Gas Imaginary at Encountering Australia: European Australian Studies Conference, Prato 2014

Abstract: The Gas Imaginary is an artistic research project incorporating poetry, photomedia
documentation, archi-poetic diagrams and essayistic labours exploring the aesthetic languages, mechanical ideology, speculative economics, and technocultural patterning surrounding the large-scale install of ‘unconventional’ gas extraction. Through this technology and industry, indebted state and national governments cause disenfranchised rural but increasingly urban populations to speculate on their own health and futures: through compensatory leasing arrangements, temporary industry employment and privatized infrastructure delivery and sponsorship aimed at the social licensing of investment in environmental injustice and dispossessions from common bioheritage.


In this paper I will work through the main organizing indices and analytics of the project, which also structure the narrativity of the animated script (in-progress) that I will screen for the conference alongside installation images. This artistic research draws on the writer’s own genealogical connection to the industrial harbour town of Gladstone, Central Queensland, and to the eco- and labour politics of a city which has an ongoing and prominent, but critically under-documented role in the export of Queensland’s mineral wealth. To performatively ‘exhibit’ this story is to both concretize and allegorize certain ‘executive’ and psychically distanciated urban/e) investments in a very specific extraction practice, amidst boomtown ethoi and technocratically managed non-encounters with the environmental injustices that this corporate technology in-volves.


Geographies of Professionalization AAANZ 2014

A Session Proposal for GEOCritical, Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference, Launceston 5-8 December 2014

Proposers: Danny Butt, Research Fellow, Research Unit in Public Cultures, University of Melbourne*

Rachel O’Reilly, independent writer and curator, Amsterdam/Berlin.

The expansion of the market for university qualifications (for artists, curators, and administrators) has combined with the rise of the international biennial/festival to produce expanded and geographically synchronised fields of professional art discourse. Professional practitioners travel in circles of international prestige, evaluated less by their development of an institutional archive and more by their relationships with contemporary producers and institutions. The historical marker of professionalism was a certain autonomy and a disinterested, neutral, public character that distinguished itself from mere exchange-value.

However, the expansion of mechanisms of professionalisation through privatised universities and cultural institutions questions this disinterest. As Samuel Weber notes, professionalism requires “a certain kind ofplace, or, more precisely, a certain kind of placement.” The professional is in a structural location, programmed by global forces, that formats particular places and sites in terms of their potential for profit. The dynamics of this “placement” have been on display in actions against corporate sponsors of large-scale exhibitions funded from industries including oil and gas, mandatory detention, and speculative finance. Sponsoring corporations are actively profiting from the neoliberal and neocolonial transformation of territory, property and democratic governance. The political economy of the presenting institution supports a curatorial ideology of neutrality: a withdrawal from thinking the political as the means of holding institutional power. This neutrality is justified in an appropriation of art’s “autonomy”, yet the autonomy of the artist is never global. As Guattari describes it, “the task of the poetic function… is to recompose artificially rarefied, resingularized Universes of subjectification.”  In other words, the aesthetic work of resingularisation can be seen as moving in an opposite direction to globalising neutralisation.

This panel asks how artists, critics and curators orient themselves to the geographical imaginary of professionalisation, navigating local and global forces that produce contemporary artistic subjectivities. Relation to conference theme (150 words) The panel is a direct response to the question of the “geo”, asking about the planetary distribution of knowledge formations that produce contemporary art. We aim to solicit papers that engage the tension between international discourses and local sites, incorporating issues such as local and indigenous knowledges, reterritorialisation of national cultural institutions, and the rise of environmental and ecological issues in contemporary art.

Economies and Objects of Performance, If I Can’t Dance

If I Can’t Dance, NL, commissioned me to put together a reading group responsive to their program ‘Edition V – Appropriation and Dedication’ (2013–2014) in the lead up to Performance Days, a seven-day festival dedicated to performance that takes place from 27 November–3 December, including four new artist commissions by Gerry Bibby, Sara van der Heide, Snejanka Mihaylova and Emily Roysdon, and four Performance in Residence research projects by Gregg Bordowitz, Jacob Korczynski, Sven Lütticken and Grant Watson, plus a talk by moi. If you would like to attend the final reading groups please get in touch. Tickets to the Days also now selling.

Economies and Objects of Performance The rise of interest in poetry in contemporary art is part of a larger re-investment in performance, liveness and collectivity projects that take specific interest in ‘readerly’ practices and ‘figural’ experiments, including with political and aesthetic autonomy in general. It is no coincidence that the same period has seen the rise and proliferation of the “reading group”, as a clear desired FORM of response to unfolding political and economic crises (including, but not limited to the Netherlands’ cultural cuts). In such desired form, reading together is a tool for occupying the publicness of visual and performance art cultures’ “work”, for hinging upon the linguistic, differently, and for re-organizing fine-grained responses to existing material archives and resources in changed conditions.

The figural according to David Rodowick (drawing on Lyotard) is what becomes of art, when freed from the opposition of word and image… it is [also] a social theory that speaks of the conjunction and art and life in the commodity, and it acknowledges power as a mode of unlocking the figure as a historical image or social hieroglyph wherein the spatial and temporal parameters of contemporary collective life can be read as they are reorganized by the new images and new communications technologies (2001, 1). In recent film theory, the figure stands for, “the force . . . of everything that remains to be constituted” in a character, thing, social relation or idea (Martin, 2012). Material and readerly aspects of figural practices enact the political desire to recalibrate sociality, and remediate the affects and informatics of lost/unrealized historical projects. In art-historical terms, poetry practice and collective reading takes up especially with the phonic aspect of language that has been downplayed in conceptual art’s simplistic reception of the Grammatology. It is in this resuscitated oral image of language that we can understand even singular, virtuoso practices of poetic labour and performative, redactive ‘live writing’ as practices that work away at the aesthetic with collective interesse.

This focussed reading group, itself a commissioned response and supplement to If I Can’t Dance’s current range of performance and research commissions – many of which respond to or operate within the textual/poetic – is open to any participants interested in coming to terms with not just the context but the material intentionality and tensions informing performance production decision-making, commissioning, and criticism. It gives special attention to technocultural and economic transformations of the figural demands of artisthood, in a culture of generalized performance imperatives, with the aim of exposing this expanded aesthetic regime to artistic subjectivization and conceptual traction.

week 1. Introduction: Figural aspects of Contemporary Performance

D N Rodowick, ‘Chapter 1: Presenting the Figural’ in Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy After the New Media.

Steyerl, ‘Art As Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life’, in E-flux journal

Optional Reading: Lyotard ‘Desire’s Complicity for the Figural’ from Discours/Figure

week 2. The Inter-subjective drama of (im/)material relations

Winnicott, ‘The use of an object and relating through identifications’ in Playing and Reality.

Eve Sedgwick, ‘Melanie Klein and the Difference Affect Makes’, in The Weather in Proust.

week 3. Aleatory, Phonic, Sardonic: Radial aspects in the politics of practices

Althusser, ‘The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter.’

Stewart, ‘The Ear Heretical – a forum on phonemic reading’ – in Reading Voices, Literature and the Phonotext.

Amy De’Ath, ‘”Go in boys. Go in and stay there”: Feminist Poetry and Reading Dialectically’.

week 4. Reading poetry at the Wake of Conceptualist aesthetics

Joshua Clover, ‘The Technical Composition of Conceptualism’

Derrida, ‘Apparition of the Inapparent’, in Spectres of Marx.

Gas Imaginary (#iteration 2) works on paper in ‘A Special Arrow was Shot in the Neck’, David Roberts Art Foundation, London


13 JUNE – 2 AUGUST 2014

A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck… is the seventh edition of the DRAF Curators’ Series, with guest curators Natasha Ginwala (b. 1985, India) and Vivian Ziherl (b. 1982,  Australia), co-founders of the ongoing curatorial research project Landings.
This group exhibition brings together a range of international artists, poets and choreographers; including Etel Adnan, Boyle Family, Chandralekha, Bonita Ely, Simone Forti, Ganesh Haloi, Camille Henrot, Yee I-Lann, Juma-adi, The Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun), Selma and Sofiane Ouissi, Prabhakar Pachpute and Dashrath
Patel, with research contributions by Filipa César, Simryn Gill, Angela Melitopoulos & Angela Anderson and Rachel O’Reilly.

Modernity, as a human endeavour, has drawn up the categories by which Land is divided and placed it under a contract of subjugation. How might the current order of material progress be infiltrated by the agency of Land as a narrative substance? Facing the geographic imperatives of capital stand the claims of Land as a living archive, as political matter, and as corporeal agent. (Vivian Ziherl and Natasha Ginwala, 2014.)

A Special Arrow Was Shot In The Neck… engages artistic practices that approach Land as a language-form of kinship, affect, and decolonial resistance. Bonita Ely’s 1970s weavings of the salinating Murray-Darling River constellate with Indonesian artist Juma-adi’s errant figures bearing the burden of displaced geography. The Malaysian archipelago is a matrix of socio-political memory in the Batik works of Yee I-Lann, while the repetitive  hand gestures of rural women ceramicists form a movement-score in the work of Tunisian choreographers Selma and Sofiane Ouissi. The abstract paintings and illustrations of Ganesh Haloi draw together symmetries of the organic world with an archaeological
imaginary, while desert fault lines converge in the seismic narrations of Californian ‘earthquake sensitives’ in the Otolith Group’s film Medium Earth. The exhibition will also feature a new site-specific mural by Indian artist Prabhakar Pachpute, responding to the DRAF gallery space. A screening of The Otolith Group’s Medium Earth (2013) will take place at Rio Cinema, Dalston on Tuesday 22 July.