Taking the form of the reading group as its point of departure, artist Emma Haugh developed a new edition of her ongoing, roaming and mutating ‘Reading Troupe’ for a small group of participants; a performative workshop in Vauxhall across two consecutive evenings.
The Reading Troupe is an attempt to collectively enter the body of a chosen text through improvisation, amateur dramatics, gesture, collage, cut ups, interruption and other contingent forms, rather than analytic and academic language.
During this edition the Reading Troupe investigated the text ‘TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone’ by Hakim Bey, which drew together other textual and contextual fragments to collectively explore the wider project themes of residency and temporality.
The Reading Troupe is informed by Emma Haugh’s interest in representations of desire and the examination of cultural structures (architectural, linguistic, spatial, educational) from queerfeminist perspectives, and her training with Augusto Baol’s Theatre of the Oppressed. This was the first UK iteration of the project.
To consider the potential of the temporary as a moment of action, and to establish assemblies of people,
We were drawn to exploring The Temporary Autonomous Zone (1991) by Hakim Bey in the Reading Troupe. It offers points of stimulus as to how one might establish a temporary autonomous zone (TAZ); a space that is generated by like-minded people outside the mainstream, but resists giving a finite definition of where it might occur and with whom.
Split across two evenings and two sites, the Bonnington Centre and Gasworks, during the first session Emma Haugh introduced the group to various drama exercises before looking at the text, making us aware of our connection to our body and movement.
The exercises encouraged value to be attributed to co-production.
For example, once warmed up we split into smaller groups and read excerpts of The Temporary Autonomous Zone. When stumbling over a word participants would be encouraged to collaboratively, and repeatedly, recite that word out loud;
Offering support mechanisms and establishing group morale in the process.
In terms of the discussion and understanding that developed from exploring and embodying the TAZ, a prominent comparison was between the TAZ and the idea of liminal space.
The TAZ as an in-between space that comes and goes, but you can return to it and the state cannot interfere, like, for example, a friendship.
However, adopting Hakim Bey’s rhetoric, people questioned that any attempt to define the TAZ causes it to disappear.
The Reading Troupe encouraged us to think about how the project grounds itself in Vauxhall and its community.
Responding to our concern with gentrification in Vauxhall, whilst also contemplating the history of Gasworks as a network of community squatted residents, we learnt about the artist-related history of Bonnington Square and wanted to incorporate the Bonnington Community Centre as a site of the project through the Reading Troupe. The first part of it took place in the community context of the Bonnington Centre and the second at Gasworks.
The alternative spaces enabled very different experiences of The Reading Troupe that, upon reflection, encouraged a deeper understanding of how different types of space can influence the form of togetherness that occurs between a group.
Considering the wider project themes of residency and temporality, they enabled a reflection upon how group dynamics form and evolve between physical spaces.
The significance of the characteristics of space, and how they affect people’s interactions and relationships with specific content, has been an important realisation in the development of Itinerant Assembly and how it is articulated beyond Gasworks. For example, the project stems from Gasworks as a nucleus to develop a programme whose curatorial concerns will reverberate and morph across multiple sites, both physical and digital, during the final Hackpad Assembly.
An international network of directly and indirectly connected individuals that spans the entire Earth via a combination of digital and physical means. Previously limited to scientific research, global networks now have an impact on social, educational, and business communications as individuals with a personal computer, a modem, and some simple software can join a social community based on interest, not location.
(See L.M. Harasim Global Networks: Computers and International Communication, 1993)
The state of living simultaneously online and offline, where almost all areas of contemporary life, work and interaction can be managed through digital means, and we are able to maintain a constant connection to a global network of people, commodities and activity. In this era of digitalisation, we experience a state of time-space compression whereby cultures and communities can become merged due to technological innovations that condense spatial and temporal distances.
(See D. A. Massey, Global Sense of Place. Space, Place, and Gender, 1994)
People who live and work without being confined to a specific location; while nomadic lifestyles have historically referred to travelling communities, contemporary nomadism includes urban nomads: a small but diverse section of society that lives and works in a city, yet does not rent, own or otherwise reside permanently in any one location.
Precarity refers to insecurity and vulnerability, destabilisation and endangerment: it is to live with the unforeseeable, and to consider contingency. Precarious modes of living include renting, squatting and staying in temporary residences.
(See I. Lorey, State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious, 2015)
Global cities can be defined through both their importance within a globalised economy, but also in terms of their embeddedness within strategic transnational networks.
(See S. Sassen, The Global City: New York, London Tokyo, 1992)
A group of people connected through physical and/or digital platforms
This refers to the contemporary state of living, working and socialising on the go, enabled through digital networks such as AirBnB, Google Drive and Facebook
A non-profit contemporary arts organisation based in Vauxhall, London. With its focus on process and development, Gasworks commissions emerging UK-based and international artists to present their first major UK exhibitions in the gallery space, and hosts an international residency programme which offers artists a studio space at Gasworks for a period of three months.
These programmes invite artists to reside in a new context for a period of time. Formats are incredibly varied: some short-term, some year-long; some requiring a resulting exhibition and others process-based; and some treated as a retreat whereas others include an intensive programme of activities.
Res Artis, the worldwide network of 550 artist residencies, describes the form as: ‘dedicated to offering artists, curators, and all manner of creative people the essential time and place away from the pressures and habits of every-day life, an experience framed within a unique geographic and cultural context.’
Located in SW8 in the London Borough of Lambeth, Vauxhall is a mixed commercial and residential district undergoing significant redevelopment. The area was first established as a desirable location in the 1600s through the construction of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, which were one the most important leisure venues in London until their closure in 1859. The area was bombed substantially during WW2, leading to a severe housing crisis, and the establishment of several council housing estates across the area. Now undergoing transformation via the Nine Elms development, over 35,000 people are expected to move into a series of skyscrapers along the riverside
Initiated by one or a group of curators to address a set of questions, often yet not necessarily involving artists, cultural collaborators or artworks. Once considered simply a caretaker for collections, the curator is now viewed as a globally connected auteur with curatorship perceived as a constellation of creative activities not unlike artistic practice. The curator has gone from a behind-the-scenes organiser and selector to a visible, centrally important cultural producer.
(See P. O’Neil, The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s), 2016)
A group of people gathered together in one place for a common purpose; also referring to the act itself of gathering together. With many nuances and connotations, the word ‘assembly’ is here explored in its temporal and spatial dimensions without prescribing the exact form this may take
Physical locations as compared to online platforms that enable social interaction. These include social media, co-working websites and online chatrooms, as well as online tools which intersect the physical and virtual: AirBnB, which enables home-sharing; couch-surfing websites which connect guests with hosts; apps such as Pokemon Go!, a location-based augmented reality game, and People Nearby in which the digital brings local people together in real space
People who live and work without being confined to a specific location; while nomadic lifestyles have historically referred to travelling communities, contemporary nomadism includes urban nomads: a small but diverse section of society that lives and works in a city, yet does not rent, own or otherwise reside permanently in any one location
Taking influence from Hakim Bey’s The Temporary Autonomous Zone , (1991) the productive value of the temporary questions how people can find temporary moments in the present, away from mainstream agendas, in order to create spaces of freedom and imagination.
A document giving instructions. Each assembly will produce its own manual. These will incorporate some event documentation, but will focus on sharing the methodologies of practice that have been developed and enacted as part of the project. Each manual suggests future assemblies yet to be enacted
A set of documentation and reflections produced by the curators of Itinerant Assembly in collaboration with the project’s practitioners and participants
The Bonnington Centre is a community resource for residents of the Vauxhall area. The centre is located in Bonnington Square. During the 1980s the houses of Bonnington Square, which were vacant and awaiting demolition, were squatted. Through joining together to form a Housing Association, the squatters successfully negotiated their right to remain with the Inner London Education Authority who owned the site, and subsequently set up a vegetarian cafe and transformed the square’s communal garden into a ‘pleasure garden’.
Crowds and Power was written by Elias Canetti in 1960. It deals with the dynamics of crowds and ‘packs’ and the question of how and why crowds obey the power of rulers. Canetti draws a parallel between ruling and paranoia. It is notable for its unusual tone; it is not scholarly or academic in a conventional way. Instead, it reads like a manual written by someone outside the human race explaining to another outsider in concise and metaphoric language how people form mobs and manipulate power. Unlike much non-fiction writing, it is highly poetic and seething with anger.
Emma Haugh - Emma Haugh (b.1974) is a visual artist and educator based in Berlin and in Dublin. She is interested in representations of desire and the examination of cultural structures (architectural, linguistic, spatial, educational) from queerfeminist perspectives. She works with performativity, publishing, installation and collaboration towards developing and proposing spaces of potential and alterity.
Kennington Park is a public park in Kennington, south London, with Gasworks and The Oval cricket ground nearby. It was opened in 1854 on the site of what had been Kennington Common, where the Chartists gathered for their biggest ‘monster rally’ on 10 April 1848. Soon after this demonstration the common was enclosed and, sponsored by the royal family, made into a public park.
Kennington Common was a site of public executions until 1800, as well as being an area for public speaking. In the 1970s, the old tradition of mass gatherings returned to the park which was host to the start of many significant marches to Parliament. Today, a number of commercial and community events are held in the park each year and recently the Flower Garden was restored with a Heritage Lottery grant. The Friends of Kennington Park, FoKP, was founded in 2002 and provides a local forum for park issues as well as fundraising for improvements.
Rehearsing Collectivity: Choreography Beyond Dance (2012) was edited by Elena Basteri, Elisa Ricci and Emanuele Guidi. It deals with existing interconnections between the concepts of choreography (as the organisation of bodily movement in space and time) and collectivity. The issue of collectivity has taken on an increased political, social and cultural relevance in light of contemporary phenomena such as social networking, mass migration and new modes of participating in civil society. Rehearsing Collectivity is intended as a field of practice for testing and reflecting upon different forms of collectivity. The audience plays a central role in this sense – simply by sharing the space it already embodies a performative collectivity.
Theatre of the Oppressed - Conceived by Brazilian theatre-director Augusto Baol in the early 1970s, Theatre of the Oppressed is a participatory theatre based on the pedagogical and political principles of Paolo Friere. It is a theatre that ‘fosters democratic and cooperative forms of interaction among participants. Theater is emphasized not as a spectacle but rather as a language accessible to all. More specifically, it is a rehearsal theater designed for people who want to learn ways of fighting back against oppression in their daily lives.’ (https://brechtforum.org/abouttop)
Paolo Friere was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who advocated for a critical pedagogy, understanding that the educational process is never neutral ‘people can be passive recipients of knowledge… or they can engage in a “problem-posing” approach in which they become active participants. (http://www.freire.org/paulo-freire/)
They Are Here (f.2006) is a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker & Harun Morrison. They are currently based in London and on the River Lea. Their work can be read as a series of context specific games. The entry, invitation or participation can be as significant as the game's conditions and structure. Through these games, they seek to create ephemeral systems and temporary, micro-communities that offer an alternate means of engaging with a situation, history or ideology. In parallel, they initiate multi-year socially engaged projects that become generative spaces for further works. They Are Here work across media and types of site, particularly civic spaces. Institutions they have developed or presented work include: CCA Glasgow, Furtherfield, Grand Union, Konsthall C (Stockholm), Southbank Centre, South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire and STUK (Leuven, Belgium).
(play)ground-less is a group of four female artists based in four different cities - Ninna Bohn Pedersen in Copenhagen, María Angélica in Bogotá, Belén Zahera in Madrid and Sarah Bayliss in London. Their being-in-relation evolves through changing media and technology, following a personal method based on tactics and conversations from which their work eventually unfolds. With an interest in tactility and language their practice delves into ideas of play, non-knowledge and improvisation.
Thiru Seelan is a dancer who has recently performed at the Southbank Centre. He is currently studying dance movement and psychotherapy at Goldsmiths University. Thiru is also a mentor and youth group co-ordinator at Migrants Organise.
Hackpad is a web-based collaborative real-time text editor. In April 2014, Hackpad was acquired by Dropbox. In April 2015, it was announced that Hackpad would be released as open source and its source code was published on Github in August 2015, under the Apache license 2.0.
Green Rooms is the UK's first arts hotel, a social enterprise that offers affordable accommodation in a beautiful setting that inspires creativity.
13-27 Station Road,
London N22 6UW
Second Home is a creative workspace and cultural venue, bringing together diverse industries, disciplines and types of social businesses. The Hackpad event is part of the Cultural Programme of Second Home.
this is tomorrow aims to become a comprehensive archive of contemporary art, providing those restricted by place or time with the chance to visit some of the most innovative and culturally significant exhibitions around the world.
What does it mean to inhabit the temporary? Where do we find the local, when we are constantly on-the-move? Who forms our community, when we exist inside a global network? And what does it mean to be an artist in today’s digitalised and nomadic world?
As precarity escalates in the global city, ways of living, modes of working, and networks of people have become hyper-mobile. Taking place at Gasworks, with its international artist-residency programme set in Vauxhall, a rapidly developing area of London, Itinerant Assembly takes this context as its starting point.
Over the course of four months, this curated project will unfold outwards in a series of assemblies: momentarily bringing together diverse practitioners and publics in real and virtual space to reflect on our contemporary nomadic condition and to question the productive potential of the temporary.
Distilled here in a series of graphic manuals, every Assembly is open to reactivation, and contributes to a cumulative body of research which will be interrogated during the final Assembly in May 2017.
Curated by Alice White, Chloe Hodge, Hannah Zafiropoulos, Xiaoyi Nie, Rosie Hermon and Tiffany Leung as part of the Curating Contemporary Art programme Graduate Projects 2017, Royal College of Art