SPACES OF ALTERITY – SITES, PRACTICES & NARRATIVES – April 2011

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This project started out as an academic conference which grew into something more ambitious. The basic idea of ‘Spaces of Alterity’ was to provide a space to discuss the possibilities (very urgent then as now) for finding physical and intellectual spaces of possibility outside of the prevailing neoliberal order. We thought that we couldn’t do this in the form of just another university conference, particularly in a campus university such as Nottingham, so we initiated a couple of collaborations which might readdress the balance. One of these was with the Nottingham Critical Pedagogies Network, who organised their own ‘sister conference’ on ‘Educational Spaces of Alterity’. The other was with the peripatetic arts organisation Annexinema, who create social spaces for screening avant-garde cinema and for live performance. Annexinema are, in their own words:

interested in creating spaces for play and activity outside of traditional institutional (art) structures, in finding common ground between potential audiences and communities, and in the idea of cinema as a social phenomenon. We are interested in nurturing collaboration and cross-pollination between art-related practices, incorporating screenings, installations, performances and live music.

I first saw their work under a motorway bridge near the river Trent!

In the end we organised a collaborative event at the independent arts venue One Thoresby Street, featuring screenings of films by the Miners’ Campaign Tapes Project, the Office of Community Sousveillance, Uriel Orlow, and others. ‘Weird fiction’ writer (and our conference keynote) China Mieville also attended the event and read from his then unpublished novel Embassytown.

The full prorgamme ran as follows:

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Part 1  Miners’ Campaign Tapes ProjectNot Just Tea and SandwichesUK, 1984, video, 12mins

Media coverage of the Miners Strike’ in 1984-85 was often felt to be misrepresentative. In response, several film making collectives from around the UK made and distributed short films on VHS tapes presenting an alternative view of the events, and fostering solidarity. This is the story of women’s involvement in the strike.

Office of Community Sousveillance

PCSO Watch

UK, 2011, video, 6mins

[this information is classified]

Yelena Popova

Unnamed

UK, 2011, video, 10mins

A personal documentary telling the story of a secret town in Russia and the artist’s nationalisation in the UK.

Oneohtrix Point Never

Nobody Here

USA, 2009 video, 2mins

Stephen Connolly

Más Se Perdió (We Lost More)

UK/Cuba, 2008, 16mm, 14mins

Más Se Perdió structurally unites a series of historical and cultural references in contemporary Havana, Cuba. A variety of cinematographic approaches are used to explore the spaces of the derelict National School of Ballet, to document young athletes at an outdoor stadium, and to record a street scene with construction workers, the latter in reference to Chris Marker’s film Letter from Siberia. Each place maintains some relationship to notions of utopia; however, the autonomous soundscape of the film is suggestive of underlying conflicts contained within these visions.

 

Part 2

China Miéville

reading from Embassytown

Sun Ra

Space is the Place

USA, 1972, video, 11mins

An extract from Sun Ra’s vision of alter-destiny.

Uriel Orlow

Yellow Limbo

Egypt/UK, 2011, video, 14mins

Yellow Limbo interleaves vintage photographs and Super8 film shot by crewmembers of 14 cargo ships stranded in the Suez Canal for 8 years with the artist’s own recent footage on location. The title relates to an incident that unfolded during the outbreak of the Six Day War, in 1967 between Israel and Egypt. As a result of heavy artillery fire and sunken trawlers at either end of the Suez Canal, 14 cargo ships of various nationalities were stranded for eight years in the Great Bitter Lake, a large body of water at the canal’s midpoint where ships pass one another before re-entering the one-way traffic. While stranded, the cold-war political allegiances of the multi-national crews were dissolved and gave way to a form of communal survival and the establishment of a social system that mirrored the evolution of civilisation in microcosm. The ships’ 1968 onboard Olympic Games converted what Noam Chomsky has referred to as the ‘irrational jingoism’ of the official Olympics into a pan- national gesture of resilient, playful solidarity.

Neil Bartlett and Stuart Marshall

Pedagogue

UK, 1988, video, 11mins

A short performance to camera by solo performer/dramatist Neil Bartlett. Pedagogue explores in comic style the possible implications of Clause 28. Through Clause 28, the British Government took powers to outlaw the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in education and local government.

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