Marking temporalities + linking to other networks
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 so do get in touch if you’d like to help – firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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