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INTRODUCTION only exacerbated by the growing rift between our internal rhythms and the speed of these low theory is a project that looks at creating digital flows. Living our lives in the virtual and as a way of slowing down-as meditation-and with our memories digitized, our psyches are as foundational to a life centered around care. constantly stretched between a shaky past, To meditate is to think deeply or to focus the present, and an uncertain future. We one’s mind for a period of time, to feel adrift, untethered, and without rudder or contemplate something in silence and in ground. relaxation. Though meditation has been Meditation roots us in our bodies and in the documented since 1500 BCE with the earliest present. Through deep breathing and a records coming from The Vedas (a large body reorienting of the senses inwards, the of ancient Hindu texts), it is only within the practitioner aims to mute the outside. In last decade that this act of mental and doing so their experience of time is emotional clearing has come to popular transformed. In quietening the external and attention. Where it once existed as part of amplifying the natural rhythms of the breath religious or spiritual practices, meditation in and the brain, meditation returns us to the 21st century has come to form one of the ourselves–a genuine act of care. To meditate major components of a healthy lifestyle. The is to make a conscious decision to US Centers for Disease Control and reconfigure time according to a slowness that Prevention reports that since 2012, can only be attributed to the biosphere and meditation has been the fastest-growing our place within it. health trend in America, with the number of I have never had a regular meditation ‘meditators’ tripling over the past decade. practice. Though I’ve had some experience-a What does this tell us? What are the reasons few visits to the London Buddhist Centre, behind this paradigm shift in self care? occasional at-home sessions, and a fruit- The answer for me is time, or more precisely, less interaction with Headspace a few years our experiences of time as impacted by digital ago-I am by no means a regular practitioner. communications and economies. As our lives I have gleaned, however, through my sparse shift further online-with both work and play encounters, meditation’s generative offerings performed through screen devices-we have to slowness. When I have given time over to come to feel more and more dispossessed of meditation, I have received in return time time. The continuous, 24/7 stream of images, transformed. By engaging in this act of words and sounds that we are bombarded slowing down, time unfolds and expands, it with give rise to deep-seated anxiety, which is multiplies, it blossoms. As a result our capacities for attention and care are
replenished. Creating-writing, painting, Finally, in this time of instability I feel it is cooking, carving, molding, cutting and more important than ever to offer help, in pasting-is meditation. This is not a new idea whatever way we can, to those in need. low by any means, but relative to being theory is of course free to view, however I ask dispossessed of time-to our current that if you feel able, to make a donation to condition of anxiety-making and creating is of the registered UK non-profit, Under One Sky. utmost importance. To create is to take time Since 2012 Under One Sky has been into one’s own hands in order to locate the providing London’s homeless community attention necessary to think deeply about an with practical and emotional support. Since object and our relation to it. the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, Borrowed from author and professor Jack which has left many newly homeless and Halberstram (whose idea is built upon the hungry, the organization has been on the work of cultural theorist and political activist streets daily and served over 14,000 meals. Stuart Hall), ‘low theory’ is a mode of thinking Donate through this link, or by scanning the and being that operates from many different QR code on the cover. levels at once. Rather than to focus on I sincerely hope that you will enjoy low theory. heteronormative and neoliberal conceptions x Kate of success, low theory argues that failure to live up to societal standards can open up more creative ways of engaging with the world. Failure therefore as subterranean-as counterintuitive and counter-directional. Failure as resisting the structural temporalities in which our lives have become embedded. Failure not as failure, but as slowness, as meditation, and as creating. Thank you so much to each of low theory’s contributors. It was a delight to watch as your images and words trickled through my inbox, and I found great joy in the process of weaving everything together. low theory is a project that is eclectic and that reflects both the joys and the frustrations we have all experienced in these last months of lockdown.
Thank you to all the contributors Allison E. Smith Ami Evelyn Hughes Anastasia Xirouchakis Annette Avalon Annika Thiems Athena Papadopoulos Chiyan and Michael Ho Curtis Santiago Daniel Taylor Daniel Thomas Williams Eshaan Dhringa Evita Flores Fiontán Moran Gareth Costello Graham Landin Harriet Middleton Baker Issy Wood Jean Feline Joni Zhu Joshua Harskamp Justine Do Espirito Santo Katja Seib Kenny Schachter Lara Scherrieble
Leah Gudmundson Leopold Thun Liam Denhamer Lucy Sparks Maya Beaudry Meara Sharma Merve Işeri Nic Cheveldave Parker Ito Rebecca Sangster Robert Bolton Sarah Lucas Shen Xin Shuang Li Simon Guzylack Sophie Vallance Cantor Uri Aran Victoria Sin Viktor Briestensky Xinyi Cheng Zadie Xa Zhang Ruyi Zoë Marden
PUTTING HEADS TOGETHER, 2020 CARVED ASPEN
K A T J A S E I B MONA LISA’S SMILE, 2020
BANG BANG (HE SHOT ME DOWN), 2020 OIL ON CANVAS
CHEESY CANDLELIGHT London, May 2020 STEP 1 DaveHax’s youtube tutorial “How to Make 5 Tear a strip from the newspaper and roll it into a Emergency Candles - Life Hacks” is slightly gross, thin, tight string. This will be the wick. yet exactly what I was hoping to find when I typed After finishing my psychology degree I had spent the words “cheese wax candle” into my browser. some time working as a research assistant, It was towards the beginning of the lockdown analysing interviews with nurses. One study in when it was still entertaining to learn you could particular comes back to mind these days, which make candles from wax crayons and butter. That looked at the metaphorical vocabulary health you can light up a string plunged into a can of workers used to describe their everyday distress. tuna and still eat the fish after the sunflower oil Who carries the virus now? The burden, the was burned up. But I gravitated most towards the pressure, the weight was already bone-crushing babybel type, cause a cheesy candlelight dinner before this crisis. How to handle the icy party with friends was all I wanted at that point. “closedness” superseding the closeness you’d MATERIALS wish to build with patients, having the time to Cheese wax hold their hands, sit with them. How emotionally Newspaper close can you get whilst protecting your own life? A lighter The saddest paradox being that it’s those who did The nostalgia was real for all of us. My curatorial the most who’ll be haunted by guilt for not doing collective TWTMC started weekly Zoom readings, more. to keep the conversvation going and feel the STEP 2 company of familiar writing: Saidiya Hartman, Flatten the piece of cheese wax and roll it tightly psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, choreographer around the wick Isadora Duncan. The psycho-politics of so much A good-enough nurse, friend, parent, partner. One screen time were brilliantly mapped out in Patri- way out of the emotional lockdown, the cia T. Clough’s Notes on Psychoanalysis and pseudo-protective “closedness”, might be through Technology, the Psyche and the Social, a Winnicott’s idea of the good-enough. Making this reminder that our human brains weren’t the only greasy candle becomes an exercise. Of not ones learning. But, we all agreed, our lives were measuring ourselves according to those becoming virtual in more senses than just online, pre-corona standards of success and increasingly taking place in the form of dreams, achievement. Rather aiming for Franco ‘Bifo’ desires and memories. All harmless. “Nostalgia Berardi’s “new culture of tenderness, solidarity, for another time is one of the least damaging and frugality.” forms of withdrawal from the present”, I learned from the Lana Del Rey Reader Dope and Dia- mond and considered it an eerie hint at Covid- 19’s secondary effects.
STEP 3 Clough, Patricia T., “Notes on Psychoanalysis and A Place the candle on a plate and light it. Technology, N It will take time to rebuild the trust and closeness the Psyche and the Social”, Studies in Gender N that was eaten up by the virus. Our attempts to and Sexuality, 20:2, 75-83, 2019 I reach out to others will be clumsy. Paul Preciado Preciado, Paul B., An Apartment on Uranus. K reminds us: “Because fragility, and not courage, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2020 A is what brings about revolution.” When we hang Vigier, Catherine, “The Meaning of Lana Del Rey T out again, we’ll all look like a bunch of emergen- – Pop culture, post-feminism and the choices H cy candles. A bit wonky, but perfectly lit up. Call it facing young women today.” In Muraben, Billie & I low theory, emergency survival kit. Wilkie, Lillian (Eds.), Dope and Diamonds. A Lana E TWTMC Readings del Rey Reader. London: Chateau Internationale, M Berardi, Franco ‘Bifo’, “Beyond the Breakdown: 2019 S Three Meditations on a Possible Aftermath”, Winnicott, D. W., “Fear of Breakdown”, Interna- e-flux, March 31, 2020. Accessed via https:// tional Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:103, 1974 conversations.e-flux.com/t/beyond-the-break- Wolinska, Kasia & Sandstroem, Frida. “The Fu- down-three-meditations-on-a-possible-after- ture Body at Work”, e-flux journal #99, 2019 math-by-franco-bifo-berardi/9727 Image: DaveHax’s “How to Make 5 Emergency Candles - Life Hacks”, accessed via https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHLmKDqUGUA
J O S H U A H A R S K A M P NIEDERDEUTSCH IM PAZIFIK, 2020 DIGITAL COLLAGE
Dear Kate, S I’m down a A rabbit hole R artwise, as A planned for H some years L now but not U reckoning on C the current A crisis. S This bloke gives the idea. Sarah iMessage 2020-05--08, 11:21 AM
E WORKS V FROM THE I NYMPH SERIES T (PICTURED A IN THE WOODLANDS TEXAS, F WHERE THE L ARTIST IS O CURRENTLY R ISOLATING) E S
ANASTASIA XIROUCHAKIS MOTHER’S DAY CARD, 2020
UNTITLED, 2020 WATERCOLOUR S ON RAG PAPER I M O N G U Z Y L A C K UNTITLED, 2020 WATERCOLOUR ON RAG PAPER
X I N Y I C H E N G THE HORSE WEARING A RED EAR BONNET AND EYE BLINDERS, 2020 OIL ON CANVAS
40 can smoke one cigarette, light another, and prepare canapés simultaneously, that I ‘arrive’ early to the Wood family Zoom and dexterity is not an issue. When the rest of my wind up making small talk with my uncle family joins the grid, the truth comes out - my (don’t mention his suicide attempt and the uncle received his hair cut, deemed it fact he moved back in with his parents don’t unsatisfactory, and took matters into his own mention his suicide attempt and the fact he hands in the basement after dark (“we could moved back in with his parents his suicide hear the buzzing from our bedroom! Now we attempt and the fact he moved back in with have to walk in public with him”) his parents) who looks exactly like my father We aren’t a vain bloodline but we do have hu- but rounder. I say I find our new era depressing bris, we mock aggressively (it’s our love and he says that’s ridiculous, that B&Q has just language) whether you’ve tried to off yourself reopened recently or not. But looking around the He describes flouting all magazines’ warnings computer screen, no Wood has a leg to stand against cutting ones own hair at home because on where hair is concerned this week - his jet black almost-Afro was becoming too everybody sports dark grey frizz and much, that he let my granny and grandpa have gravity-defying tufts and tiny moustaches - and at him with the latter’s beard trimmers after a we tell my uncle that it’ll grow back partly bottle of wine and too much food last night. I because that’s true and partly because we realise when he turns his newly-shorn head to don’t want him to start gambling again the side that he’s been making a point to stare https://queenbaby.org/ at me dead-on this whole time for a reason: the top of my uncle’s head is a normal grade 1, but ISSY WOOD the sides are sporadic patches of barren skull similar to those a surgeon might prep before a craniotomy The back is far worse: a kind of choppy mullet, a whole landscape somehow attacked by small trainee farmers. Parts are gone, others aren’t, seemingly dictated by the folds of his neck. It looks sore, like when a dog scratches itself too hard He blames it on my grandparents and their ageing wrists, knowing full well that my granny
STERLING GARDENS SPRING, 2020 L A R A S C H E R R I E B L E
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AN UNTITLED MONDAY, 2020 INK ON PAPER
G A R E T H C O S T E L L O IN LIGHT OF ISOLATION, 2020 C-PRINT
UNTITLED, 2018 SHUANG LI DIGITAL IMAGE
TEA STRAINER P HOLDING KNIGHT, A 2020 R K E R I T O
A M I E V E L Y N H U G H E S ENGLAND, 2020 MIXED MEDIA COLLAGE
PARIS, 2020 MIXED MEDIA COLLAGE
V I C T O R I Transforming in Relation A Step one S Take notice of your place in your context I Step two N Take notice of your context in yourself Step three Set aside dualism
L I A M D E N H A M E R PSYCHOGRAM: WALL OF LORIC, 2020
J E A N F E L I N E BRICOLAGE, 2020 TYPESET, CARBON TRACE AND PENCIL ON PAPER
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GROUNDHOG DAY Months later, I received a shipment to my rented digs in the city and amongst the Vito Acconcis, My twenty-year-old, Gabriel painted an abstract Paul Theks, Mary Heilmanns, Rachel Harrisons, canvas on which he collaged a square sheet of William Pope. L works (we did two shows in paper two years ago in London. The painting was London) and Joe Bradleys (I curated his first show attractive with blues, mauves, and oranges in 03), was Gabriel’s craggy “outdoor painting” peeking through, reminiscent of Richter, with no caked in mold—packaged as if it were a priceless distinguishing characteristics other than the fact heirloom. That wasn’t supposed to be the case, he left it outside in the garden. After I first saw it, I it was earmarked for indefinite storage in the UK propped it up outside the door to my office located for…ever. The wrapping was more salvageable in the mews of my London home. I than the painting and I left it packed for some regularly passed to and fro and would casually days before it occurred to me to rehang it outside glance at the piece, without much forethought my office on the rooftop of my new house. The (or afterthought, for that matter). I liked the idea, first time it blew down, I was deep asleep in the though, of a painting, normally associated with room beneath, and vaulted out of bed ramrod, living indoors, being left to its own devices startled by the thumping and nearly called the negotiating the vicissitudes of the British weather. police fearing the worst. It is New York after all. Duchamp spoke of the fact that art shouldn’t be Until I realized it was just Gabriel. deemed precious and works in museums should have a shelf-life like yogurt in the grocery store. Gabriel’s art, jammed behind a potted plant, certainly adhered to Marcel’s edict. After 15 years of living in the UK we moved to New York City last year. Being a hoarder by nature, it took a team of 4 art handlers as many months to dig me out of the piles of crap I had accumulated over the years, from old classic art and car mags, to auction catalogues, books and art…lots of art. I thought I stood a good chance of being buried alive under the heap of accumulat- ed detritus. Some stuff was given away—there is actually a website where you list the orphans lying around, from a stray sock to broken household appliances—and surprisingly, scavengers flock from out of the woodwork to readily take it off your hands. A chunk was listed on eBay where you can still find remnants online, other junk stored; and the rest, the art I most wanted to continue living with, was shipped to NY.
My outdoor work, casually installed in the way I K am wont to hang art (lopsided and wonky), E continued to violently fall causing the surface to N erode, the stretcher to warp, while the blustery N NY rains and winds resulted in the painted paper Y affixed to the surface to partially peel off. Rather S than secure the work (I don’t do normal which if C you know me, is all too familiar), its rehanging H became a sort of ritual, as I forged a relationship A to the work like no other, noticing every degree C of wear and tear and making me think of my son H Gabriel who prides himself on being as incensing T as an artwork that needs to be rehung on a E recurring basis like the character in the film R Groundhog Day, stuck in a daily loop of endless repetition. At some point, I began videoing my interaction and posting it on my Instagram story, for which I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my followers. In the end, as the piece continues to get beaten up (resembling my aged, timeworn face), I take solace from the fact that it somehow brings me closer to Gabriel and nearer to appreciating all things art. It also reminds me of Paul Thek, who sculpted meat-like, congealed blobs resting in hermetically sealed minimalist vitrines that for me, stands as the closest depiction of the fine line between life, death, and expressions of human fragility and vulnerability. As especially important today, as ever. When I was 13, I lost my mother to a slow, degenerative form of cancer and another son last year, Kai, who also made art outside, which he called Weather paintings. Every day that I interact with Gabriel’s everchanging art, it gives me pause to appreciate what I loved, still care about and will always cherish.
On a scale of flowers to everything else... Flowers being pilates, everything else is staring at the wall Flowers being doing the dishes, everything else is getting high before noon
PILATES, M 2020 A Y WATER- A COLOUR B ON PAPER E (reverse) A U D R Y HOLE, 2020 WATER- COLOUR ON PAPER
L E O P O L D ESEMPLARE DI EMÚ T As I’m really bad at creating anything I’d like to propose my latest online acquisition as my H Covid-19 “creation”. U N I successfully bid on this taxidermied Emu at a local Italian auction on Wednesday, 6 May 2020. The Emu will be a present for my cousin and his wife who is giving birth in June. I managed to get another 20 friends on board to pitch in €100, so that the price of the Emu, the buy- er’s premium and shipping is covered. I’m sad that I probably won’t be present at the birth of their child, but I believe this Emu will make up for my absence.
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J O N I Z NOODLE FOR ONE H U one of the simplest dishes i’ve been craving a lot during this lockdown is EGG TOMATO NOODLE. i now have to think how not to consume the eggs all too quickly. because i can’t make a trip to the shop just to buy eggs. and noodle became a staple in the cupboard, it’s quick to cook. especially when i now have to make three meals a day. heat up a pot, with some oil, and throw in some ginger, spring onion and garlic. while thats cooking, roughly chop 1 large tomato into small pieces, and add them to the pot. cook until the tomato becomes mushy, then add salt to taste and water to boil. once the water is boiled, you have the soup base. now add in the noodle, whatever noodle you like, and bring that to boil. add some light soya sauce at this stage for some umami taste. when the noodles are 90% cooked, stir in an egg, turn off the heat, and put the lid on. remove the lid after a minute, drizzle some sesame oil, and sprinkle more spring onion on top. serve the noodle with some smashed cucumber salad or pickled radish.
LA ESPERA/VIEW FROM MY SOPHIE VALLANCE CANTOR SICK BED, 2020
SHEN XIN AND UNA NICOLAI (AGES 29 AND 9) CHO CHANG, 2020 OIL ON CANVAS
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yl o w theor UNE 2020 J