RCA, London, 25 May 2018

RCA | ABSURDITY: COLOURING IN THE VOID

ABSURDITY: COLOURING IN THE VOID With Ed Atkins, Katrina Palmer, Sally O’Reilly and Kit Downes and Sarah Jones (Chair). This event has been organised by the SoAH Research Group ABSURDITY led by Chantal Faust, with Brian Dillon, Tim O’Riley, Joanne Tatham, Edward Thomasson, and Milly Thompson. Absurdity: Colouring in the Void will focus on the importance of absurdity today in the work of Ed Atkins, Sally O’Reilly and Katrina Palmer.

When Albert Camus penned his philosophy of the absurd in 1942, he wrote that the role of the artist is to ‘give the void its colours’. This is quite a beautiful notion, but how do we colour-in nothingness, openness, or a vacuum? Is it a question of finding meaning in the meaningless, or in what lies beyond the possibility of total certainty: a question of not explaining and solving, but experiencing and describing? To recognise absurdity is to call present reality into question.Exemplified by the Dadaists, the embodiment of absurdity continues to be called upon by artists and writers as a response to global anxiety and inanity. Absurdity: Colouring in the Void will consider the importance of absurdity – and its relation to humour, repetition, subjectivity, endurance, failure, play, irony and revolt – as a subversive tool, a disarming force, and a form of protest.

Schedule

  • Tue 19 February 2019

    RCA |  Caul (1966) by Mary Glass A lecture by Professor Carol Mavor

    Along with Yvonne Rainer, Anna Halprin and Simone Forti, Mary Glass (b. 1936) is an innovative dancer and choreographer, instrumental to the Bay Area art scene of the 1960s and 70s..She is known for her experimental movements based on sounds and images of the ocean. She often danced nude. Her most famous piece, Caul, grew from a letter that she had sent to her close-friend, lover and confidante (the abstract painter Eliza Vesper, 1926-2014). As Mary wrote:I see you. You as blue nothing: without your long-fingered hands, your full breasts with their rosy areolae, your belly with its soft path of thin hair to your vulva, your legs like limbs of thoughts. You are not in me, but of me. One day in 1966, on an early morning, rosy with the same promise, Eliza filmed Mary dancing Caul: nude, from behind on the beach at Point Lobos.

    I knew the dance (it was first developed on Anna Halprin’s famed outdoor dance deck in Marin County and it has been performed over the years in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York), but I had no idea that the film existed: until I visited Mary in 2018, at her small bungalow in Point Lobos.For fifteen minutes we watched the silent Super 8 film on her clean uneven white walls. While I watched Mary watching herself, dancing for the sea, we become all eyes. Our pupils are open holes. Tunnels. Wells. We have no lenses. There are no barriers to the free flow of sea water into our eye chambers. We exchange fluids with the sea. Just as Mary wrote Eliza., Mary wrote me.

    ‘Mary in my urine, my heat, my madness, my sleep, my sea, my me’ is a dance of words—patter and flying leaps taken from my current book project Like the Sea.

    Carol Mavor is writer who takes creative risks in form (literary and experimental) and political risks in content (sexuality, race in America, child-loving and the maternal). Her Reading Boyishly: Roland Barthes, J. M. Barrie, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Marcel Proust, and D. W. Winnicott was named by Grayson Perry in The Guardian as his 2008 as ‘Book of the Year.’
    Maggie Nelson describes Mavor’s sixth monograph, Aurelia: Art and Literature Through the Eyes and Mouth of the Fairy Tale, as ‘enigmatic, and full of magic as its subjects.’ Currently Mavor is working on a new book, Serendipity: The Alphabetical Afterlife of the Object. She is also working on a trilogy of short books on the art of the 1960s in Northern California: Like a Lake, and Like the Sea and Like a Tree. For all of 2019, Professor Mavor will be the Novo Nordisk Foundation Professor at Copenhagen University.