Lauren Barri Holstein

Since 2010, Lauren Barri Holstein has developed a substantial body of work (Notorious, Splat!, How to Become a Cupcake, How 2 Become 1, Lady Love, Cherry Pop, Women are Pathetic and How to be Amazing) presented in Live Art, Dance, and Theatre contexts including including The Barbican (London, UK), SPILL Festival (London, UK) FEM Fest (Girona, Spain)and Abrons Art Center (New York, U.S.), gaining respect and notoriety within the Live Art world 

She has collaborated with a number of prominent UK artists, including Kira O’Reilly, Dominic Johnson, Julia Bardsley, Martin O’Brien, and Manuel Vason. 

Her most prominent work to date, Splat!, commissioned by SPILL Festival of Performance, premiered as the opening of SPILL 2013 at The Barbican, London. It was named Time Out’s ‘Critic’s Choice in Dance’, one of Time Out’s ‘Must See Shows of 2013’, one of The Stage’s ‘Dance Picks of 2013’, and one of The Guardian’s ‘Theatre Picks’. Holstein holds a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London and is a visiting lecturer at various UK and European universities.

She has authored several published articles, including: ‘A Queer Family Tree’ in The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: The Performance Work of Lois Weaver, ed. by Jen Harvie and Lois Weaver; ‘Splat!: Death, Mess, Failure and Blue-Balling’, in Performance Research; ‘The Cyclical Pleasure/Death of Symbolization in How to Become a Cupcake/The Famous’ Adaption of Frankenstein’, in On Repetition: Writing, Performance, Art, ed. by Eirini Kartsaki; and several articles.

Witch-Bitches, The Birth (and Never-Ending Resurrection) of Capitalism, and Pop-Culture’s Desperation for Its Own Exorcism: Embodying Pop-Monstrosities in Notorious

Dr. The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein

‘I’ll be ResurrecDEAD as your ultimate fantasy – a horny dead virgin.’ - The Famous

The birth of capitalism and the European witch hunts are historical step-sisters (in the deadliest way possible.) ‘Witches’ were ‘hunted’, fined, ‘tried’ and killed, to delimit women’s financial independence, access to knowledge, and governance over reproductive choices, while property was being privatised, the division of labor literally domesticated women, and ownership itself was denied to women, to the poor, and mostly, to poor women.

That relationship has persisted, morphed to disguise itself within the socio-cultural context of the moment, and, in so many ways, has laid the scene for the neo-liberal commodification of (faux) feminism and its misogynist outcomes – with similar restrictions on our rights, choices, and available subjectivities.

A principle commodity to arise from this repetition of history is a pre-packaged narrative of redemption. We are sold the story that the witch, the feminist, the whore, the prude, the lesbian, the childless, the not-white, the boss, the bitch, the hag, the artist, can all be saved with the right branding. 

The commodification of these figures, then, is its own kind of redemption – if it can be packaged and sold, it no longer threatens the means and managers of production. The agency of ‘the witch’ is stripped — and this is what makes the marriage of commercialism and ‘feminism’ a patriarchal problem. It’s the witch hunts with a feminist tagline. #sorrynotsorry but actually, sorry.

In Notorious, the subjectivities I inhabit, and the worlds I imagine, dip their toes into the overflowing dominion of pop-commodification, and yet pose a threat to the stability of that system. From old hag, to sorceress, to sexy baby, I embody a self-exorcising, changeable monster that is both desired and denied, punished and coveted, and, slips between identities – perhaps, revealing the monstrosities of pop-feminism itself.

Framing this discussion are my methodologies and strategies towards creating theoretically rich and nuanced practice. The ‘promiscuity’ and indeterminacy of the subjectivities I inhabit and politically put forward in Notorious, in order to problematise their pop-commodification, is also a strategy I use as an artist/academic. ‘The Famous' and ‘Lauren’ are equally as slippery as the personas in the show, and, perhaps, so are the boundaries between ‘theory’ and practice’ in the work itself. From the persecution of witches and whores (and female artists), to their politically-charged promiscuity, Notorious, and this paper, put forward strategies of plurality, changeability and, you know, just being a fucking witch-bitch, as teeming with political potential. #imreallysorry for my never-ending resurrection.

Alexa Wright

Dr Alexa Wright is an artist and academic living in London, UK. Working at the intersection of art and medical science to explore human inter-subjectivity through qualities like vulnerability and empathy, Alexa uses a wide range of media in her work, including photography, video, sound, interactive installation, performance and book works. She has extensive experience of working with people with disabilities and metal health issues, as well as with medical scientists and other creative practitioners.

From 1999-2010 Alexa worked collaboratively with Professor Alf Linney and computer scientists at UCL to create three interactive installations, Conversation Piece (2009), Alter Ego (2005), and Face Value (2001). These works have all been widely shown internationally. In 2011-12, funded by a year-long AHRC Fellowship, she created A View From Inside, a series of portrait photographs of people who experience episodes of psychosis. In 2015, funded by the Arts Council, she initiated Piecing it Together, a participatory project for people experiencing mental ill health at two NHS Foundation Trust Mental Health Recovery Centres. Since 2007 Alexa has been part of Hybrid Bodies, a unique international, interdisciplinary project based in Toronto, Canada that brings together medics, visual artists, a philosopher and social scientists to explore the emotional and psychological effects of heart transplantation from multiple, interwoven perspectives.

Alexa has a 0.5FTE post at the University of Westminster, as Reader in Art and Visual Culture.

Alexa will discuss three interlinked research projects, A View From Inside (2012); Piecing it Together (2015) and her new experimental video works: There’s So Much More I Want To Tell You (2018); The Fragility of Everyday Life (2018-9) and A Real Life Drama (in progress). With the help of people who experience episodes of psychosis, these works all explore what we mean by reality. A View from Inside is a series of digitally manipulated portrait photographs and an artist’s book that came out of a year-long AHRC-funded project. To create these portraits Alexa worked closely with the people depicted to find a means of accessing imagery that offers a way of representing each individual’s personal reality. Piecing it Together was a nine-month participatory project using collage to enable people with mental health difficulties to communicate their experiences visually. Moving away from direct reference to individual experiences, the video works are inspired by interviews with some of the Piecing it Together participant.

Melanie Jackson

Melanie Jackson was born in Hollywood, West Midlands. She now lives and works in London and attended LCC, Byam Shaw and the RCA and has recently completed a practice based PhD at the University of Reading.

In 2017/18 she published co-authored articles with Dr Esther Leslie in Parallax Journal, Effects Journal, the online journal Studies in the Maternal, and cabinet magazine. They have also co-authored a book Deeper in the Pyramid (2018), and have previously produced a comic The Ur-Phenomenon (2013) and a newspaper The Urpflanze (2010). They devised a series of performance lectures based on the book for the Delfina foundation (2016), UCL (2016), Birkbeck (2017) the Atlantic Project (2017), Lux (2017) and Primary (2018).

Solo exhibitions include Deeper in the Pyramid at Grand Union, (Birmingham), Primary (Nottingham) and Banner Repeater, (London all 2018) and The Urpflanze Part 2 (2013) and The Urpflanze Part 1 (2010) at the Drawing Room and Flat Time House, (London). She has also made solo exhibitions at Space Exchange (Colchester), Chapter (Cardiff), Matt’s Gallery (London) and Arnolfini (Bristol) and exhibited internationally in group exhibitions including Take Me to the River, DRF Biennale, (Osaka, Japan), The Global Contemporary, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, (Karlsruhe, Germany) as well as exhibitions in the Museum of Contemporary Photography, (Chicago, USA), Art Gallery New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), Kerlin Gallery (Dublin, Ireland) Project (Dublin, Ireland), Sabine Wachters Gallery, (Brussels, Belgium), Shanghart (Shanghai), Para/Site Art Space, (Hong Kong), Hanart TZGallery, Hong Kong).

She was awarded residencies in Shanghai and Hong Kong (British Council), Mauritius (Gasworks) and in the UK (University of Bristol, The Mothership). She has been shortlisted for the Whitechapel Max Mara Art Prize for Women and was a winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize.

She has work in the Tate and Government Art Collections, and in Private Collections.

Hellmouth takes its cue from a childhood hallucination in which the devil made an appearance through clouds of anesthesia and mercurial amalgam. It will appear here as a performed lecture with images words objects and sounds.

The motif of a vertical cosmos: sky, earth, underworld - was gradually secularised from the Enlightenment onwards with mining and extractive industries providing the resources for technical transformation. Excavation was cast in mythological terms, a heroic journey into the deep that became a central motif of science and the humanities – recovering the truth about the past whilst sourcing the minerals to build a new future and reality, by digging ever more deeply. The mineral spaces of the subterranean environment supported as they are by a technologised infrastructure, in turn become the motif of the modern city. They are spaces that do not support biological complexity, the multiplicity of life – and usher in radical abstractions and world reductions, reinforcing vertical stratification as a guiding organisational logic.

The mining of metals in the Cerro Rico, Potosi, Bolivia has been linked to the origins of capitalism - the vast deposits of silver combined with the mercury amalgam process catalysing the first Royal Mint and first global currency. The mountain is known in Spanish as the Rich Mountain and locally as the Mountain that Eats Men. To this day effigies of El Tio populate the mines of Potosi - a sympathetic ‘uncle’, a devil of sorts who is both risky and generous, and appealed to with coca leaves and alcohol. The early European ecclesiastic interpreters mistranslated the autochthonous pantheon as “hell” and the devil was folded into it, remaining a fundamental sacred force in Andean religiosity. His presence reverberates in medieval images of hellmouth, in the money devil that appears in various guises across Europe, and in the cocaine and alcohol addiction endemic in global finance industries today. Though data mining is the preferred extractive industry of the Santa Clara (Silicon) Valley,  it follows the geological trajectory of mineral extractions - Mercury from the New Almaden mine along the same canyon that catalysed the Gold Rush and the establishment of California. Contemporary finance is profoundly linked to metal markets and digital hardware, though its tools and effects appear spectral, virtual and disembodied.

The forms of indigenous entrepreneurship and cultural and economic exchange that proliferate in contemporary Bolivia have been conceptualised as the fabric by Anthropologist Nico Tassi and Sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui. Cusicanqui sets it out  as a conceptual schema for the persistance and reconstitution of subjectivity and agency, and a means to alter the rhythm of the neocolonial capitalist machine. The fabric opens up semantic and ontological complexity. It becomes a diagrammatic framework for weaving the connections between art making and worlding, linking rare earth metals, global finance, toxicology and metal poisoning to novel forms of delirium and sensory intoxication, from mercury vapours, to lithium to cloud computing. It offers a route out of the violent stratifications of a vertical cosmos.