ESR 9 Blog March/April 2023: Sophie Mak-Schram

ESR 9: blog March/April 2023


Spring arrives. I finally begin to write, in dense spurts like the emerging sprouts, suddenly finding thoughts made legible on (digital) paper. The world continues to be catastrophic, painful, surreal, but also hopeful, changeable, and mobilised. I spend an early evening at MayDay Rooms as they head out, archival matter in hand, to join the teachers’ protests happening that day. I don’t join them or any of the many other protests or marches these past months. Instead, I find myself struggling through the entangled foliage of texts I’m now trying to weave into my writing.

Before, between and as a perpetual horizon to this writing are workshops. My PhD outline is a curriculum because I could only coax myself into writing by envisioning the text as something to convene people with. Similarly, I find myself needing these indirect spaces of expanded conversation that the workshops and conferences I participated in create.

Image 1: Participants of A Field of Where, What, When during a workshop led by Die Blaue Blume e.V. on March 8, 2023, in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Photograph by Iswanto Hartono (ruangrupa).

In one, the arrival of evening lends itself to an intimacy as we gather around a tarpaulin we are tasked to repair.[1] In another, the clarity of a participant’s response to a decolonial text seeds in me a curiosity about styles of teaching that can more gently hold divergent affective responses.[2] And most recently, as my shins got wet with the sideways falling rain, a process of slow informality creates space for generative and still academic reflection.[3]

In varying constellations of we, we learn to dance as the sun casts through large glass walls.[4] We map the ebbs and flows of our own activism, amidst the lingering aftersmell of bars in which smoking is still allowed inside.[5] We talk about how we feel about turbid waters and bury time under pebbles.[6] We try to think about how to get unstuck together; a hard but ongoing, multiplying question.[7]

Image 2: Participants of A Field of Where, What, When during a workshop led by South Iceland Biennale on March 9, 2023, in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Photograph by me.

Claude asks:

“In relation to what infrastructure of instruction does the abstract finality of my work become open to the indeterminacy of living?”[8]

As the sun begins to linger longer, I continue to look for these openings: ways to come together,[9] remain indeterminate,[10] and speak in polyphony across time, space, forms and fields. A search for shapes and an effort to put this thinking into words.


[1] Die Blaue Blume e.V. lead the participants of A Field of Where, What, When – a conference I co-convened with Marteinn Sindri Jónsson and Julius Thinnes on March 8 and 9 this year – through a session in which we repair a sheet of waterproofing with tape for one of their wagons.

[2] I am grateful to Sophia Liu for the strength of her ongoing sensitivity to questions of inclusion and diversity, which I re-experienced during the two-day workshop, New approaches in cultural practices, institutions and policies for an equality-conscious diversity framework, organised by Meike Lettau and Özlem Canyürek on March 4-8, during which Marteinn and I co-led a workshop with Ernesto Oroza about factography as a means of organising community information.

[3] As part of Advanced Training in Co-Creating Avenues for Culture and Sustainable Development, led by Meike Lettau, Marteinn and I led a workshop on practices of lived cultural interventions in land use, in collaboration with Die Blaue Blume e.V. on April 28.

[4] This was during the Performative intervention on ‘Cultural expressions, African cosmologies & the role of politics’ workshop as part of the Advanced Training conference on April 27.

[5] With gratitude to Zeyno Pekünlü and her session, Beyond Visibility, which opened up this space during the spring FEINART workshop at Make-Up e.V. in Berlin on March 21.

[6] These moments arose during workshops led by Louise Hobson (SWAY) and Unnar Örn Auðarson (South Iceland Biennale) as part of A Field of Where, What, When (March 8-9).

[7] A phrase and question that belongs to Jeanne van Heeswijk, which re-arose during a workshop by Sabeth Buchmann on rehearsals on April 24 and a lecture by Frans Willem Korsten on art as an interface between law and justice on April 28, and in the week between the two.

[8] This formed the opening framing of Claude Nassar and my final internal FEINART colloquium, an annual presentation and conversation about our research for the FEINART network. During this one on March 31, we hosted a reading group around Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s most recent book, All Incomplete (2021).

[9] Perhaps always otherwise, as Maria Hlavajova would have it.

[10] An insistence shared by Moten and Harney, as well as – in slightly different phrasing – Sandra Ruiz and Hypatia Vourloumis, amongst others.

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