Free Association is a volunteer-run platform for workshops, public programming and publishing through the expanded fields of fiction, poetry, critical theory, philosophy, art and art criticism.

TEAM

Founder, Programming and Development: Anita Spooner
Producer: Chantelle Mitchell
Media and Communications: Jordana Bragg
Adviser: Josephine Mead
Resident Astrologer and Fantasy Worker: Angelita Biscotti
Designer: Alex Margetic
Web developer: Xavier Connelly

CONTACT

hello@freeassociation.com.au

We acknowledge the custodians of the land on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

subscribe
Sign up for the occasional newsletter

Upcoming

6

Past

5
4
3
2
1
Intrusive thoughts: the internal monologue of a stressed singularity led by Sam Leiblich

Techno-futurists believe “The Singularity”—when human and artificial intelligence combines to form a world-spanning super-intelligence—is the inevitable next step in the evolution of life on Earth; but what happens when the worldwide super-mind starts spiralling? And what if the singularity is already here and it’s literally just obsessing over whether we’ve all bought toilet paper this week?

 

This series of workshops will introduce attendees to the thought of John C. Lilley, Ray Kurzweil, and other outsiders and futurists, whom we will read through the work of Jacques Lacan and Sigmund Freud. After establishing a theoretical grounding we will use state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, and a set of especially adapted writing exercises, to learn to listen—to ourselves and to the algorithm—so that we might predict what comes next. What will it be like when the internet scrolls us? Get ready to see Siri stress the fuck out!

Local and international writing and technology enthusiasts are encouraged to apply.

Application deadline: Midnight, April 9, 2021

Supported by Darebin City Council.

Sam Lieblich is a writer, psychiatrist, and neuroscientist interested in how humans orient themselves in the world, in the poetics of brain-based explanations for human Being, and in our algorithmic selves. He has been published in the Lifted Brow, Overland, Tectonic, the British Journal of Psychiatry, The Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Neurology, No More Poetry, and others. He developed an AI chatbot for the recent ACCAopen exhibition with dancer and choreographer Amrita Hepi. He has also contributed chapters to neuropsychiatry textbooks and teaches at the University of Melbourne.

Think of a mobile: suspended and unsettled, an ending is a beginning. Digital poetry operates like a mobile, a mobile moves like a gif. When we write digital poetry, we are are constructing something that moves across the screen. We want it to loop back over itself, to spin in circles, to end up where it started. Digital poetry is a mobile is a gif.

 

Making Mobiles is a two-hour gif-making workshop that suspends and loops digital poems. The workshop will equip participants with the skills to bridge poetry and the moving image. The first hour will consist of a presentation on digital mediums, design basics, how to make a gif, and implementing poetry into the moving image. The second hour will put the presentation into practice, asking participants to turn a pre-written poem into a looped gif.

We will present these gif poems across a digital exhibition, inviting you into a room full of mobiles.

Poets from any state or territory in Australia are encouraged to apply.

APPLY

Application deadline: Midnight, Sunday August 9, 2020
Supported by the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants.

Lujayn Hourani is a digital writer, editor and arts worker based in Naarm. Their practice focuses heavily on digital literature – writing it, editing it, and talking about it. Their digital writing has appeared in Meanjin, Overland, The Lifted Brow, Voiceworks, Emerging Writers Festival and Going Down Swinging, among others. They are Online Editor at Voiceworks, work at Next Wave and were previous Online Editor at The Lifted Brow.

This workshop will consider the role of critical art writing in the broader political project of imagining the world otherwise. The workshop understands ‘art’ in its most expanded sense, encompassing both cultural texts and the aesthetic dimension of political experience and subjectivity. Taking Ashon Crawley’s phrase ‘otherwise possibilities’ as a departure point, the three sessions will engage in close readings of recent criticism that reads alongside or through a work of art in order to think about how to transform ways of seeing, being, organising, and resisting.

 

The sessions will focus on the how political subjectivity is shaped (by race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, (dis)ability; by access to or distance from networks of care; vulnerability to or protection from the law) and how art is one way of studying the affects and effects associated with becoming a political subject. Close readings will be accompanied by writing exercises that explore different registers and styles and that consider how critical writing can be particularly responsive to the world moment we find ourselves in. The first session will focus on ‘reading’ as an expanded practice that informs writing; the second session will examine ‘writing’ and the process through which an argument emerges through the act of drafting; the final session will look at ‘editing’ and how to edit both one’s own and other people’s writing. Examples of readings include work by Fred Moten, Saidiya Hartman, Evelyn Araluen, Helen Hughes, Andrew Brooks, and Kay Gabriel.

Writers from any state or territory in Australia are encouraged to apply.

APPLY

Application deadline: Midnight, Sunday August 2, 2020.

Supported by the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants.

 

Astrid Lorange is a writer, artist, and editor who lives and works on unceded Wangal land. She lectures in contemporary theory at UNSW Art & Design. She is one-half of the critical art collective Snack Syndicate and a member of the publishing collective Rosa Press. Her research examines reading as a critical generative practice that offers transformative possibilities for (re)thinking everyday life. In her scholarly and creative work, she analyses modern and contemporary literature and art, and the relationship between cultural texts and social and political structures (gender and sexuality; settler-colonialism and the nation-state; legal and economic systems; infrastructure; labour). Recent publications include Labour and Other Poems (Cordite Books, 2020) and Homework (forthcoming from Discipline).

In a time marked by rage and mourning over recent tragic deaths and ongoing police and state violence against Black and Indigenous people both at home and abroad, this is a writing program for Indigenous poets of Naarm to take stock and respond through the activism of poetry. It is a time for the language of immediacy and urgency; a time to ask: If not now – then when? And, if not you – then who?

 

The dawn is at hand – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Three writing workshops will study historical and contemporary examples of poetry of protest and activism ranging from the personal (activism on the home-front, body politics, black bodies, queer bodies and their intersections) to big picture public activism and protest. The curriculum will cover the radical writing of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Lionel Fogarty, Romaine Moreton, Jack Davis as well as contemporary poets Ellen van Neerven, Alison Whittaker, Evelyn Araleun, Samuel Wagan Watson and more. In this violent rupture we will draw connections across space and time through a reckoning of history; and deconstruction of the colonial mythscape of peaceful settlement and the united nation through the dismantling of colonial relics and a harbouring of future refusals and resistance. From the storytellers and song-makers of ancestry to contemporary protest language, we will look at how activist poetry is deeply localised, personal and highly political, at once.

Twelve First Nations writers will be paid $300 fees to develop a piece of poetry for digital publication on BLINDSIDE and Free Association’s websites.

The program:
Three poetry workshops led by Jeanine Leane covering theory, discussion and practical workshopping
A meeting with a Wurundjeri Elder
An online residency with BLINDSIDE from 22 July – 8 August with editorial support from Jeanine Leane
An online presentation of readings and work in development

This program will take place on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We recognise that sovereignty was never ceded – this land is stolen land. We pay respects to Wurundjeri Elders, past, present and emerging, to the Elders from other communities and to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who might encounter or participate in the program.

First Nations writers and artists from any state or territory are encouraged to apply.

Co-presented by Free Association and BLINDSIDE

The annual BLINDSIDE First Nations Project is supported by the Victorian Government through the City of Melbourne through their Triennial Grants Program. This project is proudly supported by Creative Victoria, the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants and Darebin City Council.

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, poet, essayist and academic from southwest New South Wales. Her poetry, short stories and essays have been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, The Journal for the Association European Studies of Australia, Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes, Sydney Review of Books, Best Australian Poems, Overland and the Australian Book Review. Jeanine has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature, poetry, writing otherness and creative non-fiction. Her research interests concern the political nature of literary representation, cultural appropriation of minority voices and stories and writing identity and difference.

Time, After Time: A Reenactment Workshop is a free series of lectures, discussions and practical workshops presented by Camila Galaz. Workshop participants will develop new reperformance works to present as part of Channels Festival, the International Biennial of Video Art. Open to emerging artists, writers and filmmakers, participants will consider how reperformance of historical events and reproductions of archival documents can be used to address ideas of cultural memory, inherited trauma, and the complexities of truth-telling.

 

Exploring the techniques and ethics of moving from the archival to the contemporary, the course will examine the theoretical landscape of historical reperformance, discuss works by video and installation artists such as Renata Poljak, Silvia Kolbowski, Yoshua Okón, and Petrit Halilaj, and develop new reperformance works for public presentation.

Camila Galaz is a visual artist whose practice uses video, drawing, and installation to explore intimate connections to history and resistance. Recent exhibitions include you are the magnet and I am the metal (slowly magnitizdat’, C3 Art Space (2018), Reparar Means to Repair, Blindside (2018); and You Transform Everything into a Boat, Kings Artist Run (2017). In 2018 she presented online projects with Sister Gallery and The Digital Writers’ Festival. She is the recipient of the 2018 MECCA M-Power Scholarship from the National Gallery of Victoria and the 2019-2020 Australia Council EMPAC New York Residency. In 2019 she presented a Writing & Concepts lecture at the NGV entitled Questioning Existence with the Subjunctive (Spanish Demystified). She is also a founding member of the performance art collective The Band Presents (TBP), and co-ran the TBPHQ Art Space in Docklands, Melbourne from 2017-19.

Two headed banner

The Two-Headed Bird: A Surrealist Writing Workshop seeks to unearth the creative potential of the unconscious for the purpose of composition and publication. Presented by Manisha Anjali, the course consists of a series of lectures, discussions and practical exercises on dream work, automatic writing, psychoanalysis and mythology. Students will examine existing surrealist works like William Blake's nightmarish visions, blues folklore, Yoko Ono's instructional pieces, Alejandro Jodorowsky's cinematic lucid dreams and the spiritual revolt of Butoh: a surrealist way to move.

 

Dream control, psychic automatism and cut-up are tools of illumination. By extracting narratives from the unconscious mind, students will not only be able to maintain a continuous state of inspiration but also evade psychological traps that inhibit creativity like writer’s block, self-criticism and creative boundaries established by traditional forms of composition and editing.

Manisha Anjali is a writer and artist. Her practice is rooted in the language of dreams and exile. Manisha is the author of Electric Lotus (Incendium Radical Library Press, 2019). She has been a recipient of BLINDSIDE’s Regional Arts & Research Residency, a Writer-in-Residence at Incendium Radical Library and a Hot Desk Fellow at The Wheeler Centre. Manisha is the producer of Neptune, an archive of dreams, hallucinations and visions.

Upcoming

Past

Presented by Chantelle Mitchell with readings and performance by Amaara Raheem, Eva Birch and Indiah Money, alongside calligraphy and embroidery tutorials by Angie Pai and family.

Breath Poetics introduces projectvisim as a poetics of embodiment - as a tool for writing the body through the materiality of text. Projective poetry traditions emerged from the Black Mountain School, and were inscribed by Charles Olson in his pamphlet ‘Projective Verse’ from 1951. This public program introduces Projective Verse traditions and practices, and explores the significance of text and language as a poetics of breath, as ‘a high-energy construct and an energy discharge’ and in presenting methodologies to consider and untangle the relation of body to language, and the relation of language to the page.

A Year, Reflected

Josephine Mead

The tides move and the planets orbit – this is an ongoing fact, eternal. We are at their mercy, swept up in nature’s verse. Floating on the promise that gravity will move us into tomorrows. For a while we felt safe here, held in the earth’s steady breath. Yet something has shifted. The earth has transitioned into a new cycle, with a new set of dangerous planets. The tides are tainted and we have slipped off axis. We are circling the sun and getting burnt. We have been moving through hazardous elliptical patterns in this new dark orbit. Held within these new planets are acts of racial, sexual, gendered and environmental discrimination and violence. Qualities heightened through Indigenous deaths in custody, ecological devastation and the incarceration of minors. A strange new capitalist sun is held within our midst. Most of the material was pulled toward the centre to form our Sun.[i]It is a product of accumulative action. The world laments as bodies fall, acts of racism surge and our kind pillages natural sites. The quality of the light has changed and we are moving against the tides.

We need to seek new axes immediately. The pandemic is but the tipping point, the outer surface, the region of suffering we have been swiftly edging towards. It is not a coincidence that the outermost region of the sun is called the corona.[ii]The sun is the centre of our solar system and we must look at it directly. Hold a mirror to the world and hold a mirror to ourselves. Face our own implications, micro-aggressions and frustrations. It is the planets of our making that are holding up this burning core. We must collectively seek new course. In order to seek safety, the brave are opting for acts of voice. I propose that poetry has the strength to save us and bring us back into alignment. To move towards an ethical praxis, we must follow the work of the artists and writers:

We need Poetry as Practice, calling resilient, expressive voices to the fore. Allow the voices that are silenced to repeat without retreat. Practice is devotion building power and plight. Emotional acts of making repeat in our ears and eyes – they mark us and change us and we remain in debt to them. Creative practice has the power to reclaim us. It must not only fall on the shoulders of the oppressed and silenced. It is the yellow sunlight sliced into concrete when ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ was painted down Fifth Avenue. It is the collective strength and kindness felt during Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter rally, that DID NOT lead to increased rates of transmission. It is Talia Smith sharing work by artists of colour through her social media: the matrilineal power of Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ Replenishing; the reclamation of portraiture in Kennedi Carter’s ‘Mariana’; the re-calibration of archives – from colonial tools to beacons of sovereignty  in Ali Gumillya Baker’s ‘Sovereign Fleet Red. Smith’s power of curation has heralded social transformation. It is Jazz Money’s deep, yet humble, understandings of the universe in ‘Through the moon’ – another offering from a practice with generous, ongoing poetic turbulence. Voice is stronger when caught within a devotion to making. Beyond our own solar system, we have discovered thousands of other planetary systems. We are soaked in endless creative possibility.

We need Poetry as Connection, enabling the interweaving of souls. It bridges the space between bodies removed from hands and place. We are still swimming in the same tributaries of water  our hearts still carry each other. The Moon’s gravitational pull generates something called the tidal force. The tidal force causes Earth  and its water – to bulge out on the side closest to the Moon and the side farthest from the Moon. These bulges of water are high tides.[iii]We are all moving within the same whirlpool, edging towards the light. Send love and show others a path towards the moon and things will be easier. I am tired and my mask lessens the air I can consume. 

I am missing you. I am an elliptical vision. We are collectively orbiting tides. Waves of you crash up to my shoreline, but don’t meet me fully. I am left with lagging video calls and text messages misinterpreted, news via social media ringing in my mind.[iv]  

I have missed my family. I am still one of the lucky ones my family are safe and well. We are changing. Moving towards new modes of exchange. More grey hairs line my brow and I am grateful. We are stars, moving in the same constellation, without touch. It’s been months since I have held a friend I am lucky I have a lover. There are still many acts of poetic voice bringing us together. It is Amrita Hepi and Sam Lieblich’s ‘Neighbour’ for ACCA, calling for conversation, communion and exchange. It is Amelia Dowling’s ‘Compendium of Hugs  an ode to holding others. It is Awale Ahmed’s call for place through devotion: “Find love and you will find home.” It is Manal Yonus’ reminder of familial connection: “don’t lose touch […] when they say my profile is like my fathers / I say to them that that is my greatest blessing”. It is Kent Morris’ reminder that we are ‘Never Alone’. It is Lisa Sorgini capturing the generosity of lock-down’s maternal offerings. It is the same blood, familial and/or emotional, running through hearts and veins. It is thoughts of one another and acts of compassion gained.

We need Poetry as Body, exemplified by the birthing trees on Djab Wurrung country. They have been standing tall for over 800 years and have been bound for destruction. The trees hold the knowledge of both past and future in their strong prophetic bodies. They speak the lessons of all the mothers who have birthed aside them, their names cast as leaves. When they first came under threat we should have realised that there was more trouble coming. Nothing good can come from silencing maternal lineages: an omen for oncoming suffering. The word “cicatrix” is defined as “the care of a healed wound … the scar of the bark of a tree”.[v]These trees have helped women – they have carried the depths of human pain. Their birthright under threat — Indigenous sovereignty doubted, again and again. The trees know more than we know. Each tree of Djab Wurrung stands tall, her leaves swaying in the wind — she epitomises poetry. The trees are enacting their own form of creative brilliance and capitalist voices are trying to silence them. It is time we listen to the women. Their songs are still ringing sonorous through brave human conduits: It is the protesters blocking their ruin their bodies as forms of poetic resonance and resistance. The weight of this work now needs to be shouldered by white people. It is time to PAY THE RENT!

We need Poetry through Country, permitting the earth to cry and sing, allowing the blood to seep back in. Poetry must be welcomed from the true custodians. We need to prioritise sovereign voices. Our land is currently aching. We have had omens and devastations leading to this fractured point in time. Last year ended with our country aflame; this year began with racial discrimination down Little Bourke Street; Rio Tinto destroyed 46,000 years of sacred Puutu Kunti Kurrama land in the Western Pilbara. The earth is weeping as we circle our molten centre. The sun itself is not a good place for living things, with its hot energetic mix of gases and plasma.[vi]But there is hope for renewal. Artists are reclaiming landscape and place in fast forward motion. It is the bounty of fundraising exhibitions for bushfire relief through artist’s donations. It is Flora Chol’s strength through reclaiming and celebrating Country and skin: “I’m taking this earth, grain for grain. Brown against the brown of my skin and I’m polishing my skin. The blood and wisdom of our ancestors.” [..]  I am the colour of the earth and what a beauty it is to be the colour of the earth.” It is Hayley Millar-Baker’s exploration of the power of self and landscape in the face of attempted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander erasure in ‘A Lucky Survival and Thereafter— respect the resonance  of conversation from the peoples of First Nations.

We need Poetry as Action.
 Worldwide racial discrimination and environmental degradation at the hands of leaders and police has led to death and destruction. We have now reached the centre of this new solar system. It is time for collective action. Standing on a precipice of privilege, your voice is your greatest power. We must question ourselves as much as we lament and extend. This process is being heralded by the courageous. It is Megan Cope allowing the country to sing through ‘Untitled (Death Song)’: listening and reconstituting the sound vibrations of extraction, expropriation and extinction wrought through invasion. It is Laniyuk and AM Kanngieser’s workshop ‘Unwelcomed___’: where non-Indigenous participants are pushed to consider their complicity in the processes of colonisation. It is ‘Constant Ecology: a non-competitive collaboration between four arts organisations — supporting artists through the collective. It is time for the privileged to carry the weights. Poetry as force enables generative action and change.

We need Poetry as Balm, 
in an effort to soothe wounds and pray that they won’t appear again. Creative practice can act as a deep and ongoing catharsis. To write and respond elliptically; to nurture and praise First Nation listening; to bridge misunderstanding with modes of compassion ­ poetry brings connection and redemption. We must share and we must listen. Poetic voice is our healing and salvation. It is the woman making her child laugh while drawing in lockdown. There is a sense in which the right whale knows where he is in the ocean because of how he feels there, whereas a human being is more likely to search out visual cues and landmarks to glean her location[vii]– we need to take lessons in deep emotional listening. It is Dylan Robinson’s ‘Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies through Disclaimer: a reminder to attune our ears to Indigenous stories and ideals. It is Natalia Newling’s dual aural love letter ‘For me, for you. It is Sam Longmore’s SONIC.LAND — a digital celebration of artists working with natural sound. It is Kat Clarke espousing the strength of Indigenous story and acts of listening as healing balm.

To re-language, revoke, re-phrase and re-train to heal wounds through making, again and againTo heal with curious minds and to have open ears. Through creativity we can remain ablaze with sparkling possibility. In this new world order, we are bright planet and new being. We are change through practice, exchange, deep power and affinity.



[i] “Our Sun,” NASA Science, December 19 2019/ September 6 2020.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “What Causes Tides?”, SciJinks, August 31 2020/ September 7 2020.

[iv] Josephine Mead, personal diary entry, 2020.

[v] “Cicatrix”, Google, Accessed 10 September 2020.

[vi] “Our Sun,” NASA Science, December 19 2019/ September 6 2020.

[vii] Jen McWeeny, “Sounding Depth with the North Atlantic Right Whale and Merleau-Ponty: An Exercise in Comparative Phenomenology,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Volume IX, Issue 1/ 2, (2011): 157-158.

Josephine Mead is a visual artist and writer based in Naarm. She works through photography, sculpture, installation and writing to explore personal notions of support. Her recent work has positioned female family members as support-structures, considered the body as a site of discursive practice, explored notions of deep listening, and examined the temporal and sonic nature of writing and photography. She has exhibited widely and has undertaken residency programs in Mexico, Portugal, Turkey and Germany. She is an Artistic Director for BLINDSIDE and a current Room to Create studio artist at Collingwood Yards.