A programme of place and identity by Failed States | Share
Friday 23 August
This takeover was devised by Failed States which formed part of Arcade East‘s 2019 Design and Politics season. Participants were able to join for the entirety of the programme or drop in. Refreshments were available throughout the day, along with a free bar in the evening.
It is rather that there are always connections yet to be made, juxtapositions yet to flower into interaction – or not – potential links that may never be established. Space then, sensed in this way, is not a completed simultaneity in which all interconnections have been established, in which every place is already linked to everywhere else. There are always loose ends. If you were to make a map that really had the characteristics of this space, it would be entirely possible to fall through it.
— Doreen Massey, Some Times of Space
Failed States presented an expedition through the intertwined terrains of place and identity: a miscellany of talks, poetry, discussion, screenings and sound performance. Artists, writers and activists explored shifting cultural landscapes, endangered queer spaces, borders, refuge and the poetics of the city.
I Keep Telling Them These Stories
A sequenced diptych of archival footage and video notes on identity, memory and colonialism taken during travels and family gatherings in India and Scotland. Time and scale expand and contract, while topographies, flora and fauna merge, transcending location; the entirety is threaded with defiance, generosity and love. I Keep Telling Them These Stories was first installed as part of the exhibition Where I Am is Here at Hollybush Gardens, London, curated by Helen Nisbet and named for a film by Orcadian artist Margaret Tait.
Jasleen Kaur is an artist living and working in London. Her practice examines the hierarchy of cultural histories and labour using a range of methods including sculpture, video, conversation and cooking. Recent commissions include the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow Women’s Library, Eastside Projects and Hollybush Gardens. Her work is in the permanent collection of Touchstones, Rochdale, the Royal College of Art and Crafts Council. An excerpt from I Keep Telling Them These Stories were published in Failed States issue no.3: refuge.
My Mother’s Place
An experimental documentary focusing on the artist’s mother, a third-generation Chinese-Trinidadian who at 80 still has vivid memories of a history lost or quickly disappearing. The film interweaves interviews, personal narrative, home movies and verité footage of the Caribbean in an exploration of the formation of race, class and gender under colonialism. In a 2002 essay, queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz wrote: Fung’s relationship to and love for his mother is at the centre of My Mother’s Place. The video paints an endearing portrait of Rita Fung as a woman who came of age during colonialism and took her identifications with the colonial paradigm with her to the moment of decolonization… This video portrait of his mother is a queer son’s attempt to reconstruct and better understand his identity formation through equally powerful identifications, counter-identifications and disidentifications with his mother and her own unique relationship to the signs of colonization.
Richard Fung is an artist and writer born in Trinidad and based in Toronto. His work comprises challenging videos on subjects ranging from the role of the Asian male in gay pornography to colonialism, immigration, racism, homophobia, AIDS, justice in Israel/Palestine, and his own family history. He is Professor Emeritus at OCAD University.
Imani Jacqueline Brown
Remote Sensations of Disintegration
Pulling together multiple strands of research and writing, New Orleans native Imani Jacqueline Brown considers ideas of home and practice from the perspective of her current London location. She writes: A coast erodes. A city floods. A person moves. A deeply situated practice is dis-embedded, re-embodied, shifts its focus, sees from the bird’s-eye-view, senses from the ancestor’s-eye-view. What does home mean anymore anyway, if one’s home has already faced (survived?) the end of days, if its people have been displaced, if it has become unrecognizable to those who remain, if its future is condemned by foreseen cataclysm? Can home be anchored against rising seas? As we migrate to escape ecological degradation, we carry traces of home within our cells.
Imani Jacqueline Brown is an artist, activist, researcher, and writer from New Orleans. Her work attempts to expose the layers of injustice, resistance, and refusal that form the foundation of US society. Imani believes that art can drive policy and orients her practice toward the ever-elusive flicker of justice on the horizon, knowing that our world cannot find balance until social, ecological, and economic reparations are won. She is completing her MA in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
A Queer Sort of Heritage: How We Got the Royal Vauxhall Tavern Listed
In 2015, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern — perhaps the UK’s most enduring site of queer community and performance culture — became the first building to be listed due to its LGBTQ+ heritage. The author of the successful listing application, Ben Walters, recounted the tumultuous journey taken by RVT Future campaigners as they confronted corporate real estate developers, counter specious preservation campaigns devised by PR companies, and implement performance, spectacle and a barrage of queer creative ingenuity to highlight their cause.
Ben Walters is a writer and researcher focusing on queer performance communities and cultures. He recently completed a PhD with and about Duckie, focusing on queer fun and utopia, and has adapted it into a talk called Dr Duckie’s Homemade Mutant Hope Machines. Formerly Time Out London’s cabaret editor, Ben has also written books, produced shows and directed films. He blogs at NotTelevision.net.
Welcome to Harmondsworth
Film and discussion
A short film following a tour group in a picturesque English village, unaware that Europe’s largest immigration detention centre sits on its outskirts. Following the screening, former Harmondsworth detainee, Usman Khaled — whose voiceover provides a stark juxtaposition to the film’s imagery —will join Felix Bazalgette, one of the filmmakers, in conversation. Felix Bazalgette is a writer, filmmaker and photographer whose work has been published by The Guardian, The Economist and The White Review among others. Welcome To Harmondsworth is showing at festivals this year, including Full Frame Doc Fest. Writing and photography on Harmondsworth by Bazalgette was published in Failed States issue no.3: refuge.
Usman Khaled is a writer and entrepreneur, and the owner of Haven Coffee, London’s first refugee owned and run coffee business. He lived in the U.K. for many years before being detained at Harmondsworth and winning his refugee status in 2015.
Film and discussion
In Rosa-Johan Uddoh’s film Black Poirot, the artist confronts and confirms her long-held suspicion that Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot — “the foreigner with nowhere else but a hostile England to call home… who is never quite accepted… situated inside the manor house but socially outside it…” — is black. Upending the familiar structure of an episode of the long-running TV series, Uddoh’s narration, investigations and assembled found footage comprise an eclectic array of references, relating each to the constituents of a classic whodunit: crime scenes, clues, evidence (or lack of), fabricated witnesses, suspicion, accusation and wrongful arrest all contrive to reveal a “western epistemological colonialist plot”. Following the screening, Uddoh was joined in conversation by Philip Serfaty, curator and the director of Black Tower Projects.
Rosa-Johan Uddoh is an artist exploring an over-identification with places, objects or celebrities in British popular culture, decolonisation, and the effects of this on self-esteem. Philip Serfaty is a curator and the director of Black Tower, a not-for-profit project space and artists’ studio provider.
Oh My Soho!
Poet Richard Scott read his epic tour de force Oh My Soho! in its entirety for the first time. The poem is described by publisher Faber & Faber as “a night stroll under the street lamps of Soho Square becoming a search for true lineage, a reclamation of stolen ancestors, hope for healing, and, above all, the finding of our truest selves”. By way of annotation, Scott compiled a collection of imagery referencing the work’s rich strata and seams of historic, geographic and cultural references.
Richard Scott is a poet whose work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies including Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review, Swimmers, The Poetry of Sex (Penguin) and Butt Magazine. He has been a winner of the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, a Jerwood/Arvon Poetry Mentee and a member of the Aldeburgh 8. His pamphlet ‘Wound’ (Rialto) won the Michael Marks Poetry Award 2016 and his poem ‘crocodile’ won the 2017 Poetry London Competition. His first book, Soho, was published by Faber & Faber in 2018.
Time is Away
In Sound, In Place
For the final part of the programme, Elaine Tierney and Jack Rollo, the duo behind acclaimed NTS radio show Time is Away, presented the latest instalment in their ongoing reflection on time, place, power and history-making. Weaving together music, field recordings and spoken word, Tierney and Rollo created something that is part soundscape, part immersive essay. Time is Away’s extensive programme archive can be found at https://www.nts.live/shows/timeisaway
The Spaces In-between
Throughout the programme, writer Bryony Quinn bridged each segment with brief explorations into place names and naming places, and how etymologies behave like topologies. Bryony Quinn is a writer, editor and lecturer in London, via Somerset. Her research focuses on figurative and spatial obliquity — things that lean, slopes, diagonals, digression, etc. She writes the Etymology feature in Failed States. Failed States is an occasional publication that aims to collate and investigate ideas around place, or more specifically: ‘indeterminate geographies’. Each themed issue is a trove of text and image by emerging and established writers, artists, filmmakers, photographers and academics.
A Map to Fall Through was programmed by Jamie Atherton with Jeremy Atherton Lin.
Find out more about the programme at failedstates.xyz/a-map-to-fall-through