Cultural perspectives on flesh from the 1980s to now., 19 November 2016

DRAF Studio | Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Cultural perspectives on flesh from the 1980s to now.

DRAF invites art historians, writers and activists to discuss the changing meaning of flesh from the 1980s to the present day. Their research encompasses the AIDs crisis, emergent technologies and concepts of ‘fluid identity’, and their impacts on flesh as cultural material.

This event coincides with Streams of Warm Impermanence, a group exhibition of contemporary artworks that articulate visions of informed flesh, and historical works that point to key moments of shift in artists’ engagement with the body. As they infect, pollinate or mutate through networks, all bodies have the potential to be “trans-” in its literal meaning: across, through, beyond. This event will be streamed live on this page, in partnership with This is Tomorrow.



Writer Matthew McLean responds to the premise of Streams of Warm Impermanence. Seeking to characterise models of corporeality in the practice of today’s
emerging artists, his talk incorporates perspectives from writers including Mark Greif, Marquand Smith and Paul Preciado.


Writer Tommaso Speretta and art historian and activist Simon Watney give a historical and theoretical overview of the AIDs crisis in the US and UK respectively, and discuss its cultural legacies. They are joined in conversation by writer Olivia Laing, whose forthcoming book Everybody asks “what it means to inhabit a body… that must necessarily age, sicken and die, that is subject to violence, and yet which remains a potent vehicle for both human connection and political liberation”.


Lecturer and Researcher Cadence Kinsey presents ‘Lo Fidelity’, a new paper exploring the exhibition theme of ‘fluid identity’ in terms of a challenge to representation. Focusing on the current wave of interest in the concept of ‘trans’ and its relationship to early debates in the 1990s, she looks at how emergent networked technologies reconfigured models of the subject and presented both new possibilities and new problems for the representation of the body.

The exhibition Streams of Warm Impermanence will be on display 12-6pm.

Dr Cadence Kinsey is a Lecturer in Recent & Contemporary Art at the University of York. Her research focuses on the relationships between art and technology, with a focus on questions of gender, sexuality and subjectivity.

Olivia Laing is a columnist for frieze and writes on art and culture for the Guardian, Observer and New York Times. Her most recent book is The Lonely City (2016, Canongate).

Matthew McLean is a writer and editor based in London. He is a regular contributor to frieze, and in 2016 co-edited the frieze A-Z of Contemporary Art.

Tommaso Speretta is an independent writer, editor and curator who has worked for the Venice Biennale and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway. He is the author of the book REBELS REBEL. AIDS, Art and Activism in New York, 1979–1989 (MER. Paper Kunsthalle, 2014), and his articles and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Domus, Flash Art and 032c. With artist Bjarne Melgaard he co-organised the MA program ‘Beyond Death: Viral Discontents and Contemporary Notion About AIDS’ at the IUAV University in Venice, as well as the exhibition Baton Sinister as part of Norway’s contribution to the 2011 Venice Biennale. He is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of the Arts London, focusing his research on the relationship between AIDS and video art in the 1980s.

Simon Watney is a British writer, art historian, and AIDS activist. He is author of the seminal 1987 article, ‘The Spectacle of AIDS’, and has published books including Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media, 1987 and Imagine Hope: AIDS and the Gay Identity, 2002. He has been actively involved in AIDS education and service provision since the early 1980s, and has written widely about and been closely involved with questions of AIDS and representation in areas ranging from from the mass media to fine art practices.


  • Thu 22 March 2018

    PERFORM NOW!  The Potentials of a Living Archive.

    Organised by

    Block Universe x Goldsmiths, University of London

    To coincide with the launch of the fourth edition of Block Universe, London’s leading International Performance Art Festival; this panel discussion will bring together a number of contributors across disciplines to discuss past and current dynamics of performance art in the UK, and providing a platform to consider the historical significance of the ephemeral nature of performance art, through the lens and personal accounts of artists, critics, curators and academics.

    The participants include the subversive 1980s performance group The Neo Naturists; Ellen Van Schuylenburch, one of the founding members of Michael Clark Company, Jane Pritchard, curator of dance for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Lois Keidan, director of the London-based Live Art Development Agency – LADA, as well as artists Evan Ifekoya & Victoria Sin, who are both contributing to this year’s edition of the Block Universe.

    Together we will explore ideas of an active, living archive, one that takes into account the ability of performance to sustain itself and live on through the body rather than the record, thus re-positioning the body as the centre for knowledge in place of the archive. Can we take the inherent choreographic vocabulary in dance as an example? How can performance as memory exist?

    The talk will be moderated by Louise O’Kelly, founder Block Universe and hosted by Astrid Schmetterling, Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, followed by an informal drinks reception to be held at the Student Union Bar.

  • Sat 24 March 2018

    Rhythms of fire, a collaborative performance by Karolina Lebek and Susannah Stark

    In response to Lebek’s solo project ‘Watra’, running from 22 February – 24th of March at the Storefront, two artists perform new audio visual material, using Lebek’s Lemko heritage as a foundation for exploration of language, trauma, history and the transformative power of the female voice.

  • Thu 5 April 2018

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Work, ‘Fictional Encounters’

    The forthcoming event in the What We Talk About ... series of public discussions will explore the use of language as a medium within contemporary art and curatorial practices. Invited speakers will consider the “liminality” of language, focusing on the potential slide into fiction, misunderstanding and failure that a particular use of language in exhibition making and archival practice can facilitate. Speakers include Director of Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Alistair Robertson, curator and writer George Vasey and Amsterdam based curator, writer and semiotician Sara Giannini.