Free Association is a 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

7
6

Past

5
4
3
2
1
An image of the moon connected to a telephone with a pink background

Family, ancestry, sexuality and class origins are complex inheritances we didn’t ask for. How might we reappropriate the concept of destiny to land fully in our bodies and selves, as creatures of stardust thrown into consciousness and time?

 

Under Queer Stars introduces Angelita Biscotti’s queer anti-capitalist engagement with birth chart astrology, embracing humour and hope to consider how we might speak to ourselves about ourselves with compassion and curiosity.

This workshop will consider the counselling, research, and teaching praxis of queer BIPOC healers in the Pluto in Scorpio and Sagittarius generations, alongside theory and method inspired by Hellenistic and psychological astrology. Participants will study astrology of love, sex, and queer relating as well as astrology of family and ancestry. We will read and discuss emerging classics, such as the work of Alice Sparkly Kat,Tabitha Prado-Richardson and others, as we work through the natal promise of our birth charts.

Participants are invited to use their findings as prompts for poetry, prose or visual art in response to their charts, to be considered for publication on Free Association’s website. These creations will also be developed for Rogue Planet, a night of readings and performance under the stars, forthcoming in summer 2021.

Supported by Siteworks and Moreland City Council Making Space Program.

Working on unceded Boon Wurrung Country, Angelita Biscotti is a non-binary feminine astrologer, writer, artist and teacher of Spanish-Filipinx descent. Her client practice and astrological writing is inspired by Hellenistic, psychological, and evolutionary astrology approaches. She has been published in Overland, Cordite Poetry Review, Archer, Djed Press, Peril, ABC Life, The Lifted Brow, Critical Military Studies, and elsewhere. Her previous teaching experience includes an erotic poetry workshop at Writers Victoria in 2021 and sessional academic teaching at La Trobe University and the Ateneo de Manila University. She is the current recipient of a scholarship and mentorship with the international Association for Astrological Networking (AFAN). Her chart is dominated by the fire sign Leo, ruled by an 8th house Earth sun.

The themes of her work are unconventional intimacies, anti-racist beauty ideals, and queer hope. She is most accessible through her website and Instagram @angelita.biscotti

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.

In Sickness and in Health

Jordana Bragg

A doctor came to the house on Sunday. “Tonsillitis”, he said definitively, after shining a silver pocket-sized flashlight down my throat, “Penicillin every day, three times a day before every meal. One before bed, for ten days”. The matter of fact nature of doctors has always scared me, so as a general rule I try to avoid them. I guess I’d rather suffer through a painful-unknown, than a definitive diagnosis. But given the circumstances, being irresponsible about a sore throat is not possible.

Now penicillin, and painkillers cloud every word. Slowly, my fingers lift to click the touchpad on my laptop, I flick to scroll down the pdf on screen: the auto-theory body-essay Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (2013) by Paul B. Preciado blurs in front of me. I read that Testo Junkie, first published in Spanish: Testo yonqui / Espasa Calpe (2008), is a written account of Preciado’s unprescribed use of testogel – an anabolic steroid for the treatment of various health problems due to a lack of testosterone in the blood for those assigned male at birth, and to reduce physical and mental dysphoria in transgender, or genderqueer individuals – as a means of undoing, or exploring, capitalistic commodification of the gendered body. Reproductive rights, sex and sexuality are key themes within the text. Testo Junkie gives a political history of reproductive technologies. These include: the oral contraceptive pill, Viagra, drugs used in doping, fluoxetine, estrogen and testosterone, which Preciado connects to his own use of pharmaceuticals, and the pharmacopornographic – a term coined in the essay that outlines the idea that the pharmaceutical, pornographic, and late capitalist systems are integrated processes that regulate and control social and reproductive bodies.1 These systems are framed to operate first on a bodily micro-biological scale, then placed within a global political, social and economic context. Your Death/Video Penetration2, the first chapter, introduces the work as an homage to Preciado’s friend, French writer Guillaume Dustan, who contracted AIDS, and died of an accidental overdose of a medication he was taking.

So, now someone has died in the essay I’m reading. I look away from the screen, scanning the room as it spins: cups half full of water, a vase of flowers, medications, moisturisers, ashtrays, deodorant, clothing. I can see everything, but not the words I am searching for. One word for how I am feeling now: sombre? angry? jaded? On the same day that Preciado hears of the death of his friend, he puts fifty milligrams of Testogel on his skin, so that, in his own words “I can write, fuck, feel a form of pleasure that is post pornographic, add a molecular prosthesis to my low-tech transgender identity composed of dildos, texts, and moving images; I do it to avenge your death”.3

I close my eyes.

Theory swarms in my mind at a feverish pace. My throat constricts. I think about writers and friends of my own, who have had to make grand leaps in their own lives in order to survive. To transcend sickness, dysphoria and pain in the present moment; to find a way through.

To talk, or even think about the future now, is to talk about anxiety, to address failures of the past. The new politics of (dis)embodied life, defined by the visceral, albeit invisible threat of COVID-19 has made operative the core meaning of the word ‘contagious’ upon the body. To be ‘contagious’ as a (dis)embodied experience – isolated. The question I’ve been searching for arrives: what is the difference between naming oneself ‘sick’ in order to get better, and being nominated as ‘sick’ by normative social logic?4

It is important to think about the ways in which society already had moralistic logics of sickness versus immunity well before COVID-19: ie. a means of categorisation that participates in the active and ongoing subjugation of minority groups under late-capitalism.5 I roll over on to my side as sweat soaks through the sheets.

No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004)6 by Lee Edelman takes a pessimistic view of the future. The negativity of his stance is aimed, not at the future itself, but reproductive futurism: the belief that the political itself is motivated by the desire for creating better futures for ‘our children’. Not individual children, but ‘our children’, the patriotic symbolic figure of the child as pure innocence, and in need of protection. Positioned directly in contrast to this innocence and need for protection is the queer life. Under logics of reproductive futurism, and the moralistic logics of sickness versus immunity, the queer life is (still) considered dangerous, amoral, narcissistic, degenerative, antisocial, and future-negating.

‘Cruel Optimisms’ is a term Lauren Berlant coined in 2011 to describe the process in which something you want stops you from being able to flourish in the present moment: this is the future-driven logic driving reproductive futurism and optimism itself, that has prevailed since the 1980s. Optimism as a pervasive attachment to “unachievable fantasies of the good life—upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and durable intimacy—despite mounting evidence that liberal-capitalist societies do not offer these opportunities in reality”7, rather, these are illusory future-driven logics that keep people tied to individualism, and capitalism.

The virus has exposed optimism as much more than just a state of mind, optimism is a business strategy, a fantasy sold by late-capitalism in the face of social, political and financial crisis. Optimism, deployed in this way encourages a never-ending pressure to ‘add up to something’. Optimism requires more than resilience, it requires privilege, in the form of upward class mobility.8

It is my view that the disarray of COVID-19 was in large part caused by late-capitalistic models of optimistic striving. Time that is constructed around productivity: the work day, the work week, the weekend. To disrupt people’s ability to move at all, let alone forward, momentarily negated the future, producing feelings of failure in the individual, and exposing failure on a systematic, global scale. How do we reconcile what it means to have a purpose, or to succeed, when purpose and success are so inextricably linked to material production and consumption?

I reach for my iPhone on the nightstand. My body is alive, my body is reliant on pharmaceutical and scientific assistance, my body is biopolitical, my body is biodegradable, my body is technological. I open Instagram. A random collection of lives collide before my eyes. My mouth tastes metallic. I reach for the longform poetry book Junk by Tommy Pico9.

I’ve become obsessed with junk, all the things in life that have no conceivable, or meaningful future. Junk is a thin turquoise and purple book. On the cover a quote by the author Kaveh Akbar states: “It’s rare to read a book that makes living feel so alive”10, and he isn’t wrong. Junk pulls the world together in a way I haven’t lived, maybe ever, but certainly not since lockdown. I reach for my pen and begin to make lists of theorists I might like to write about.

The list: Testo Junkie, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Cruel Optimisms and Junk. The list. A true testament to the calamity of life, has become my lifeline in lockdown. I have collected here a set of references that stand against unrealistic optimism. Leading me to the conclusion, that in a world that otherwise feels distant, fractured, without structure, and without a future, perhaps, focusing on failure is useful. Rather than turning to blind optimism, addressing failure is the only way forward.

1. Framed to push beyond The History of Sexuality writing by Michael Foucault(1976).
2. Paul B. Preciado. Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. 2013.
3. Paul B. Preciado. Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. 2013 p 11
4. Preciado, Paul B. The Loser Conspiracy. ARTFORUM  https://www.artforum.com/slant/paul-b-preciado-on-life-after-covid-19-82586(accessed September 28, 2020).
5. For a more in-depth historical analysis see: Preciado, Paul B. Learning from the Virus. ARTFORUM https://www.artforum.com/print/202005/paul-b-preciado-82823 (accessed September 28, 2020); Michel Foucault. The Birth of the Clinic an Archaeology of Medical Perception. World of Man. NY, Routledge, 1989; Georges Canguilhem. The Normal and the Pathological. NY, Zone Books, 1989.
6. Lee Edelman. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Series Q. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
7. Lauren Berlant. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press, (abstract) 2011.
8. For more on Cruel Optimisms: approaching queer strategies of resistance to liberal-capitalist societies need for individualism[1] see: Kay Gabriel. Gender as Accumulation Strategy. Invert Journal, 2020; Jack Halberstam. The Queer Art of Failure. Duke University Press. USA, 2011; Michael Snediker. Queer Optimism. Postmodern Culture 16, no. 3, 2006.
9. Tommy Pico. Junk. First U.S. ed. 2018
10. Author of the brilliant book on god, agony, narcotics, alcoholism and love – Kaveh Akbar. Calling A Wolf A Wolf. Alice James Book, 2017.

Jordana Bragg is an Aotearoa born, Naarm (Melbourne) based visual artist and writer, making work informed by critical and queer art theory. Designed to address the inherent violence of gender classification, Bragg’s practice focuses on critiquies of romantic love as a narrative force, or Herero-script in control of public, private, social and political life. Widely exhibited and published, Bragg is the original co-founder of @meanwhile_gallery Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington, NZ), currently studying toward an MFA by research at Monash University, Naarm, (Melbourne).