Plant Medicine of the City: A seasonal diary by Rasheeqa Ahmad. What new tastes and experiences can transform our sense of what’s possible?
Thanks to everyone who made it to the programme we put together at FormaHQ and Peveril Gardens over the February half term. We appreciated your company defeating the Winter dank! Special thanks to contributors Ali Yellop, Design Print Bind, Ulijona Odišarija & Hannah Lefeuvre and Richard Court for being so generous with your time and sharing so much knowledge and inspiration! Documentation coming soon.
Between 30 Jan – 13 Feb we are pleased to host an online screening of El Sentir de las Montañas [The Feel of the Mountains, 2022] by Tomás Fernandez Vértiz on Flatness.eu.
Thanks to everyone who came to the swap shop and screening event at FormaHQ (documentation is up here). It was great to meet everyone and reflect on notions of value, redistribution and mutual care with you. There was a surplus of donations (thank you) but it was perhaps the smaller swaps of things that still had value for both swappers that were most 💫 in defeating capitalism ; )
Big thanks to filmmaker Tomás Fernandez Vértiz for your beautiful film and conversation (not to mention the warming drink of Mexican hot chocolate and Colombian sweets you brought for everyone), Southwark Notes for chatting about community activism around Elephant, and Jack Jeans for making the insect homes for Peveril Gardens and seed bombs for the swap.
We were overwhelmed by the response and look forward to seeing you again for events we’re planning during the half term break 14-18 February.
The Chiron Choir was formed on occasion of Dr. Hannah Catherine Jones’s exhibition ‘OWED TO CHIRON (The Wounded Healer) at Mimosa House in London at the end of last year. I was honoured to be invited to write about HCJ’s work in a text entitled ‘Vulnerability with Attitude (Overdue Dues)‘.
Thanks to Flatness contributor Joseph Walsh for this welcome throwback to the Summer and AssemblePlay’s Mini Festival of Play that we curated as part of the public programme for Brent Biennial 2022, ‘In the House of my Love’.
Thanks too to the playworkers and their loose parts, all the children and everyone who came along to Kilburn Grange Park to join us. Scroll down for ‘In the Curve’, another contribution by Joseph recorded during lockdown.
Flatness have just moved to Elephant and Castle to begin our Oasis residency at FormaHQ. Lasting until Spring 2023, the residency invites socially engaged practitioners to develop and deliver a cultural programme that strengthens the bridge between the newly developed FormaHQ (retrofitted into a studio building, cafe, events space and public garden from 1960s garage block and podium on top) and its local communities, creating meaningful connections that have social impact and harmonise with the organisation’s activities.
For Oasis, Flatness (comprising myself, founder Shama Khanna, in collaboration with Beth Bramich and a network of contributors) will curate a short cultural programme to build on Queer Diasporic Futurity, a new book project produced in partnership with not/nowhere artist workers’ co-op and published by Social Art Publications in July 2022 and the public programme Flatness curated for this year’s Brent Biennial. Queer Diasporic Futurity (QDF) brought together themes of the redistribution of power, intersectional resistance and healing. The project found new ways of working, IRL and in print, using publishing as a pause and ongoing process to reflect on relationships, communities, collaboration and interdependence. Join our mailing list for updates.
Brent Biennial 2022 Public Programme by Flatness
Taking place over the Summer, Flatness curated a public programme of talks, workshops, activities for kids, screenings and a conference for Brent Biennial ‘In the House of my Love’. Lifting the conversations from QUEER DIASPORIC FUTURITY off the page, the programme gathered together community-building practices that centre on creativity, healing, listening, showing up for others and asking bold questions, in what can otherwise be a dizzying political environment. Events included a misery medicine walk, a day of action Against the Hostile Environment (with QDF contributors Amardeep Singh Dhillon, Beth Saha and Daniella Valz Gen), a series of community listening events, an event on housing called Homes for Queers (with Adam Farah), and kids’ events with misery and AssemblePlay. The intention was to nurture connections that can help to find one’s voice and feel supported in taking a stand against hostility.
Thanks to all who joined us!
The documentation below is of a misery medicine workshop held in July showing the Pavement Flowers zine made for the event by Mohammed Zaahidur Rahman. Photography by Kes-Tchaas Eccleston.
‘Queer Diasporic Futurity’ edited by Flatness
The book launch at Studio Voltaire at the start of July was a shy success and we’re happy that copies of Queer Diasporic Futurity have since found homes at addresses from Wales to Melbourne. This limited edition publication and special launch poster is available to buy for £17 incl. p&p (payment details follow below). Copies are also available at Category is Books and Good Press in Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan Uni Library and Presse, BOOKS, Koenig Books at Whitechapel Gallery and the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths in London. Get in touch if you have any access requests, or if you would like to order one of four remaining bundles of TextaQueen’s ‘Learn your ACABs’, Nat Lall’s ‘Scores for Sissy Bois’ and QDF for £30 + p&p.
Queer Diasporic Futurity, commissioned by SAFEDI and developed in partnership with not/nowhere artist workers’ co-operative, marks 9 years of the Flatness curatorial platform for artists’ moving image and network culture, bearing witness to the decentralised QTIBPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex identified Black and People of Colour) networks it has come to form a part of.
QDF contains a collective call to restore loving connections to the body and to nature. The collection makes visible a vital network of practices focused on sustainability, accessibility and futurity. QDF reflects on the holistic conditions the book’s contributors are creating in order to disassociate less from the exhaustion of everyday overstimulation and disappointments, and to begin to identify new, potentially transformative felt connections to build upon.
Contributions to QDF include:
• A foreword by Evan Ifekoya;
• Introductions by Flatness founder, Shama Khanna;
• Two reflections on Earthlove within urban settings and facilitating the Community Apothecary by Rasheeqa Ahmad;
• An in-depth discussion on ‘Queering Economics’ organised by Decolonising Economics with guests Evan Ifekoya, Amardeep Singh Dhillon and June Bellebono addressing queer infrastructures of care, redistribution of power and spiritual relationships to money;
• A divination essay by Daniella Valz Gen probing questions of sustainability and growth within practice;
• A response to the entangled temporality of diasporic life by Aditi Jaganathan;
• A wellbeing spell by Adam Farah;
• and a scorebook tenderly exploring introverted tomboy and transmasc sounds by Nat Lall.
QDF is published in partnership with not/nowhere artist workers’ co-operative and has been beautifully designed by Design Print Bind.
Plant Medicine of the City: a Seasonal Diary by RASHEEQA AHMAD (Hedge Herbs)
Rasheeqa is a Herbalist practicing in London with plant medicine, supporting people in her community with herbs and the healing they can offer. In the coming year she will be guiding us through the seasonal energy changes she observes and works with – both in the herb gardens she runs and growing wild around the city – in this special realtime plant life diary for Flatness. Watch Rasheeqa’s introduction to the series here.
Interview with DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY
Danielle discusses types of gatekeeping which determines value and erases the presence of Black people from archives, technologies and markets. Through her work she seeks to create a foundation for other Black Trans people to build on top of, including making archives where they are not only centred but embedded in the fabric of her coding. We also speak about her non-linear approach to technology reviving technologies to repurpose them for use by Black Trans people. And how she emphasises accessibility in her work and the importance of setting out terms and conditions as a way of holding people (and gatekeepers) to account.
State of the Union by SHAMA KHANNA (image courtesy EVAN IFEKOYA)
The physical and digital and the spaces in-between by Dr SYLVIA THEURI (image courtesy estate of DONALD RODNEY)
Following Ten Million Dinner Parties by NISHA RAMAYYA
hair folder (video) by ULIJONA ODIŠARIJA
A temporal note introducing Ulijona Odišarija’s hair folder (video) by SHAMA KHANNA
In The Curve by JOSEPH WALSH
Lockdown performance by TOM RICHARDS
The blessing of the Pisces Rising by NATASHA LALL
There is a high chance that astrology is a load of bollocks but there are a few things I get out of it. Actually one or two things are very useful.
The first is a sense of belonging because for some reason astrology is a predominant part of lesbian culture. Don’t ask me why. I don’t really care why. Why not? I mean I was forced to study Christianity for a lot longer…lmao.
Anyway, I also find that regular horoscopes give me a sense of focus. That’s super useful for me. I find a lot of truth, or at least correlation, in my chart.
Notebook Score #2: The line of the hand throws the mind out of the body reading by HANNAH SATZ
This notebook practice represents a release of thought and feeling, in some sense counter to the control or fixity of Writing. It’s flighty – the motion of writing long-hand is another way of running – but the connection from hand to gut is also grounding; it earths me. I read fragments from the end of February to the end of April 2020, here and there; paragraphs, lines, or words from flicked through pages, self-censoring as I stumble and flow. It is meant, even in its inward-looking, to be a form of opening, an offering.
Peaceful in the rain in the order by DAN WALWIN
Interview with TEXTAQUEEN
… There are so many more south Asians I’ve connected with whose lives are on tangents to mine here in London than back ‘home’. I’ve felt part of a cluster of brown and black artists working with care and integrity here, and have made more intergenerational connections. My parents migrated, and I was born, not long after the White Australia policies ended, there aren’t elder second generation POC migrants and I have very few peers my age at my intersections. …
… A decolonial practice for me is, during the creative process, letting go of imagining the white liberal audience reaction to the work and keeping present in mind myself and an audience who will feel empowerment through the work.
MEDICATED SUMMERS / BENEFITS TRAP / ENDS PORTALS two-part momentational sequence consisting of a short video and an image dump PDF file by ADAM FARAH
TAYLOR LE MELLE responds to MEDICATED SUMMERS / BENEFITS TRAP / ENDS PORTALS by Adam Farah
An Analog for Listening by NIKHIL VETTUKATTIL
Flatness is a long-running project curated and moderated by Shama Khanna offering artists and audiences a space for creativity away from structurally unjust institutions and market-led forces of the web. Help keep Flatness independent by donating to its supporters’ pool.
In 2019 the project relaunched with a new interactive design and a series of new artist commissions presenting new works and words by artists Lucy Clout, Adam Farah, Natasha Lall, Ulijona Odišarija, TextaQueen, Tom Richards, Nikhil Vettukattil, Joseph Walsh, Dan Walwin and Rehana Zaman and writers Taylor Le Melle, Nisha Ramayya and Hannah Satz.
The first iteration of the Flatness was a screening programme ‘Flatness: Cinema after the Internet’ for Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in Germany in 2013 (with commissions by Anthea Hamilton, Ed Atkins, Oliver Laric and Ghislaine Leung among several others) and it has been live as a multi-format screening and web platform (flatness.eu and archive.flatness.eu) for artists’ moving image and network culture ever since. Through working with devalued forms of the copy and the web, Flatness has been described as a ‘digital site of resistance’ (Dr Sylvia Theuri) decentering unjust narratives of the arts from the margins of the online. Flatness reflects critically on the current context where freedom of expression on the internet is devalued by social media algorithms which help push hate and misinformation up the agenda. The site presents a porous context for artworks to be shared as part of a genuinely networked culture.
Flatness values artistic experimentation and minor, durational experiences of art on the web. It is curated from the perspective of a queer Brown sick womxn with the aim of uplifting conversations and creative practices which defy intersectional oppression.
The aim of the website’s interactive elements – the calendar and comments feed – is to build an active community around these works, in support of their critical and social contextualisation. All contributions are moderated according to our safer space commitment included below.
The 2019-20 edition of the site led to an ‘unflattening of the screen’ with key elements of works by Rehana Zaman, Adam Farah and Lucy Clout happening outside the frame of the site prompting a further evolution; to recognise the importance of creating safer spaces for marginalised communities to meet, share and heal at a distance from imperatives to produce. Read more about this process of transformation here. 2021 marks a new phase in the project’s long-running history as it embarks on formalising the curatorial connections it has built up with artists and arts workers in the UK and abroad as part of a community-led mutual organisation.
For Flatness there is no way back to how things were before the pandemic. Horizons have opened up as we have witnessed how change can be achieved through taking action (rather than defaulting to critique). Our voices are clear and powerful and being heard. We need to support each other to keep energies strong. QTIBPOC lead the way in this urgent work. Our transcendence of normalcy transforms expectations of transcendence through art. Donate to UK BLM here.
During the COVID 19 pandemic:
We hope readers are managing to keep well body and soul.
Notwithstanding the pain and hardship brought on by the catastrophe we are watching the internet come alive in this period as sharing becomes more focused on connecting. This drive could potentially recontextualise what it means to be isolated in the widest sense – whether through mental, physical and financial impairment and discrimination, to the isolation of work or the studio – beyond the immediate confines of lockdown. Following the strengthened impetus (towards mutual aid, and towards recovering the health of the planet) to break the loop of crisis capitalism and nurture the bonds between us, between April and August Flatness invited contributions for work which corresponded to:
– the ‘situation’;
– stillness and liveness (signals from rituals/ practice); or
– the ‘future’.
Find new short form contributions in response by writer Hannah Satz, artists Dan Walwin, Natasha Lall, Joseph Walsh, Ulijona Odišarija, musician Tom Richards, and poet Nisha Ramayya.
Live since 2013, Flatness is a long-running project curated and moderated by Shama Khanna offering artists and audiences a space for creativity away from structurally unjust institutions and market-led forces of the web. Help keep Flatness independent by donating to its supporters’ pool.
Read the latest ‘State of the Union‘ text by Shama Khanna from Autumn 2020.
Excerpt from an interview with Henry Broome for Spike Art Magazine from Autumn 2019:
How did Flatness first come about and what made you relaunch the platform this year?
… The new 2019 programme developed out of the political ruptures of 2016, also #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and the Arab Spring, movements spurred on by the internet. It’s also a reflection of my lived experience of the art industry where people of colour are in token ways hypervisible but structurally disempowered.
The platform provides a critical framework to understand social media’s empowering potential against its ultimately extractive and manipulative business models, as shown by Zuckerberg’s infamous hearing in late 2018. I think Flatness offers a mouldable alternative: You don’t need to log in or pay to view works and the site is free and open to all. It’s still possible to build your own spaces rather than succumb to the format of big monopoly platforms. As the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee said, the future of the internet relies on individuals making and adding to their own sites, and keeping control of their data.
Creating safer spaces
The web is not a neutral space. From its beginnings as a US defence initiative to improve communication with soldiers in remote places through to the privileged, racial capitalistic understanding of freedom and ‘making the world a better place’ the cis-white male Californian ideologists who continue to structure and profit from it maintain. There has been an equally long history of artists and technologists critiquing this version of its development (and structurally unjust institutions and practices in general) which Flatness supplements.
Flatness is working on becoming a safer and accessible space free from racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, casteism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, or hatefulness. Let us know if there are ways we can do this better.
Subscribe to the Flatness newsletter for project updates.
Web design & programming by Gailė Pranckūnaitė & Andrius Zupkus.
All texts, works and images either belong to the artist, author or photographer named or are licensed under the terms of this CC 4.00 certificate.
Thanks to everyone who attended our Stickers event a couple of weeks back. A few things I learnt through the workshop: A) It’s difficult, because it’s contrary to what we’ve learnt, but it can be liberating to alter books. B) We need digital version of stickers for YouTube … C) It goes without saying that meaningful representation is needed across intersections. C)
I planned a last resort if the stickers weren’t enough to return books back to their publishers. But sometimes you just need to take them out of circulation and put them in the bin.
Looking forward to presenting ‘Stickers for Liberatory Parents and Carers’ at Birkbeck this Friday. Featuring works by Sin Wai Kin and Nat Lall as well as the stickers I have been developing during my BiGS residency https://www.bbk.ac.uk/events/remote_event_view?id=29534
The flowers of the Elder have just bloomed signalling the beginning of Summer! (Although it seems to be a month early this year …) Tune in to the latest episodes of ‘Plant Medicine of the City’ to learn from Rasheeqa about how the different white flowers of this season can help with allergies, heartbreak & more. https://flatness.eu/contributors/rasheeqa-ahmad/
Rasheeqa’s latest Plant Medicine of the City updates include entirely edible garlic mustard and 3-cornered leek (with these exceptionally pretty flowers). Happy Spring! https://flatness.eu/contributors/rasheeqa-ahmad/
Our fundraiser launches today to complete the final stages of our book QUEER DIASPORIC FUTURITY (QDF). Order now via the PayPal link on the homepage (sorry if it’s clunky). More info here: https://flatness.eu/contributors/queer-diasporic-futurity/
‘Stickers for Liberatory Parents and Carers’ is a project I’ve been working on as part of my residency as this year’s BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality Group) Artist in Association. Join me for this event for Birkbeck’s Arts Week upcoming at the end of May https://www.bbk.ac.uk/annual-events/arts-week/arts-week/arts-week-2022
I really enjoyed talking about Flatness with Sophie Hope and Jack Kennan for Common Practice last month. The episode is available to listen to here: https://miaaw.net/518/flatness/
The recording of Zakiya McKenzie and Anthea Hamilton in conversation which I facilitated at Studio Voltaire last month is now available to watch. Learn about their decolonial approaches to horticulture and how this overlaps with art during this hour long talk. https://www.studiovoltaire.org/resources/zakiya-mckenzie-and-anthea-hamilton-in-conversation/
Leading a workshop for Somerset House’s ‘Grounding Practice’ Programme next Friday 4 March 7-8.30pm https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/grounding-practice-shama-khanna-flatness
Spring seems to have arrived early and with it Rasheeqa’s latest videos for the Plant Medicine of the City Diary introducing us to the medicinal properties of Burdock and Dock leaves (pick them soon while they’re young)! So glad to be able to recognise and appreciate these friends all around us in the city https://flatness.eu/contributors/rasheeqa-ahmad/
Call them what you willy! This year’s first instalment of Rasheeqa Ahmad’s Plant Medicine of the City Diary is a video about young Cleavers (or Sticky Willy) emerging just now, and their cleansing and nourishing properties when added to water https://flatness.eu/contributors/rasheeqa-ahmad/
RIP bell hooks. Like many, I’m reading ‘All About Love’ and savouring the precision, beauty and transformation in your words. Next up, Teaching to Transgress. (ta, Lucy P for the quote above).
It was a packed house for the talk on Saturday! Zakiya ‘doing the write thing’ to attack received truths and build solidarity amongst POC. Anthea talked about the influence of her mother’s allotment-style garden in her garden at SV, which she thinks of as a collage activated by BPoC bodies. She also mentioned how she always keeps mess at the forefront, which produced a cheer from the audience 🙂
It’s Open House at Studio Voltaire this Friday and Saturday. On Saturday afternoon from 1-2.30pm in the Flatness studio, we will be showing a reel of Rasheeqa’s Plant Medicine of The City: A Seasonal Diary and sharing a brew she’s making for us. And at 3pm come through for this talk with urban bush woman Zakiya McKenzie and Anthea Hamilton: https://www.studiovoltaire.org/whats-on/open-house-talk-zakiyamckenzie/
Flatness contributor Ulijona Odisarija has just opened a show in Vilnius at Montos Tattoo entitled ‘Worksheets’. Check her IG for documentation and her extraordinarily generous posts which console and comfort. https://www.instagram.com/p/CW5dfX_ost5/