Introduced through a conversation between artist Lydia Antoniou and curator Nadja Argyropoulou
Nadja Argyropoulou: It feels a bit strange and yet quite right that I address you as an artist in this context. You have been educated as an architect and a curator and have been working in both capacities for a while. Same with William who studied curating and art history – and could not join us today but through the work. Tell us about this unsettling of identities and your cooperation for this wondrous “sporing poem”.
Lydia Antoniou: We met with William in 2018 while we were studying curating at the RCA. Our research coincided within our interest in ways of cruising the curatorial through a queer perception of the urban fabric – in collective forms of organizing and solidarity building, in the examination of processes of decay, fermentation, decomposition as models for curating practices. When you invited us to this project we were quite puzzled as to our role and input – we found ourselves on the other end of the curator-artist exchange and it was awkward.
NA: Artists are more comfortable with this movement it seems. Curators seem to be more acutely aware of this identity shift, less eager to give in to personal display.
LA: I know William has been making stuff during the pandemic quarantine, and I have worked on designing a lot. As we were considering the context of your project, the premises of “entering” and new “ceremonies”, we felt both at distance from the Doors days and yet quite concerned with what their invocation might mean today. We paused at Nikos Velmos and his “Art Asylum” and considered the institutionalization of memory and the workings of memorials. That was not far from our existing preoccupations. We have for example researched grave markings in Victorian cemeteries where women are commemorated as “wife of the above”, where “the above” is always a male. We started exchanging words via Google docs. Roaming verses that, although rooted in our obsession with death and cemeteries, deviated to include queer ecologies, unusual materialities and reconsidered spiritualities. Our poem sprung as something very personal, in a semi-automatic form, like an exquisite corpse that could get up and shake its limbs again and again.
NA: And your “wide-webbed worlds” emerged laterally across distances, and via the net and its wires, as an undercommons of two that is left to go viral. I read: “what is a kingdom if not a suburb” and then “we lace into lichen, we move like lingerie” and then “A we closer to I as in one, a single mass towered high into i.” I find myself being enchanted and then disquieted and perplexed as your confabulation troubles language and yet makes it the prima materia of your theatre of the world, in “double excitement”.
LA: We weaved our words and threw them against each other. We pushed each other’s boundaries. We wrote and then commented on our writing. We started in handwriting where over-writings are obvious and in the end things blended. And we decided that we would create a manual for testing language’s performativity. This is the written text that we placed on pages. We paired it with the audio file so that we can stress the importance of random reading, chance reciting, multiple accessing, no beginning and no ending.
NA: So your ceremonial invocation – William’s deep voice reading that never coincides with the text’s order – is actually a turn to porosity. The intruding image of a glorious spore rain in your video alludes to inhaling and embodying particles, the cosmos, in an unconscious, organic way. Tell us about this osmotic exchange and the way you have mimed it in poetry that we can absorb by listening, reading, seeing, feeling as we please. What is “the ancient we of fungus” and how can we get into “the season for hunting (not gathering) mushrooms”?
LA: All readings are unrehearsed and the one who is doing the reading is also deciding the roaming process within the text. We consciously avoided using additional visuals in this work because we wanted to refuse appropriation beyond the images invoked by language. We did not want to suggest a lack in the life of words, especially within the imperative of our world which is oversaturated by images.
The outcome is mostly the evidence of our undecided take on performative poetry making and sharing. We make this manual in order to question reception, rhythm, attention span in the digital environment; in order to invite others to share our bewilderment. The very fact that the specific form of the iseverybodyin.gr microsite cannot support the interactive reading of our work made us shape it into a video which is just one version of what can be done, one possible simulation. Our hunting, within the confines of the pandemic, placed us more emphatically within the zoom-topia, where everything is accelerated and memory is obliterated: think of the mass burials of Covid19 victims where no grave plaques can be erected and the “collective” acquires a very different, dark aura.
NA: Do you feel like progenies of the “bad Netflix infinity” that you mock? This poem is bursting and blistering with rot and bloom, and technology partakes in both.
LA: In my opinion anyone with an active Netflix subscription is a progeny of this era. It feels almost like a forced spousal relationship, where one is exploring ways of how the other exists in their daily routine. I went through a gradient of engagement, when I used a VPN in order to access Netflix shows that were available in different countries and broaden the bad Netflix infinity, to not accessing my account for months. It feels like an inevitable situation, almost like exhibitions and art projects taking place online. One tries to resist, but after months of confinement with the majority of cultural institutions closed, one realizes the necessity of conversing with the online realm. I remember in May reading Paul B. Preciado on Artforum and passionately agreeing with his suggestion, “Let us turn off our cell phones, let us disconnect from the Internet. Let us stage a big blackout against the satellites observing us, and let us consider the coming revolution together”. Almost a year later of negation and exhaustion from the overproduction of online content, I am trying to find ways of gathering and exchanging through the digital realm that do not perceive it solely as a medium. “Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin” is one I discovered unexpectedly, where I became acquainted with different works and artists from the ACG Art Collection, but also with the other participants in the project. Oscillating between an artistic memorial, a celebration and an online gathering, this project managed to banish, for the first time, the negative connotation that phrases like, “I hope this email finds you well” and “is everybody in”, had for me.
NA: How do you think that this “sporing poem” may have affected your curatorial practice?
LA: I think it has a lot to do with your unexpected invitation and how we entered it. We had to step out of our usual zone of acting, and enter another that was introduced to us more as an event. So we took the chance to enjoy something annoyingly foreign, almost dangerous but fun, festive, seemingly uncomplicated and yet troubling and volatile, capable of generating something like this poetic leap of ours. We still feel both, shy and overjoyed, by our presence here, but this presence has already signaled discoveries and new exchanges, an unpretentious coming together that is fascinating and fulfilling.
“replete is a word a cockroach would not use.”
(title inspired by a poem by CAConrad)
Work by Lydia Antoniou and William Rees
2021, HD video, sound, 17 min
Video: Lydia Antoniou
Reading: William Rees
Work commissioned by curator Nadja Argyropoulou for the project:
“Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin”