Thursday, 14 May 2009


FREE PRESS is collaborative project between seven artists/writers exploring economies of ideas and alternative modes of dissemination and exchange. The Free Press writers participated in a three day closed workshop in March 2009 at Plan 9 in Bristol, and decided the form and content of Free Press, as well as its distribution and publication. As a result of the workshop, each artist/writer produced a case study detailing how they would like to collaborate with a reader (below). The seven Free Press groups will develop work together over the coming months...


Readers wanted to explore the possibilities of the essay form. What forms can the essay take and how can such texts be read? What is an essay and who is essaying and where? What kinds of knowledge can be produced? What is lost and gained in moving beyond conventional discursive approaches into using visual and textual material, the space of the page, variations of typography and design?


You are invited to take part in the The One-to-One Correspondence Course. On the course you will be sent letters, one per day, for 12 days; the letters are in sequence; each letter contains an image or word; the sequence forms a rebus; the rebus takes the form of a question. You are tasked with answering.


This case study examines the role that documents play in the production and reception of “meaning”, specifically in the context of contemporary art, performing conspirational scenarios within the structures of professionalism in the creative industries. The study will culminate in a collaboratively-developed archive of documents, distributed and circulated through Free Press, which employ the methodology of “action scripting” as a form of “stage directions” for potential public readings. I am seeking collaborators to reflect on the reversal of the relationship between script and action, between “original” and “copy”, as well as on the nature of documents, asking “what events do documents trace?” and “what events do documents produce?”. “Action Script” is the programming language of vector-graphic softwares like Flash. Like other programming languages it textually defines the parameters for “complex action”. It utilizes one-directional commands where the script defines the action. What if this one-directionality could be reversed – i.e. if the action could also define the script? You go to the grocery store and receive a receipt itemizing your purchases. You apply for a job and send along a CV that presents your accomplishments. You are researching and find a transcription of an interview. In all three cases, documents are acting as traces of specific actions/interactions. All these documents are scripts, offering the performative parameters to restage the action that originally produced the text. Similar to the Borges story, “The Garden of Forking Paths”, a narrative exists within multiple worlds, each moment of its imaginary course through time leading to forks in the road in which new “actions” can be staged, leading to new “scripts”: “Almost instantly I saw it – the garden of forking paths was the chaotic novel; the phrase ‘several futures (not all)’ suggested to me the image of a forking in time, rather than in space. A rereading of the book confirmed my theory. In all fictions, each time a man meets diverse alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the work of the virtually impossible to detangle T’sui Pen, the character chooses - simultaneously – all of them.”


In a free press, readers do not simply buy and so receive pre-fabricated, finished products, writing or meaning. Rather, the reader physically scripts her own meaning, her own writing in and by the act of reading; understanding and improvising upon pre-authored products. As a Free Press project, Till Poems reads between the lines of reading: it is reading as understanding, interpreting a language and its signs. It is reading as a productive act, an act in which one can infer, substitute or replace meaning in systems. The project challenges you to do a big shop in your local supermarket or store. By placing your shopping onto the conveyor belt in a specific way, you will make sure the receipt spells out words of your own making. Reading the receipt down instead of across, your choreographed shopping will say something more than the items ever intended. In that moment of improvisation and exchange, your act of shopping becomes porous: a space you the consumer can inhabit, manipulate and occupy. It is a space where the consumer is equally productive as the producer, the reader equally productive as the writer.


I offer the reader an exercise in truth and deception. I offer you the opportunity for artful manipulation and skillful honesty. I offer you an excuse. You offer me a reason. The writer will send the reader a set of excuses. The reader will respond with a set of reasons. The two narratives will be fused, manipulated and altered by the both the reader and the writer. Decisions will be made, actions will be taken, conclusions will be drawn, consequences will occur, stories will be changed..


Reader/s wanted to collaborate on a project that will explore the subject of collecting - from collections of artists working with an ‘archival impulse’ to personal collections of ephemera. A postal correspondence will take place starting with an inventory of the collections held by the writer - the reader will respond similarly and the correspondence shall build into a collection of collections, taking inspiration from Aby Warburgs’ Mnemosyne Atlas, drawing on and connecting all the interests of the Writer and the Reader. This project will conclude with a publication documenting this exchange and the eventual outcome.


I’m interested in the notion of agency, how our acts have repercussions or influences; a chain of knock on effects. What is the agency of the reader? How much are they in control of how they read and how much are they under the subliminal influence of the author. Take C S Lewis, whose ideal reader would perhaps be both a child who would take on the fantasy and adventures of Narnia and carry it on in their own games and playtime, and on the other hand a well behaved Christian who would take on the moral meta-narrative. Here we have two forms of authorial intervention. Could we compare these to non-instrumental (e.g. psychogeographical) and instrumental (e.g. propagandist) intervention? In Thomas Pynchon’s ‘The Crying of Lot 49’, the unsuspecting anti-heroine Oedipa Maas comes across a series of clues and cryptic messages that lead her to uncover a secret postal service, an underground system, that functions not for overtly political aims but for society’s outcasts, conspiracy theorists and fugitives. These clues lead to her travelling across country on a bus trailing a secret postman. This underground system is a free press, a means of distribution and dispersion that relies on community, secrecy, romance and a high level of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. Exploring agency and intervention I will set up a meta-narrative that to be read requires the active engagement of a number of readers. Some who are ‘secret agents’ following my agenda and helping to install the clues, others who are ‘double agents’ adding their own twist to the work that I have to uncover and some who are genuine readers, detectives out to follow the clues and find the route to the exhibition/art work

Trade Union is a project initiated to explore ideas around late capitalism - in particular the economies of contemporary art and the possibilities that could arise from the current geopolitical climate.

Free Press Writers

Rachel Lois Clapham is a writer and curator. Her curatorial practice centres on live and participatory art that explore alternate models of criticality and artistic responsibility. Recent projects include Nahnou-Together Now, an exhibition of socially engaged art at Tate Britain. She is Co-Director of the critical writing initiative Open Dialogues and writes a regular column for Dance Theatre Journal entitled 'Inside Performance'.

Ashkan Sepahvand is a writer, translator and curator based in Berlin. His practice includes curating/performing texts/documents, writing/fictionalizing history/identity, marginal social/religious/cultural formations in the Middle East and art market/institutional analysis. He is currently working with the open art network Reloading Images. He has written for various publications including Bidoun, Muhtelif: Magazine for Contemporary Art Istanbul, and RES:World Art/Art World. He is working on his first novel - 'To Whom Life', set to be published in May 2009 by Book Works as part of their Semina series, edited by Stewart Home.

David Berridge is a writer, with a background in Human Ecology. He writes and edits the blogzine 'More Milk Yvette: A Journal of the Broken Screen' focussing on artists films and videos. He is currently curating a conference/screening programme on contemporary relationships to Warhol's film work.

Pippa Koszerek creates organisations as artworks/curatorial projects such as the Independent Art School (1999-) and The Unasked-for Public Art Agency (2006 -). These often have activist or critical origins and often seek out alternative models of practice. She is interested in blurring the boundaries between art and non-art environments and borrows materials or ways of working from other vocations. The Unasked-for Public Art Agency delivers an unasked-for consultancy package to a host organisation within which Pippa has nominated herself as ‘artist in residence.

Matthew MacKisack is an artist and writer. His practice currently consists of video and drawing. He is currently undertaking a PhD at Goldsmiths, looking at models of ideological and experiential contestation.

Sophie Mellor an artist/curator based in Bristol, UK. She is also co-founder and co-director of Plan 9, an artist-led visual arts organisation established in 2005. Her practice focuses on creating discussion through action and provocation, setting up systems and constructs that examine preconceived notions of self and society. Current projects include Girl Gang, which sanctions the exploration of different modes of behaviour via a slight change in individual perception. With Karen Di Franco, she has initiated Trade Union and the associated Free Press, which sets out to explore the current econmonic and environmental reality, seeking to effect change through collaborative working; the free flow of ideas; testing out possibilities; taking action to find workable alternatives to present conditions; and centralising the process within the everyday of the participants.

Karen Di Franco is an artist and archivist based in Bristol, UK. Co-Director of Plan 9 since 2007 her practice is divided between explorations of an artistic economy with projects such as Trade Union, initiated with Sophie Mellor as a strategy to combine their artistic practice with their roles as directors of Plan 9, and a studio based practice that explores narrative and archival research.

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