, 2015), En Abime (Zero Books, 2012). She teaches in the MA Sound Arts, LCC / University of the Arts London and was recently awarded a C3RI scholarship to undertake doctoral research at Sheffield Hallam University. She was Assistant Professor in Writing, Bergen Academy of Art and Design and has published and lectured internationally. www.danielacascella.com
Giulia Damiani is a writer and researcher at Goldsmiths University in London. She’s currently completing her PhD in the Art Department (AHRC scholarship) focusing on the feminist archive of Le Nemesiache in Naples and exploring her writing practice through the lenses of landscape, theatricality and prophecy. She collaborates with performers to create collaborative work out of archival and feminist practices. Her writing has been shared widely in art platforms and magazines including the Barbican Centre (UK), the ICI’s upcoming book Over and Over and Over Again (Berlin), EROS press and Umbigo (PT). In 2018 she presented her performance ‘As enchentes entre os incêndios’ in São Paulo (Brazil). She teaches in the MFA Curating at Goldsmiths.
Erica Scourti is an artist and writer, born in Athens and now based in London and Athens. Her work explores biographical writing and bodily inscription in the performance and representation of subjectivity. Recent solo shows include Chief Complaint at Almanac, London and Spill Sections at StudioRCA (both 2018); group shows include the High Line, New York, Wellcome Collection, Kunsthalle Wien, Hayward Gallery, EMST Athens. Her writing has been published in Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota Press, 2018) and Fiction as Method (Sternberg, 2017) amongst others. Scourti is guest editor of the Happy Hypocrite journal (forthcoming 2019) and was a resident at Rupert, Lithuania, in summer 2019.