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I’ve begun working on my PhD research, part of which includes working with the council to make a community garden at Eastbury Manor House in Barking. Reach out if you’re BIPOC also studying but not identified with the academy.
Stay tuned for news of our next steps including two new commissions in the pipes and a long-term research project funded by Techne.
Since 2021, Flatness’s focus has been in manifesting health, land and education justice for underrepresented groups. The work builds on the thematic of the public programme Khanna curated for last year’s Brent Biennial, our book Queer Diasporic Futurity and our recent programming for Forma and Peveril Gardens where Flatness (in collaboration with Beth Bramich) was recently in residence 2022-23. Our aim is to develop meaningful connections with local communities to strengthen our collective agency to create change.
Events have included screenings and gatherings sharing tools and knowledge about migrant rights resisting the policies and effects of the hostile environment, as well as the social housing and economic crises and the effect on the local creative community. We have also organised a swap shop, a sign-making workshop for kids, plant medicine knowledge sharing events for People of Colour and a storytelling session for migrants.
We use a transformative ecological or ‘wild’ framework, with social and environmental justice at its heart to identify where in our ecosystems we are thriving, and where there are gaps and needs amongst our communities.
Housing, healthcare, education, land, pay: who are being marginalised by lack of access and equity? In addressing this imbalance, how and what can we learn from people and practices which have also been historically sidelined? Those open-ended methodologies which are collaborative, self-organised, activist, embodied, healing, loving, non-english speaking, or not human at all?
To run with wildness and its refusal to conform is to accept a level of unknowability, or opacity, in ourselves as much as others. This acceptance helps to overcome the mind over body split and the colonial imperative to understand, and therein dominate.
Faced with the daily horrors and burn out of normative rule, there is great power in supporting those of us who occupy positions that are not the dominating culture such as medical herbalists working without borders, people with disabilities, queer activists, those in caring positions, kids themselves who embody wildness and play.
If we learn about our ecosystems both within and without – how we are part of and interact with each other and nature – we can understand how to live healthfully and reciprocally, rather than extractively and harmfully.
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 and collaborator Beth Bramich along with 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. Join our mailing list for updates.
Brent Biennial 2022
Another weekend another launch – this year’s Brent Biennial, for which I’m curating the Public Programme, opens today! Entitled ‘In The House of My Love’ the festival brings together artists and community groups whose work in various ways propose strategies for homemaking within the context of hostile environments. The Public Programme draws on the theme of the Biennial curated by Eliel Jones and the very brilliant artists’ works within it. It’s also helping me lift some of the conversations from Queer Diasporic Futurity off the page and into the round. I’m hoping to keep the chill tone of last Sunday’s loving launch throughout the programme. Hope to see you tonight or at the events we’re planning over the Summer!
Queer Diasporic Futurity launch
Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered QUEER DIASPORIC FUTURITY (QDF) by Flatness, and helped us go to print this month! It’s been exactly a year since the project was commissioned by SAFEDI and we can’t wait to share it with you. Save the date for the afternoon of Sunday 3 July when we will launch the book with food, music and discussion with many of the contributors at Studio Voltaire, London. Keep your eye out for this beautiful limited edition poster designed for the event by Design Print Bind.
Stickers for Liberatory Parents and Carers
4.30pm Friday 27 May 2022, for Birkbeck Arts Week, London
As part of my BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality Group) Artist in Association residency I will be holding the event STICKERS FOR LIBERATORY PARENTS AND CARERS at Birkbeck this coming Friday.
A recent study found that using gender neutral pronouns reduces mental biases that favour men and increases positive attitudes towards women and the LGBTQI community. This event is an opportunity for kids and their parents and/or carers to use stickers to play with gender stereotypes in children’s books, from characters’ pronouns to the way they are dressed. We hope to create space for discussions around the ways gender is used to limit our experience and how we relate to one another from our very first encounters with education, and possible ways we can respond. Please bring along any books you wish to repair or discuss.
Book free tickets here.
Queer Diasporic Futurity Fundraiser
The fundraiser to complete the final stages of Queer Diasporic Futurity (QDF) the first book edited and produced by Flatness, is now live. Order now through the Flatness homepage at the special launch price of £14.60, available until early May 2022.
QDF contains a collective call to restore loving connections to the body and to nature. The anthology makes visible a vital network of practices focused on sustainability, accessibility and futurity with contributions by: Rasheeqa Ahmad, Decolonising Economics, Adam Farah, Evan Ifekoya, Aditi Jaganathan, Shama Khanna, Nat Lall and Daniella Valz Gen. 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 connections to build upon.
Your generous support at this point in the production process is critical to help us cover the remaining costs needed to print and launch the book in June 2022. Thank you for helping us reach our goal!
At times you can hear the cogs in my brain turning but I really enjoyed being interviewed about Flatness by Sophie Hope and Jack Keenan for the Common Practice podcast last month.
Tomorrow in our studio, for Open House at Studio Voltaire, we will be testing out Flatness as a physical space for gathering. Come by between 1-2.30pm when we will be showing a reel of Rasheeqa’s Plant Medicine of The City: A Seasonal Diary and tasting a special brew of tea she’s making for us. And at 3pm come through for this talk with ‘urban bush woman’ Zakiya McKenzie and Anthea Hamilton.
Flatness is excited to begin Herbalist Rasheeqa Ahmad’s Plant Medicine of the City: A Seasonal Diary with 5 new videos: Hawthorn berries; Rosehips; Comfrey; and Nettle Seeds along with Rasheeqa’s introduction. In the coming year she will be sharing the seasonal changes she observes and works with in this special urban plant life diary for Flatness. Responding to our current research theme ‘Diasporic Futurity’ she writes;
A diaspora in itself is made of curls and edges and unexpectabilities, with the spontaneity to alchemise and metamorphose more instantly, which we see in cultural expression in diasporic London. So a futurity guided by this transformative nature, what does it mean? Not a linear determined progression but an ability to roll around in the experiment of where we are… what do these fiery colourful edges conceal? …
… ‘Earthlove’ has rooted and sturdied me in my living and being in this heavy city, made me realise how the flourishing and health and balance of life is an ongoing surfing action, and in our making of our environment, social and planetary, we can seek to vitalise this balance. Practical ways we can do this are watching and observing, feeling the air and the signs, following threads and connections with the beings around us. The city is very alive. Matching of resources is a process that feels homeostatic in impulse, through our networks of land interaction and community herb gardens and neighbourhood projects, where we can live in inspired collaboration with these beings – this is a shared goal between us. Seeds, plants, ideas, needs, responses – this coming year we will meet each other to exchange these and keep rotating, turning in exploratory ways, reflecting each other to understand how to evolve.
Flatness is currently suported by SAFEDI, an AHRC fellowship led by MMU, Social Art Network, & Axis to produce a publication with 4 new artist commissions around the theme of queer diasporic futurity due to launch in Spring 2022.
Manifesting by sharing our latest ‘turn’ for the project:
Flatness is a community-led artistic platform. Such community being that of queer people of colour. Currently, the space exists online as a long-running project since 2013. We aim to support development of innovative time-based art projects focusing on cultural activism beyond differences of race, class, gender and ability.
In the near future, following a period of development, Flatness hopes to provide a sustainable model both in terms of economics and mental health especially for folks hit hardest by the pandemic. We will do this through foregrounding process and providing transparent pay structures. Our ethos is to make decisions collectively, flattening hierarchical models of Curator to Artist to User. We hope to redistribute the means of production and presentation so more people can feel inspired to enjoy making art.
New contribution to Flatness! An in-depth interview with Danielle Brathwaite Shirley funded by an award from the Womens Art Library (Goldsmiths) and Feminist Review. Thank you for your generosity Danielle talking about everything from NFTs to interactivity and piracy to collaborating with other Black Trans artists to create your incredible archives Blacktransarchive.com and Resurrectionlands.com.
Flatness is not alienated from the concept of art and cultural work as labour so while we are currently unfunded we are accounting for all the unpaid work we do (slowly, in between paid gigs) on the project. We are open to funding ideas and opportunities so do get in touch if you’d like to help – email@example.com as ever.
In this moment of deep tiredness and frustration I’ve been feeling very lucky to be talking with Flatness contributor Natasha Lall about next steps for Flatness in terms of smallness, DIY and reciprocity – building solidarity across constructs of race, class, gender and ability – which drives our different research practices. Send us luck as we embark on fundraising for this collaboration! Nat has shared her first feature film, PINK EXCAVATION (2018) an archeology of queer histories in Glasgow, in 2518, and you can check out her meme collages and writing for Flatness here.
Distancing itself from the FB empire (need I say more than it’s such a downer!), Flatness needs your help to circulate news of events/ meetings/ things that are important to you. As ever, use the calendar and comments feed to share news/ thoughts/ memes. Or just say hi! Go on, lockdown can be a lonely business …
As regular visitors will probably know by now, in 2019 Flatness relaunched with a new interactive design and a series of new artist commissions. This edition of the site has been an ‘unflattening of the screen’ with key elements of the artworks happening outside the frame of the site. Along with the positive changes I’ve witnessed in terms of congregating online during the pandemic, this has prompted a rethink in the way in which the site operates. As such, Flatness is currently developing a safer space policy for commissioning and the site as a whole. Do get in touch if you have any points to contribute.
Gratitude to Dr Sylvia Theuri for commissioning me to write about Flatness for her critically acclaimed show ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking’. As the title – ‘State of the Union’ – suggests it definitely has more pre-election angst than I feel now. Or perhaps it was the process of writing which has helped. Either way, I couldn’t have done without the quality of attention and coming together (check the footnotes) that’s been created during the pandemic. Sylvia has written a seminal text for Flatness in return – ‘The physical and the digital and the spaces in-between’ – both available to read on the website.
Dr Sylvia Theuri
Flatness welcomes curator, educator and artist Dr Sylvia Theuri, who will be curating the site in the coming weeks. Her new show ’Thirteen Ways of Looking’ opens today at Herbert Gallery in Coventry where Sylvia is based. Flatness is pleased to be one of the contributors to the show amongst the 12 other artists and curators including Keith Piper, Eddie Chambers, Roshini Kempadoo, Sonya Dyer and Donald Rodney as well as a cohort of New Art West Midlands artists – Hira Butt, Andreana Fatta, Hyphen-Labs, Navi Kaur, Shiyi Li, Farwa Moledina and Matías Serra Delmar – whom she will be bringing with her to the site.
Less a takeover or a way of documenting the show online, Sylvia’s work on the site will evolve as an exchange with Flatness around the theme of decentering narratives and authorship, meditating on how different strategies of resistance ‘decentre and destabilize the white cube experience of the visual arts, and remove from the centre a focus on subject matter and art historical narratives that prioritise Western perspectives’.
‘Following Ten Million Dinner Parties’ by Nisha Ramayya has just gone live! The text responds to an event organised by Rehana Zaman with Flatness last year, both ‘untangling brown knots’ to quote Rehana. Thanks to Nisha for a chance to savour the meal and all the chewing we’ve been doing since through the depth of the images and feels cast through her poetry. Nisha’s contribution marks the end of the current run of programming (a giant thank you to all involved ♥️).
hair folder (video)
The week we’d planned to launch Ulijona Odisarija’s work was the week after the murder of George Floyd by police in the US. We both felt enraged, implicated and immersed in amplifying the reckoning and consciousness raising in that exceptionally powerful and generative moment. So the release was postponed, and for some weeks after I relayed I was still anxious about diverting energies away from the mobilisation, which she accepted without question.
Two and a bit months later I’m glad to feel less wrung out to be able to focus on Ulijona’s work for Flatness again and explore its layers dealing with desire, beauty and the commodification of bodies. From a cursory look the work appears to centre thin white women and a patriarchal gaze at their long hair, backs, bums and legs. During the video, with assumed consent, a disembodied hand reaches out to grasp one of the women’s untied hair as if it was material hanging from a clothes hanger. This twist, and the feeling of terror the performers later described to the artist, shifts the tone of the work. The camera footage suddenly turns from loosely filmed documentation into evidence. Suddenly the intentions behind the piece are confronted by ethical questions which make it into something more complex, something which answers back, revealed in the process of making the work.
This speaks so much to my experience of curating Flatness where I am adapting all the time, gradually exchanging best intentions for best practice, wearing my fallibility on my sleeve. I’m grateful to Ulijona for turning this very alive work around so quickly during lockdown and waiting with me for the right time to share it.
Fight for equity
For Flatness there is no way back to how things were before the pandemic. Horizons have expanded as we have witnessed how change – d i s m a n t l i n g – can be achieved through direct action. Our voices are clear and powerful and being heard. We need to support each other to keep energies strong.
While it feels like we’ve been living from one crisis to the next, to me this time feels very different, loaded with uncertainty that can’t be immediately capitalised on (although Modi is trying his best with rescue meals and online yoga branded with his image; and disinformation is rife as ever).
Setting to one side the horror and pain of COVID 19, I have seen the internet come into its own in the last few weeks. I had been on maternity leave trying to resist feeling ostracised from the life I knew. Now isolation is commonplace and institutions are beginning to reach out to remote fans via the internet (ICA Daily etc.) I feel renewed solidarity with the long-term sick, carers and those who can’t afford or don’t have the chances to lead varied socio-professional existences.
Using the emergent impetus (eg. Rising Majority) to mobilise and break the loop of crisis capitalism by nurturing the bonds between us, from the end of the month the site will carry new contributions from artists and writers meeting this moment with their rich and varied flows and processes.
The process of reviving the site has been a slower than imagined learning curve during which 5 new artworks have been developed and a pregnancy has emerged and followed through. Everyone’s life affects and events cancelled my original timeline doubling it from 12 – 24 months and now, almost to exemplify how deadlines can trip you up, I’m writing into the laptop-unfriendly suspended time of life with a newborn.
From the beginning I kept stumbling over the word ‘commission’ and each artist has found sweet ways of rebalancing this curator – curated dynamic. The fees offered were enough to enable support work i.e., overseas travel, a meal for 8, several mini-collaborations and the re-engagement of older work. Much valuable conversation has been shared and new connections aligned exponentially, to the diminishing importance of expecting a finished work of art.
This edition of the site has been an unflattening of the screen as working relationships have been tested additionally for their mettle against the many aggressive forces circulating in the world in 2019. So much of the work happened outside the frame of the site. This may have something to do with the feeling of capture I wrote about in my opening text about online experience under surveillance capitalism: From my circumspect position lurking on the sidelines of social media I worry about powerful cliques in California profiting from our playlabouring for free, the same services which don’t discriminate against the circulation of fake news and hate. And yet, I find Instagram as compelling as I used to find TV and have learnt a lot particularly from the increased visibility of queer lives and, very recently, the CAA protests in India. In this respect I appreciate the non-narrative threads of fearless artists: lacking key details, the imperative is left to go out and risk making a version of what it is you detect from their brave work oneself.
Add to the site
A reminder that the Flatness calendar and comments feed are open for your contributions as always but particularly while I (Shama) am on parental leave over the coming months. The 2019 programme will be coming to a close shortly with new work and words from Rehana Zaman, Taylor Le Melle and Texta Queen for you to settle down to over the holidays. Sincere thanks to all who’ve used and added to the site this year, please continue to feel at home here.
Read all about Flatness in an interview I’ve just recorded with Henry Broome for Spike Art Magazine. For the extra diligent among you there’s an extended version (with a bonus question and suggested reading) up now on Flatness 💙
Flatness is happy to announce that ‘I’m Baby’ a text and collage of memes by Glasgow / Berlin based artist Natasha Lall is now available to read on the site. We had the pleasure of meeting through a self-organised writing retreat to Cove Park together with Raju Rage and Jemma Desai last week. The trip was inspired and given context by recent contributions to Flatness by Adam Farah and Lucy Clout and, in particular, from conversations emerging through the development of Rehana Zaman’s commission for the site. Anyway, have a read. It’s a brilliant reflection on our brief time in Scotland and celebration of this new connection, thank you Natasha!
MEDI-CATED SUMMERS / …
The latest Flatness newsletter has just been posted announcing the launch of a new work by Adam Farah (free.yard) tomorrow at midday (!) + a call out for a mini residency in Scotland at the end of the month amongst much other activity. Please read, share and make sure to sign up for future mailings!
Curating for Digital Plat-forms
Booking is now open for a 3 week course on digital curating based around Flatness beginning 18 September at Camden Art Centre. Bursary places available. Click here for more info and to book a place. Please spread the word!
Lucy Clout is offering to create her own version of Focusmate (described in her letter) especially for Flatness users. She’s inviting “anyone who wants virtual company doing anything” to join her online for 50 minutes. The sessions will be completely private. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a booking.
On 4 April @Whitechapel Gallery, I’m excited to be in conversation with Amsterdam-based artist (+ Flatness contributor) Dan Walwin following his special presentation, ‘Enclosures and Desertion’, a segue of works produced between 2013-2019 (coincidentally the same turbulent timespan as Flatness). Find more info and reserve your tickets here: https://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/dan-walwin-enclosures-desertion/
Dan Walwin has had the keys to the site for a while now, generously populating it with works from the last few years. Journey left to right and, increasingly, up and down. Beautiful to watch the simultaneity and spaciousness of moving images and interaction.
While the artists are developing their contributions I’ve been enjoying posting comments to an unknown audience, differently to the known unknowns of my ‘friends’ on FB.
Remember the homepage is open to your comments. Start typing in the white box (or draft elsewhere as there’s no way of editing), add a link and upload a pic. You can also click on the ‘Comments’ heading to view in full screen.
Dial in to Flatness next Saturday 2 Feb at 1pm GMT to join contributing artists: Lucy Clout, Nikhil Vettukattil, Dan Walwin and Rehana Zaman chatting along with myself and designer Gailė Pranckūnaitė on the comments feed.
The first work to go live is Nikhil Vettukattil’s An Analog for Listening, an interactive application which translates the sounds you feed into it into patterns of visible light. Please share any tracks or resonant frequencies that you think work well with the app in the comments feed.
Incomplete (growing) list of voices informing the opening Flatness text including many who, I hope, will contribute to the site:
Hito Steyerl Sara Ahmed Taylor Le Melle Nora Khan Anthea Hamilton Korakrit Arunanondchai Unthinking Photography not/nowhere Dennis Cooper Cibelle Cavalli Bastos Lauren Schwulst Auto Italia Rehana Zaman Lucy Clout Dan Walwin Nikhil Vettukattil Adam Farah Evan Ifekoya Claudette Johnson Audre Lorde Allucquére Rosanne Stone Donna Haraway Joni Cohen Raju Rage Ajamu X Camilo Restrepo belit sağ Natasha Marie Llorens Heather Phillipson Women of Colour Index Scratching the Surface Toby Clarkson archive.flatness.eu Sonya Boyce Lubaina Humid Hollybush Gardens Jenny Richards Clunie Reid Rizvana Bradley Charlotte Prodger Gil Leung Bhajan Hunjan Sebastian Buerkner warehouse Hardeep Pandhal Stan Vanderbeek Octavia Butler Last Angel of History Margaret Salmon Hannah Black LUX Jumana Manna The White Pube Bernard Stiegler Angela Davis IFFR Nina Manandhar Hannah Gregory Morgan Quaintance Hanif Kureishi Monoskop Stuart Hall Kodwo Eshun Murmur gal-dem Heidi Mirza Susu Laroche Bifo Mark Fisher Amanprit Sandhu Stefano Harney & Fred Moten Lucrecia Martel Reni Eddo Lodge Robert Owens Imran Peretta Michelle Williams Gamaker Paul Purgas Aorist David Wojnarowicz Lucy Parker Moyra Davey Urara Tsuchiya Ane Hjort Gottu Claire Fontaine Rabbits Road Press Vera Tollman Steven Shaviro Mason Leaver-Yap Rachel Reupke Alia Syed Kendrick Lemar Dani Restack Electra Joan Morgan Victoria Sin Adrian Piper Vanabbe Oretha Frank Stella J G Ballard Tom Richards Adham Faramawy Christopher Kirubi Berwick Film Festival Kate Paul Schtinter Robert Bresson Ash Sarkar Get Out Kate Owens Black Audio Film Collective Rabz Lansiquot Ain Bailey Joseph Walsh Novara Ian Hunt Hortense Spillers & Gail Lewis Sue Tompkins Forensic Architecture Sean Dockray Rebecca Heald Ulijona Odišarija Marwa Arsanios Rhizome Alice Channer James N. Kienitz Wilkins Merve Emre Roberto Peyre Bhanu Kapil Nkisi