At Open School East, Henry Babbage collaboratively produced a project with Louis-Jack Horton-Stephens titled Gates of Rome, a video and multimedia installation that reflects on the role of creative production in expressing “radical” views at a time when they proliferate alongside brand sensibilities. Modelled on research conducted into thinktanks, photographs of hand gestures associated with counter-cultural political movements comprise a set of stock images for a range of potential requirements. At the centre of the installation, a video demonstrates a specific treatment of the gesticulating hands that places them within the fraught collectivity and individualism of nightclub environments. The actions are framed by an interior stream of thought and branded recollections and an evocative rumbling soundtrack.
For the public programming at OSE, Henry contributed to the group Speculative Tours, with Emil Scheffmann, Theo Shields, Louis-Jack Horton-Stephens, Ellie Davies and Alex Ressel, organising lecture-events that engaged with explorative approaches to knowledge sharing — discursive exchanges in which invited speakers are situated in relation to sites of concern or interest. For one particular event, Henry invited Adam Broomberg and Dave Turley to facilitate an afternoon of mudlarking on the bank of the Thames to think through archaeology’s relation to art praxis.
Through an artistic practice that is at once visual, textual, and performative, Ève Chabanon creates new contexts of gathering. She forges intimate relationships within communities or educational structures, and creates objects or situations that provoke audiences’ involvement in a collective process. While at OSE,Ève started new long-term projects such as Orlando, a series of events giving space of speech to marginalized communities, as well as a collaboration with a group of teenage girls training in beauty formation, in Dagenham, around digital technologies, IT language and public space. In parallel to being an associate at OSE, she worked with a group of young men from a vocational high school, in auto body mechanics, in the outer suburbs of Paris. The project was built on the notion of “travail en perruque” [moonlighting or homer] that was articulated within the group, during workshops, publications and the programming of talks occurring in the car workshop. These charged encounters are founded on mutual trust, but are also fraught with ethical complications and social asymmetries.
Eleanor Davies used her time at OSE to reflect on her various engagements with the retail sector since graduating in 2012 and starting at OSE. This included the staging of two events: a tour of Selfridges’ Perfume Hall, and an evening of structured reality tv and discussion. Eleanor’s research culminated in the creation of The Aesthetics Academy London, a fictional educational institution designed to prepare people for work in the style labour market. The project, which included the creation of a course handbook, branding, and recruitment event, explores the consequences of an increasing emphasis on aesthetic skills over technical knowledge and experience in the labour market.
While at OSE Louis-Jack continued to develop films that consider the poetics, symbolic significance and societal role of haptic reasoning. Amongst works completed over the course of the year was Project (?/?), a film that excavates and collages legacies preserved within the rocks of the Lake District.
For the end of year show, Louis-Jack collaborated with fellow associate Henry Babbage to produce Gates of Rome. A video and multimedia installation that reflects on the role of creative production in expressing “radical” views at a time when they are subsumed into the mainstream and proliferate alongside brand sensibilities (image above).
The teaching programme at OSE also afforded Louis-Jack the opportunity to co-create Speculative Tours, a programme of lecture-style events that engaged with explorative approaches to knowledge sharing in the city of London. Tours included: A Ramble Through Everyday Craft with Richard Wentworth; A Tour of Epstein Sculptures and Vermiculation with Sean Lynch; and A Hypochondriac’s Tour of Healthcare Architecture with Merlin Fulcher.
During her time at Open School East Anneke has continued to develop an ongoing research practice exploring the singing voice as a subjective, affective and material substance that choreographs relations between bodies and subjects within capitalist societies. Anneke’s solo and collaborative performances employ text, sound, light and choreography as relational elements; testing out how these components inform, distort or supplement one another, exposing moments of vulnerability or fragility in representation and discourse.
She is interested in the role of the ‘score’ in performance – a set of instructions that performers embody – and creates fictional scenarios within which to place herself (and others). Using both her own body and those of friends as the material of several new live performances – including Where Blips of Light Called Players Disintegrate and Figures. Figure. Stuck – this body of work continues to ask: whose intentions, affects or languages do we perform when we sing?
In addition, she also organised a curriculum for sound, voice and performance, called Soul-Less-Ness with Eleanor Vonne Brown, exploring modes of production, methods of representation and the future politics of listening. She further conducted a 5-week long music and record making project with young people based in Hackney called Wrestle A Lot Harder.
Whilst at Open School East, Tannu Kotecha began to explore the gendered nature of public space and political formations and notions of language, including silence, proxy, absence and presence.
Developing her interest in poetry, meditation and ritual, Tannu co-organised a short series of Healing Justice sessions with associate Anni Movsisyan, all prioritised for people from marginalised communities.
As part of these sessions, Tannu spent time in conversation with people living locally, developing a song-walk project for and with local women on the nearby estate.
The other strand of her work centred on asemic writing, abstract sculptural forms and fabric as a gendered material. Writer Michael Jacobsen describes asemic writing as offering “meaning by way of aesthetic intuition. It often appears as abstract calligraphy… without words, asemic writing is able to relate to all words, colors, and even music, irrespective of the author or the reader’s original languages”.
Using her own language, written in silence, in a site specific location, Tannu’s piece An Invitation to a Silent Conversation travelled out through the building.
Whilst at OSE I developed my interest in generating documentary material through theatre making and devising, as well as continuing to work with a concern for community, locality and collaborative processes.
I worked on three films in 2016:
Love Where You Live was the result of a six-month collaboration with Terry Turner, a long-term resident of Stoke Newington. This project in conjunction with the teaching programme at OSE developed my awareness of the ethics of participation within artistic practice.
In How The World Works, young adults from East London discuss their feelings around some of the themes proposed in the most stolen books from Foyle’s bookshop (all of which are from the Philosophy department) and were invited to map out their past experiences in relation to these texts. The project was preceded by a period of research involving preparatory workshops with a group of teenagers who are at-risk (of offending or being offended against) who meet and rehearse music at The Rose Lipman Building.
Staging of Death by Streetcar was made in collaboration with fellow associate Anneke Kampman and The Florence Lawrence Chorus. It is a film about Florence Lawrence, the first ever named female movie star and draws parallels between events that occurred in Florence’s own life and those of the fictional characters she portrayed.
I enjoyed working on the broader public programme at OSE and benefited from being part of a community of artists, developing a new community of collaborators. I was pleased to have been mentored by artists John Smith and Olivia Plender, and curators Marijke Steedman and Janna Graham.
Anni entered the year with an interest in exploring ways of decolonising knowledge at a personal level, having previously performed and facilitated workshops around the subject with the collective Sorryyoufeeluncomfortable. From researching the frameworks of Afrofuturism and other diasporic futurisms to the cinematic work of Soviet-Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, she developed an engagement with ritual and magic as a practice of healing.
During her time at Open School East, Anni organised a number of talks and workshops, inviting critical makers and thinkers such as Sheaf & Barley, Collective Creativity, and Voices That Shake, who are concerned with the decolonisation of England through magic, the politics of healing, and the structures that dominate the art world.
Anni collaborated with fellow associate Joel Sines to hold An Endless Suddenness: Thinking with music that resists resistance, a public workshop and listening session with theorist and poet Fred Moten and The Otolith Collective of Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun. The event facilitated the practice of “thinking with music as a mode of black study”.
Bekki spent the year at OSE working on The Doorways Project, a commission funded by Unlimited which is a site-specific sound installation telling personal stories of homeless people sleeping rough in various cities across the UK. The work toured throughout 2016 to Brighton Festival, Metal Liverpool, FACT Liverpool, Southbank London and Tramway Glasgow. The work involved extensive research and interviewing people living on the streets in each of the cities the work was presented.
Throughout the year, Bekki was involved with the public programme, planning the Writing For workshops – writing for performance, writing for documentary and writing for radio – as well as a workshop on herbal medicine.
Bekki’s next project will be using personal collections/ archives of people on the autistic spectrum.
Over the year spent at Open School East, I further explored my motivating interests of time, production, materiality and communication. This manifested through workshops, reading groups and art works. I continued collaborating with Kerri Meehan to complete a project called Chimera. Chimera is a multi-channel film installation, which examines the objects in museums as gaining truthfulness through narrative rather than facticity. The film tells the story of how three characters exceed their curation in surprising ways. Through this, Chimera challenges the foundation from which cultural history is told. As part of Chimera, Kerri and I ran a number of ceramic workshops, called Making History, where participants were asked to make objects that would fool future archaeologists into thinking that our lives are different somehow.
I also ran a number of reading groups, sometimes with other associates. Theo and I ran a glass-knapping workshop, which explored ancient techniques of knapping with modern materials, alongside theories of the development of human consciousness as arising from a relationship with material and object, rather than evolutionary caprice or the absolute.
I further arranged a number of public events (as part of the Deep Time and Speculative Tours programming groups), which explored history, culture and material evidence, inviting John Akomfrah, Ele Carpenter, Susan Schuppli and Dan Hicks in for public presentations examining migrancy, history, culture and material evidence.
Emil Scheffmann left New Zealand to join Open School East, where he pursued his interests in sculptural practice, radical education, and activism. Working in collaboration with fellow associates, Scheffmann devised the programme Speculative Tours: a series of investigations through ambient commons, which developed new approaches to knowledge sharing in urban space. Alongside this collaborative programme, Scheffmann engaged in a sculptural practice exploring the relationship between object, text, and memory. In support of this material practice, Scheffmann developed a series of performative lectures that explored peripheral thinking through a method of improvisation.
Theo’s research while at Open School East centred around a material- and process-driven practice using the former Troy Town kiln. Found TV screens, windows, metal frames and domestic items warped to create seductive installations, questioning the material properties of physical matter. These works were showcased as the exhibition SLUMP in November 2016.
Contributing to the public programme, Theo delivered Contemporary Artefact Making, a neolithic tool making masterclass at OSE, The Scottish Sculpture workshop and The Royal College of Art. He also curated Speculative Tours: a series of investigations through ambient commons with fellow associates, exploring approaches to knowledge sharing, and discursive exchanges. For this series, speakers were invited to navigate sites of concern or interest.
During his time as an associate, Theo divided his time between London and North Wales where he was renovating a Victorian workshop into a studio for himself and visiting artists. January 2017 will mark the beginning of the residency program in partnership with Wern Manor.
Eleanor Vonne Brown
During 2016 I collaborated on the Soul-Less-Ness public programme, a curriculum for sound, voice and performance, exploring modes of production, methods of representation and the future politics of listening. The series includes three Writing for… workshops, transforming written texts for radio, performance and documentary.
Over the summer I set up the Post Internet Cafe in PrintRoom, Rotterdam, a social space for the consumption and digestion of our communication systems. This research continued with a self appointed residency at the PC Corner Internet Cafe in London which I began to think of as a public site for desktop publishing. I used photogrammetry to create a 3D model of the space, and shared computer resources to access online digital printing platforms and open source software. Alongside this I’ve been running an audio project called Posts from the Internet Cafe with Hackney Stream, a group of citizens of the pre-digital era creating Podcasts talking about food and technology, particularly The Digital Divide.