Flatness is a community-led artistic platform. Such community being primarily 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.
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.
Some Background to Flatness
*Find a more detailed account in our new book Queer Diasporic Futurity.
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 Gil 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 non-binary person 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 2019-21 edition of the site has been 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.
Queer Diasporic Futurity
Published in 2022 and developed in partnership with not/nowhere artist workers’ co-operative Queer Diasporic Futurity 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. Last copies of the book are available here.
In continuing QDF, Flatness has brought in many of the concerns and connections from the publication into its curation of the Public Programme for Brent Biennial 2022, ‘In the House of my Love’, themed around homemaking in hostile environments. This has taken the form of screenings and gatherings focused on migrant rights, and discussions on social housing and economic crisis and its effect on local creative practitioners. This is in addition to plant medicine knowledge sharing and communion days specifically open to people of colour and children.
Currently, in collaboration with Beth Bramich as OASIS curatorial residents at Forma HQ near Elephant and Castle, Flatness is interested in finding out what barriers there are for residents in the vicinity of the organisation to engage in its spaces and programme.
Following Khanna’s experience outdoors during lockdown restrictions addressed in their writing in QDF (to the point they are now training to be a gardener) interaction with plants allows for embodied histories of suppression and marginalisation to come to the fore. They are incorporating this into their curatorial practice to shift the discourse. Employing decolonial, anti-racist artistic methodologies, we will work directly with Forma’s community members to mine and explore the disparity currently existing between public engagement strategies based around a projected white, British, middle class, community and the actuality of a diverse and complex make-up of ethnicities and cultures. Stay tuned for news of our upcoming programme contributions at Forma HQ.
For Flatness there is no way back to how things were before the pandemic. Horizons have opened up as we have witnessed how change – d i s m a n t l i n g – 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 over 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 2020 Flatness invited contributions for work which corresponded to:
– the ‘situation’;
– stillness and liveness (signals from rituals/ practice); or
– the ‘future’.
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 #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter 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.
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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.
Previously supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.