ESR 9 Blog November 2021: Sophie Mak-Schram

ESR 9 blog November 2021

On an icy Sunday afternoon, we twist our necks towards the pond. Covered in green, it’s no longer a habitat fit for pond skaters, the insects we are currently seeking to embody through choreography. We spring, we flap, we try to find their lightness.

Later, and earlier, and throughout, I have wondered this year how to best write to you – the assumed, shifting, differential reader. My research, scattered as it is across various note-taking tools (a notebook, a calendar, loose sheets, two apps, but mainly – my head), is rarely in a solid enough form to confidently share. I’m still weaving the strands together loosely, not wanting to align, for instance, my thinking with Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology with embodiment, speculative writing or Denise Ferreira de Silva’s claim for a poethical reading quite yet. I’m holding each text cautiously in my hand, weighing it up not for value but for relation.

The many tabs I have open on my various Chrome accounts attest to this cautious weighing; Four Theses on Aesthetics (the aforementioned Ferreira de Silva text written with Rizvana Bradley) nestled alongside a good mixtape and an event at the Freelands Foundation that I could attend if my online seminar finishes earlier than anticipated. By their proximity, in my head, in my metaphorical hands, on my screen, these are all related, but I’m still putting the pieces together.

Is the idea of a singular, cohesive image the metaphor I want to use for my research? A quote, sideways in one of my notebooks: “a moment of poesis is a mode of production in an unfinished world” (Kathleen Stewart, ‘Weak Theory in an Unfinished World’, 2008: 77)

Weak theory, loose strands, eating one’s own ideas, digesting them – read this text aloud again like I asked you to, back in spring. The poetic not as an evasion of the politically active or agitating, but as a different mode: one of unfurling a position that might need a level of opacity in order to form, and might retain a level of constant shape-shifting in order to achieve something less direct. A generative mode, perhaps.


I do wonder how clarity can be a moment of generosity as much as a moment of claiming. That is, a statement demarcates a site, claims it as existing in a certain way (here, haunted by Ahmed’s reading of the table and objects, bodies take form around). But could a statement also hold a space; open it up? A poetic ability to then unfold differently or become multivocal. I am reminded of plays, in which characters are brought into being anew through different bodies, different intentions, staging something in a repetition that shifts. I referred to Erin Manning and the minor gesture in an earlier blog: there’s an affinity here.

Rhythms, bodies dancing, the quiet of some forms of embodying worlds otherwise.

There’s a question here, one that keeps re-emerging both in my research and in discussions with my peers, around visibility. If I’m interested in the para-institutional, so that which resists, exists alongside or despite the “institution”, then what kind of visibility or scale distinguishes them from other projects? Not only is the term ‘institution’ unsettled or not necessarily tied to identifiers such as buildings or funding – one might think here of how art collectives can become institutions by way of their cementing into certain modes of working that exclude or uphold hierarchies (and anyway, is an institution defined by its social recognition or its structure of [internal] power?) – but the ‘para-’ bears a question of proximity too. How ‘para-’ is too institutional? How institutional does a project need to be to become ‘un-para/d’? The visible, or that which is loud, present, defined as opposed to the subtle, the unscripted, the changing, is a tension.

Earlier this year I thought about dancing in the question. I’m there still-again. What different choreopolitics of movement become possible over time?

Works and events referenced (offhand and otherwise, in order of almost appearance):

  • How to walk on water: Dancing the Gerridae (workshop with Juliette Pénélope Pépin, as part of Hydrographism at Brighton CCA, 5.11.21-20.11.21)
  • Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006)
  • Denise Ferreira de Silva & Rizvana Bradley, ‘Four Theses on Aesthetics’ (e-Flux #120, September 2021)
  • A mixtape by Lael Neale for Mailtape
  • At the Freelands Foundation on December 7th, an event called ARTISTEACHER Crit led by Harold Offeh (go if you can!)
  • Kathleen Stewart, ‘Weak Theory in an Unfinished World’ (Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 45, no. 1 (2008): 71–82)
  • Erin Manning, The Minor Gesture (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016)
  • This newsletter of daily poems, which punctuates my inbox with other kinds of words
  • And many conversations besides
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