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Site Spotlight: The Interstitial Arts Foundation

“The IAF was founded by a group of literary, visual, musical, and performance artists for the purpose of developing and promoting interstitial art.

What is interstitial art? It is art made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures. It is art that crosses borders, made by artists who refuse to be constrained by category labels.

Just as how in nature the greatest areas of biodiversity occur in the margins of land between ecosystems, it is our belief that some of the most vital, innovative, and challenging art being created today can be found in the margins between categories, genres, and disciplines. Because such works are hard to classify, they are often misunderstood in a culture that has become overly dependent on branding and selling art by category labels. Border-crossing works of literature, for example, which consciously borrow tropes and themes from both genre and mainstream fiction, are classified as one or the other – and then critiqued according to the terms of that classification rather than on the book’s own terms, often to the detriment of the work in question. This happens in other areas of the arts as well: in visual art forced to declare itself as either “illustration” or “fine art”, for instance, when in truth it falls into the interstices between the two; in music labeled as “country”, “jazz”, or “roots”, when it actually utilizes elements from all those genres; etc.

Though labels make for convenient marketing tools, they misrepresent the work of artists who don’t fall neatly into one category or another. Rigid categorization by critics and educators is an unsatisfactory method for understanding the border-crossing works to be found in all areas of the arts today. As interstitial artists from a variety of disciplines, we are increasing our visibility, claiming a place in a wider artistic and academic community. The mission of the Interstitial Arts Foundation is to give all border-crossing artists and art scholars a forum and a focus for their efforts. Rather than creating a new genre with new borders, we support the free movement of artists across the borders of their choice. We support an ongoing conversation among artists, academics, critics, and the general public in which art can be spoken of as a continuum rather than as a series of hermetically sealed genres. We support the development of a new vocabulary with which to view and critique border-crossing works. And we celebrate the large community of interstitial artists working in North America and around the world.”

- The Interstitial Arts Foundation

Weekend Links, 11/01/15: On free speech

“Why I am not Charlie” by Scott Long.

“I can support your right to publish something, and still condemn what you publish. I can defend what you say, and still say it’s wrong — isn’t that the point of the quote (that wasn’t) from Voltaire? I can hold that governments shouldn’t imprison Holocaust deniers, but that doesn’t oblige me to deny the Holocaust myself.

It’s true, as Salman Rushdie says, that “Nobody has the right to not be offended.” You should not get to invoke the law to censor or shut down speech just because it insults you or strikes at your pet convictions. You certainly don’t get to kill because you heard something you don’t like. Yet, manhandled by these moments of mass outrage, this truism also morphs into a different kind of claim: That nobody has the right to be offended at all.

I am offended when those already oppressed in a society are deliberately insulted. I don’t want to participate. This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do. Yet this means rejecting the only authorized reaction to the atrocity.”

“The Problem With Je Suis Charlie” by Sarah Wanenchak.

“I’m the last person to argue against the ideal of free speech. But here’s the thing: Especially as Americans, in the course of placing huge amounts of value on the right to free speech we (using we because I am and most of the people I know are as well, so it’s most of my social circle) tend to massively oversimplify what that right means and the context within which it exists. Some of us tend to use it as an excuse for utterly terrible behavior and to cry censorship when people call them on it.

And others – many others – throw the ideal of it around without regard for the complications it creates. This is especially true at this moment in history, with a great deal of our discourse bound up in the vaguely libertarian ideals we see – a lot of the time – in chaotic and loosely affiliated groups like Reddit, 4chan, and Anonymous (yes, I know those are not all the same things).

I may not like what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it works fabulously well when it’s put to practice in the context of a society organized around a level playing field, where groups of people aren’t marginalized, oppressed, silenced, and murdered through systems and structures bolstered by culture and discourse, where for many what’s at stake is not I may not like what you have to say but rather What you have to say is part of what is killing me. In other words, it works fabulously well in the context of a society that does not and probably never will exist.”

“The King of Free Speech” by Gavin Robinson.

“That bit was nice and simple, but I can already imagine the whataboutists lining up. ‘Does the harm principle justify telling racist or sexist jokes that don’t threaten a specific individual with harm?’ No it doesn’t. ‘But isn’t it illiberal to take away a comedian’s freedom of speech? Aren’t liberals being woolly-minded and hypocritical when they complain about right-wing jokes?’ Again, no.

I insist that any apparent contradictions or failures of liberal principles are really caused by illiberal social structures that are not as natural or inevitable as they might seem. Racial and gender inequality are not natural. They are arbitrary social structures that privilege some people over others. Women and racial minorities are denied opportunities and access to resources, threatened with violence, and actually subjected to violence. People are really harmed by inequality. This is not liberal, and it has to stop before we can call Britain a liberal country. Racist and sexist language feeds into existing inequality, making it seem normal or inconsequential to privileged people, and threatening disadvantaged people with further harm. It’s really the inequality that is already built into society that makes racist and sexist words harmful, not the words themselves or the intentions or emotions of the people using them. If you want the freedom to tell racist or sexist jokes, you must realise that it’s racial and gender inequality that are taking away your freedom of speech, not liberals or feminists. Anyone who wants complete freedom of speech must first work to get rid of all inequality.”

“Charlie Hebdo: We Must Grieve the Dead Without Misconstruing Racism as Democratic Ideal” by Christen A. Smith.

“Political cartoons are clearly one of our democratic rights. They are, however, also one of the primary media of racism often employed in tense political times. Take for example a cartoon that circulated on a Democratic Party flyer during the 1866 Pennsylvania congressional and gubernatorial campaign in the United States. The 19th century cartoon was used as propaganda against The Freedman’s Bureau, a policy aspect of Reconstruction designed to integrate African Americans into mainstream society after legal abolition.

As social media took up the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, a smaller voice of grief and dissent also emerged: #JeNeSuisPasCharlie – a hashtag that acknowledged the senselessness of the violence involved with the case but also refused to dismiss the history of the magazine’s racism.

Many of Charlie Hebdo’s most controversial cartoons have not only been directed against Muslims. They have also been directed against black people, particularly women, like the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram. We can condemn the violence against Charlie Hebdo without condoning the racism they often reproduce.

Cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall reminds us that images and caricature have a long, intertwined relationship with colonialism, slavery and prejudice across the Atlantic world. All caricature is not created equal. Some of it, when mobilized alongside legacies of race, gender, sexuality, class and yes, even religious discrimination, can reproduce uneven power dynamics that have a negative effects on marginalized people. The racist cartoons of African Americans that circulated widely in the United States in the 19th century were by many accounts a precursor for lynching. See, for example, Marlon Rigg’s documentary Ethnic Notions.”

“Unpopular Opinion: Satire Should Punch Up. Charlie Hebdo Did Not.” by Kitty Stryker.

“Reminder, folks- there is no such thing as “just a joke”. Humour impacts how people treat others, especially marginalized people. From that humour study I feel I quote all the time:

“By making light of the expression of prejudice, disparagement humor communicates a message of tacit approval or tolerance of discrimination against members of the targeted group. Our theory proposes that the recipient must accept the disparagement humor for a shared norm of tolerance of discrimination to actually emerge. Furthermore, our research suggests that people high in prejudice are more likely to accept disparagement humor and thus perceive a norm of tolerance of discrimination in the immediate context. Finally, people high in prejudice are likely to use the activated normative standard as a source of self-regulation, or a guide for interpreting discriminatory events encountered in that context.”

Additionally I’m really struggling with this expectation of freedom of speech not being related to “freedom from the government prosecuting you”. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, after all. And supporting a massively racist magazine’s freedom to incite hatred seems pretty fucked up. You can’t look at the shit Charlie Hebdo printed, making fun of raped girls as welfare check grabbers, or depicting black women as monkeys, and tell me that it’s “just a joke” and they were fucking martyrs of free speech, here. I hate how many people are saying “terrorists can’t kill an idea“- an idea like sexism, racism, rape culture, and xenophobia. Thank goodness those ideas can live on! Phew! Otherwise what’s a journalist to do?!?!?!”

“On Charlie Hebdo: A letter to my British friends” by Olivier Tonneau.

“As a Frenchman and a radical left militant at home and here in UK, I was puzzled and even shocked by these comments and would like, therefore, to give you a clear exposition of what my left-wing French position is on these matters.

Firstly, a few words on Charlie Hebdo, which was often “analyzed” in the British press on the sole basis, apparently, of a few selected cartoons. It might be worth knowing that the main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the shooting was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece). Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire – and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo also continuously denounced the pledge of minorities and campaigned relentlessly for all illegal immigrants to be given permanent right of stay. I hope this helps you understand that if you belong to the radical left, you have lost precious friends and allies.”

“Unmournable Bodies” by Teju Cole.

“Western societies are not, even now, the paradise of skepticism and rationalism that they believe themselves to be. The West is a variegated space, in which both freedom of thought and tightly regulated speech exist, and in which disavowals of deadly violence happen at the same time as clandestine torture. But, at moments when Western societies consider themselves under attack, the discourse is quickly dominated by an ahistorical fantasy of long-suffering serenity and fortitude in the face of provocation. Yet European and American history are so strongly marked by efforts to control speech that the persecution of rebellious thought must be considered among the foundational buttresses of these societies. Witch burnings, heresy trials, and the untiring work of the Inquisition shaped Europe, and these ideas extended into American history as well and took on American modes, from the breaking of slaves to the censuring of critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

“Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War” by Asghar Bukhari.

“Hypocritically even Charlie Hebdo, the magazine at the centre of the controversy, those ‘champions of free speech’, sacked a journalist in 2009 for making anti-Semitic comments but interestingly never took similar action for anti-Islamic comments, articles or cartoons.

The hypocrisy of French commentators took this absurd lie to new heights. The rapper Monsieur R was put on trial for ‘insulting the French state’. Do you remember the Western world’s outrage over that? — me neither. Attack the Prophet of the Muslims, OK — but the French state — NO!

But its not just the French State you cannot criticize, its their Allies! France that bastion of freedom, became the first country in the world to ban marching in support of those being ethnically cleansed in Palestine.”

“Free Speech and the Means of Communication” by Jonas Kyratzes.

“So, in a situation where public discourse takes place in privately-owned spaces, how are the handful of people who ultimately own most of the media any different from a government? Apart from the lack of any kind of system of democratic control or a pretense of accountability, that is.

An old example of this is the Hollywood blacklist, in which people who were suspected of being leftists (or “communist sympathizers”) were prevented from working or receiving credit for their work. This is a classical example of censorship, and yet, according to the XKCD comic, it’s actually not a free speech issue at all, since it was a private initiative and not something forced onto Hollywood by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Yes, all that happened was that some powerful people in Hollywood thought that leftists were assholes, and showed them the door.

A newer example would be anything to do with Wikileaks or the War on Terror. When Twitter “disappears” trending topics about Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange or proof of various government-committed crimes against humanity, is that censorship? Not according to XKCD, because the government isn’t forcing them to do it. It just so happens that the political interests of capital are the same as those of a capitalist government, and so they act to protect each other. Twitter just thinks that dissenters are assholes, and is showing them the door.

But where are the public alternatives to Twitter or Facebook? Sure, you can kick somebody who’s annoying you out of your garden, but what happens when your garden is also the agora? What happens when the location of public discourse is not public?”

“A Rock and a Hard Place” by Delilah Campbell at Trouble and Strife.

“Of course that doesn’t mean that my imaginary Islamist cartoonists, or feminist anti-porn crusaders, are entitled to take up arms and kill people. But it might help to explain where the rage comes from. Nothing is more conducive to rage than being constantly told that you live in an equal, tolerant society, a society in which you suffer no structural oppression, no systematic social disadvantage, no unreasonable constraints on your freedom or irrational prejudice from others, when your entire life experience screams otherwise. And when you know that however reasonably you present your grievances, you will not be listened to by anyone who counts.

Being told we’re not oppressed as women, and being ignored or pilloried when we try to draw attention to injustice, is a common experience for feminists too. It is fortunate for the world that we do generally reject violence as a political strategy, and that we do not belong to the sex which is socialized to see it as a solution to both political and personal problems.

So, although I condemn the actions (and the motives) of the men who killed the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, I refuse to glorify the symbolic violence that may be committed in the name of free expression, or under the illusion that it actually exists.”

“William Shatner, Reddit, And The Complications Of “Free Speech” On The Internet” by Whitney Phillips and Kate Miltner.

“The other thing is that having this stuff out in the open might not entirely be a bad thing, as upsetting as it might be (just stick with me for a second). There are a growing number of people out there who think that we’re in a post-racial, post-gender, post-whatever world, and that racism and sexism aren’t as problematic as they used to be (AHAHAHA, HA HA HA HA). The more that blatantly prejudicial/bigoted/hateful expression is pushed to the margins, the easier it will be for certain people to be like, “What do you mean, racism and sexism are problems? Oh, THOSE crackpots on weird site no one has heard of? Whatever, they’re just a minority. CHECK MAH SOCIAL PROGRESS.” I’d like to point out that you and I wouldn’t be talking about this right now if these comments were being published on I’– we are only talking about it because it’s on Reddit.

As you’ve noted previously, shaming (or in this context, moderating) ignorant people isn’t going to change their fundamental beliefs. They’ll just end up taking their isht elsewhere—and that may clean up the tone/content on Reddit/create a filter bubble for offensive content on major platforms, but it won’t eliminate the underlying problem. It is absolutely essential that we (as a society, as individuals, as academics, as people who publish their opinions on websites) keep talking about this, frequently and publicly. Otherwise, these beliefs (which are not going away anytime soon) will become (further) silently institutionalized, which is arguably more difficult to combat.

Whitney: Yes, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want you to ban the word Christmas from all public-school functions (it’s actually not a bad idea). The problem I’ve always had with that argument—if we start censoring some of the things, what will stop us from censoring ALL of the things??—is that it essentially plays on a person’s fear of being silenced, not their sense of basic human decency. In short: this person is being censored for their beliefs. You don’t want to be censored for YOUR beliefs, do you?? Then you better defend with your life other Redditors’ right (which isn’t actually their right, as they’re posting to a privately owned website) to post incendiary, unnecessary, completely unproductive bile all day, because “free speech.”

In other words, the argument that selective censorship can only lead us down a path to fascism often does little more than to lull everyone else into complicity, and therefore functions as preemptive self-censorship. You are encouraged to hold your tongue when you see something upsetting, because maybe next time you’ll be the one whose speech is under the microscope. This is a problem, because some people need to be told to SHUT UP, particularly when their speech interferes with their audience’s basic human right—what should be a basic human right—not to be constantly inundated with violently racist, sexist, homophobic, pedophilic or otherwise ignorant bullshit every time they go online. On Reddit, there are ways of shutting the most egregious content down; but in order for that to happen, some people (ahem, white dudes) have to be willing to acknowledge that the “free speech” to which they so desperately cling actually costs quite a bit, a point with which Reddit’s managers and investors would also have to make peace. Because banning bigots would mean less traffic, and less traffic would mean less money. And wouldn’t that be a shame. Which is not—I repeat, is not—an argument against offensiveness generally. Nor is it an argument against all forms of dissent or discomfort, both of which can be quite generative. This is an argument against what is already dead cultural weight. Nobody benefits from keeping it around, except maybe the websites themselves. But even then, it’s not so much “benefit” as “profit.””

“‘We vomit’ on Charlie’s sudden friends: staff cartoonist”.

“A prominent Dutch cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo heaped scorn on the French satirical weekly’s “new friends” since the massacre at its Paris offices on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. It really makes me laugh,” Bernard Holtrop, whose pen name is Willem, told the Dutch centre-left daily Volkskrant in an interview published Saturday.

France’s far-right National Front leader “Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place,” said Willem, 73, a longtime Paris resident who also draws for the French leftist daily Liberation.

He added: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.”

Commenting on the global outpouring of support for the weekly, Willem scoffed: “They’ve never seen Charlie Hebdo.”

“A few years ago, thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan to demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo. They didn’t know what it was. Now it’s the opposite, but if people are protesting to defend freedom of speech, naturally that’s a good thing.””

“Ceci N’est Pas Un Blog Post” by Andrew Hickey.

“But you know who’s worst of all? Those fucking holier-than-thou bastards who think they’re so much better than everyone else, pontificating away about everyone else’s reactions from a position of smug assumed moral superiority, being all judgemental and sarcastic about other people, and turning a time of real human grief into an excuse to assert the moral bankruptcy of both their political enemies and their allies in a vain (in both senses of the word) attempt to appear above the fray and to turn a human tragedy into something that can be neatly categorised and doesn’t require a messy emotional reaction. I hate those bastards worst of all…”

Site Spotlight:

“I’m Zara – feminist, bookworm, language geek and traveller, among other things, living in Berlin, Germany. I’ve been working in the field of information accessibility and (open) data use in civil society groups for over five years, from a number of different angles.

I started off at Access Info Europe, in Madrid, Spain, and then moved on to become the first employee at OpenOil, in Berlin, Germany. At OpenOil, I focused on transparency in the extractive industries, which included carrying out research in Libya during the 2011 revolution, and coordinating + contributing to the book How to read and understand an oil contract.

Since early 2013, I’ve been working at the Open Knowledge Foundation, first as the International Community Manager, and since the beginning of 2014, leading work on the theme of ‘open development’, balancing somewhere between the intersection of international development and use of technology and data (ICT4D). I work closely with School of Data, too, which gives me the opportunity to work with information activists from around the world.

I’m a Fellow at the Centre for Internet & Human Rights at European University Viadrina, and I enjoy researching and writing about the themes of accountability, data use in international development, and discrimination. In September 2014, I co-authored a book on the responsible use of data in international development, which you can download here.

In my spare time, I’ve recently started contributing to Hystereo, a radio show talking about feminism + all kinds of topics, which airs every couple of weeks on Berlin Community Radio. I also take (irregular) djembe lessons, dabble in learning to code (like building this website!), and am attempting to read 50 books in 2014, written only by women.

You can find me offline in cafes around Berlin, and online, on twitter @zararah, or via zararah[at]”


Site Spotlight:


2014: By day I foment fotogray at the University of Dayton, Wright State University and Antioch College. Work nights as a baker of bread and muffins and croissants. Don’t sleep. Stay up all hours singing songs with the young August Frederick Townes.

2013: Tanya pregnant – due at the end of the year – and I get a good gig serving as Visiting Assistant Professor and Head of Photography at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Move to the village of Yellow Springs. The young August Frederick Townes born December 1st.

2012: Work, a lot: continue fomenting fotografy at Edison Community College and mentor the seniors at the Art Academy of Cincinnati plus sling the coffee and eggs and wine on the weekends at the cafe. On track to break 16k this year.

2011: Receive an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. Buy an 8×10 view camera. Acquire a therapist: confirmation, affirmation, regulation. Get a job working counter intel at a local cafe. Teach digital fotografy at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Teach even more fotografy at Edison Community College.

2010: I work in my studio. I work in my darkroom. I work on this website. Worried about Bataille. Concerned about form. Obsessed with the grotesque. Fail and make everything as beautiful as it is.

2009: Turned the corner sober, imbibing locally produced whole milk. Made a book. Love and happiness. Migraines. Marriage. Moved to Springfield, Ohio. Living large as an artist or worse. Win a photography prize. New mantra: be kind to yourself.

2008: Divorced. Mostly sober following mantra: don’t drink at home, don’t drink alone. Making photographs.

2007: Get a job pushing book Stacks Office of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. Salary low but full benefits. Move out, living tiny Tokyo sized apartment back quarter of a house with access to basement for darkroom and studio.

2006: Return to America, settling university town Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sadness, acrimony, recriminations.

2004-2005: Step up English hustle fee with suit and new title Consultant of Professional Business Practices and Career Development. Drink with clients, drink with friends, drink alone to accelerate alienation and organ failure. Triumphantly cater new year’s food Osechi Ryori for 15 families.

2003: Criss-cross Tokyo on train and foot hustling English conversation, editing Japanese to English translations and empowering foreigners to shop and cook Japanese homestyle foods. Eat a lot of soba.

2002: Fail to speak Japanese language but manage to decipher cookbooks.

2001: Live for two months in a basement in Portland, Oregon enacting fantasy of being a miserable artist that lives in a basement in Portland, Oregon. Return to Chicago, the so-called “city of broad shoulders.” Work in a large university library as a professional book mover. Relocate 12% of the collection (800,000 volumes) from one place to another place. Develop a mighty grip and powerful forearms. Experience mystical insight into the nature of time. Forget about art, move to Tokyo and refocus on housewifery.

1998-2000: Transplant to Chicago, the so-called “city that works.” Employed swing shift as master photographic printer at a custom photography lab specializing in meeting the evidential and illustrative needs of lawyers, insurance agencies and law enforcement. Make prints from approx. 80,000 unique negatives and drink untold gallons of Busch beer, often on the job, to depress nervous system, suppress nightmares and induce brain death. Begin as an alternative to participation in the unseemly. Get married. Spend weekends pontificating fotografy at city college.

1995-1998: Study and work at a university in Tucson. Meet future wife, begin practice of Japanese homestyle cooking. Hide from sun, emerging only to teach award winning fotografy classes and carouse with the boys. Spend several days with Frederick Sommer. Ask about ethics, time and fotografy – says “that’s neither here nor there.”

1995: Phoenix, Arizona. Hapless immersion in continental philosophy, night watch of elderly uncle.

1991-1994: Went to school in Olympia. Independent study of art with Imogen Cunningham, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Morris Graves, John Cage, Joseph Beuys and Margeurite Duras with the kindly profound facilitation of Craig Carlson. Live in a shotgun shack. Spend financial aid money on wine, drum tobacco, punk rock and fotografy supplies.

1990-1991: Receive college rejection letters; find legs and a mentor, the esteemed artist, photographer and teacher Don Gregorio Antón, at the community college. Drop other classes, spend nearly every day in the darkroom. Constant debate with friend whether art or cooking is the greater service.

1989: Nearly fail vocational photography class due to creative tendency. Meet Lou Reed.

1988: Take career aptitude test, says I’m most suited for “chief dietician.” Disregard result. Become a “theatre person.”

1987: Learn to juggle, win numerous talent shows, skip the circus.

1984-1986: Resettle on other side of Puget Sound in Port Orchard. Just start “failing” after a teacher accuses me of cheating on a drawing. Remember to bring interesting books to read during classes. Obsessed with G.I. Joe action figures; fantasize about owning a miniature posable father. Arrested for shoplifting. Lie and tell other kids at group counseling that I stole Hustler magazines.

1983: Learn to use chopsticks.

1982: Shadow aunt through Seattle as she lives life as a bohemian, artist and model.

1981: Move to a Seattle suburb. Collectively raised by tragic mother, artistic aunt, pragmatic grandmother and MTV.

1980: Get a Big Brother of America, an owner of a janitorial company named Stan. Teaches me to fish.

1978-79: Reading, writing and cable tv. Fall from a height, injure back and proceed through life with a “scholarly hunch.” Spend lonely Lynchian summers with the Little family at a sawmill in Pend Oreille County: man machines, guns, hunting, broken horses and a leather discipline.

1977: Father vanishes from the face of the Earth and Elvis dies. Become man of the house. Begin cooking.

1976: Spend days as a knight slaying the couch and defending a castle built from the dining room table. Somehow realize the anachronism; change career goal to native american. Learn to build a teepee out of branches and a blanket and hunt buffalo. Father changes career to anti-communist mercenary.

1974-1975: Sunday school. Fail to understand key concept of Christianity – why are we happy to kill Jesus? Visit from stuffed Easter bunny, who becomes a trusted confidante throughout childhood.

1973: Nearly lose hearing following a series of excruciating earaches.

1972: Father retires with a standing ovation from the United States Army, transfers us to Spokane, Washington and opens a bookstore.

1971: Born near an army base in Stuttgart, West Germany. Tour Neuschwanstein Castle.”


Weekend Links, 14/12/14: “Worlds which appear”

“What online theatre blogs mean to an acne riddled theatre maker.” by Josh Coates.

“If you’re at the stage where you are still counted as an emerging artist it is fairly exciting to get your first review. It’s also that chance to see if people have ‘got it’. Your parents and friends will laugh at the funny bits and cry at the personal bits but there is always that sense they’re doing it because it’s your hobby. Like the way your mum used to watch you play footie at Moss Bank Park in Bolton now comes to see your shows in the rough parts of Salford. It’s brilliant they can come but they’re not going to write a blog for you, writing objectively about the thing you spent months crying,bleeding pissing out of your system. That’s one reviewers come in handy. They’ll pick apart your baby like a sick cannibal. They may say something you never even imagined about your show. They may just chew away at it’s ribs.

Yeah at times the reviews can be “yeah, the show wasn’t the show I wanted to see. He didn’t do any characters.” or “Josh is a tall man and he speaks in a northern accent.” But sometimes there is the odd one from someone you never knew existed before the review came out. Someone with a shit url like but they hit the nail on the head. It may be a negative write up or a glowing review but when reading it it validates all the worry you had In the back of your head that as an emerging artist you struggled to answer. When you’ve not got a huge institution behind you, you’ve had to put a deposit down on the venue and you’re on stage by yourself for an hour, it’s nice to have someone to make the effort to truly critique what you’ve done. It makes it feel like what you doing is worth it’s while. It’s not just a hobby to pass over the time between graduating and getting a real human job. It’s your job.

Tim Walker would never come to see any of my shows. I don’t want him to either. The Telegraph of The Times will probably never review my show. I’m fine with that. I don’t like star ratings and I’ll never perform on a west end stage so I don’t need them to sell tickets. I like playing rooms above pubs and other odd little places. I want people to come in and see my show to have discussions with each other over a pint after. If they carry that on and write a blog about it then excellent and I’ll be incredibly thankful. Even if the review is just “Josh scratched his bollocks an extraordinarily amount during his performance “ It’s still something I think is valid.

Online theatre criticism is the conversation after the show. It’s uncensored and it’s exciting. It’s not there to sell the show it’s reviewing. It’s there to be that dialogue between audience and performer.”

“Pay-what-you-decide theatre: a risk that’s worth taking” by Lyn Gardner.

“Hannah Nicklin ran a free performance night above a pub in Leicester for some time; Forest Fringe has always operated on a pass-a-bucket-around basis. Sometimes, different models can lead to different relationships between performers, audiences and venues that are built on something other than a monetary exchange for a commodity.

What’s also different about what’s happening at ARC is the fact that it’s taking place over such a sustained period and over such a substantial part of the programme (comedy is exempt from the offer), which in itself allows the possibility of really examining how far it is that price is a barrier to attendance and how much it is other issues.

One of the interesting things around research on the A Night Less Ordinary scheme, which offered theatre tickets to young people was the fact was when price was no longer a barrier, then other barriers – uncertainties about how to behave, what to wear, even approaching the box office – were indirectly reduced too. The whole idea of going to the theatre became less of a risk.

What will happen at ARC between January and June is that audiences will be able to book a ticket in advance if they want, but there will be no obligation to pay anything in advance. Instead you pay at the end, and only you, not the venue, will decide how much it’s worth. If you don’t want to pay anything, that’s fine – you’ll be able to slip away into the night and nobody will know. The sense of obligation is entirely removed.

Turpin suggests that while it will, she hopes, encourage those to come to the theatre who might not otherwise be able to afford such a night out, the initiative is less about simply removing the financial barrier than removing the financial risk, which are two quite different things. After all, if people know that they want to see something, they will often find the money. It’s when they are uncertain about a show that they are less willing to take a risk, and what ARC is doing should help encourage that risk-taking.”

“Janet Suzman says black people aren’t interested in theatre. How ridiculous” by Bonnie Greer.

“I hope that Suzman recants what she has said, and takes time out to do what most theatre-makers do when a production is failing to find an audience: check your repertoire. Maybe what you’re offering is simply not what the people want.

Theatre does not have one simple definition, of course. People of African and Asian descent have been making it for thousands of years, in open spaces, in temples and on the road.

My direct ancestors – African American slaves and freedmen and women – made theatre in the European tradition, from early on. For example, the African Grove Theatre, founded by William Henry Brown and James Hewlett, travelled throughout the Caribbean, performing Shakespeare to enslaved people working the tobacco plantations and the murderous sugar cane fields.

The first play written by an African American – The Drama of A Stowaway –was presented by them, in 1823. It was a success, playing to black and white audiences alike, but mostly black. My instinct is that the play spoke to something the audience knew, in the language they knew, and allowed them to find a human space within their tragic experience.

The African Grove’s base in New York City was subject to police raids, harassment and white opposition. The company moved to the Lower East Side, within the black community, but harassment forced them to close.

I find this story particularly moving because it reflects what happens to the work of Asian, black, Chinese and First Nations theatre in the west. It is the first to be cut when times are hard; the first to not appear in the canon; the first not to be reviewed when space is limited. In some ways it is boring to recount these travails over and over, but they don’t go away. They are always there.”

“In Battalions: an update” by Fin Kennedy.

“The third and final idea was more labour intensive, but built on the useful steer that In Battalions’ power is as a ‘factory’ generating hardcore statistics on the effects of very recent cuts, which we are all arguing about but which no-one is actually studying. Why not try to raise some money for another report? This would mostly be to pay Helen (and perhaps a small team of assistants) a decent fee to continue the research. Helen has been hugely generous in working pro bono up to now, but she is finishing her PhD soon and will be in need of an income. Moreover, these issues are not going away. More cuts are undoubtedly coming. Other, bigger campaigns such as What Next? are better placed to lobby ideologically to try to prevent or mitigate those cuts. But In Battalions’ most useful role is to chart their effects, impartially, dispassionately and using standardised research methods which it is difficult to dismiss. We can continue to be the ammunition factory of the British theatre industry.

We spent a while debating how best to go about raising the money for this. Between us, the people in the room had links to Equity, the Writers’ Guild and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We also discussed crowdfunding, which we may yet do. However, Helen made the important point that for further research to be taken seriously, the funding needs to also be seen as impartial (which may rule out Equity and the Guild). Discussions continue around this and I’ll post an update as and when – and if anyone has a brainwave about appropriate funding sources, do get in touch. Helen is in the process of costing up what would be a realistic figure, but as a rough guide we all felt in the region of £20,000 was what we were aiming for. Ambitious but by no means impossible.

Finally we spent a while discussing what the focus of a new tranche of research ought to be. Several felt that a simple re-run of the original research would suffice – charting the latest effects of the cuts two years on, though probably taking in a larger number of theatre companies, who would probably take part given the increased profile we now enjoy since undertaking the first report.

However, others felt that a new angle to the research might be more beneficial, partly for publicity purposes (journalists would be most interested in a new research question) and partly to deepen and complement the previous research. We may undertake a brief consultation with the sector on this, to see if there is an angle which would be most useful (if you have a suggestion, let us know) but one question which seemed to interest all of us was around the effects of the cuts on access and diversity: ‘Whose voices are being heard – whose stories are being told?’ While new plays and playwrights are undoubtedly endangered, they probably aren’t about to disappear altogether just yet. However what will happen long before then is that those plays and playwrights become drawn from a narrower and narrower pool of people – those who can afford to take part in an art form which is increasingly becoming economically unviable. This has huge implications for the worlds which appear on our stages.”

“Not Okay” by Alison Atkin.

“Because it’s obvious to almost everyone who has looked at this advert, that this is a skilled job. A job that you must apply for, with a CV and covering letter answering two questions, which would demonstrate a certain level of pre-existing knowledge of digital resources in a heritage environment. A job for that only pays £101.01/ week. That’s £5252.52/ year.

A year, after which, there is no indication of whether there may be a permanent job within the Museum Trust if you have done well within this ‘apprenticeship’. I’d say likely not, since the job description says this is a ‘temporary’ post. 12 months, just enough time to produce those high quality digital resources and be out the door.

The heritage industry has a problem. Job adverts like this one, which are clearly for a job, but pay at the rate of something that is not a job, well they are a HUGE part of this problem. However, I don’t want you to think that York Museum Trust is alone in this, because they’re not. There are countless organisations and institutions out there that are relying on volunteers and under-paid ‘apprentices’ to complete skilled work.

And people will continue to apply for them – school leavers, unemployed graduates, redundant museum professionals – because they’re desperate to be a part of the heritage industry. They think, if they just get more experience then they’ll be able to get a job. Except they won’t, because there aren’t any jobs, only apprenticeships and volunteer positions.”

“The Photo” by Andie Berryman.

“Four hours earlier an email came through, it said it couldn’t process payment for a book I’d ordered (ironically the first book I’ve been published in) I was confused, looked at my bank statement:

-489.00 x city council rent

What?! So I got on the phone to the rent team, it turns out they thought I was working for a company who I went for a job interview with a year ago, a company that operates on zero contract hours, a company that has not offered me any work. The man on the phone told me I’d been ‘unlucky’ that it would be sorted out but not (nor a refund) until January. Useful, given its two weeks to Christmas. I rang the bank to try and freeze overdraft charges on my account, they can’t until I demand a refund and they ‘may’ do that out of a gesture of ‘goodwill’ explained the person on minimum wage that works there, (they aren’t paid to give a fuck, so don’t get mad at them).

Three weeks ago I kissed a dying man’s bald head and listened while my friend say she was relived that she got cancer, because that meant the endless drudgery and pressure of looking for work (she’s well qualified but older) was paused for a month. That’s what the system does to us little people, makes us glad for adversity in the blur of everyday menial fog.”