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.

Multiplicity and the Sun by Angelita Biscotti

“You think your pain and your heartbreak is unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
– James Baldwin (Sun, North Node, Neptune in Leo)

“A lover will cling not only to ‘defects’ in the loved ones. Worn clothes and a wonky gait will bind him far more durably, far more inexorably than any beauty. If the theory is true that feeling does not lodge in the head, that we feel a window, a cloud, a tree not in our brain but in the place where we see them, when we look at the loved one we are likewise outside ourselves. But in this case painfully stretched and tugged. Here, in the shortcoming, in the less-than-perfect, the admirer’s burst of love, swift as an arrow, hits home.”
– Walter Benjamin (Mercury in Leo, Sun in Cancer)

The sun rules Leo, and the sun is in Leo at the time of this writing. Astrology is about the sun, but not in the way the sun is usually considered in astrology, specifically, in the matter of the sun-sign horoscope column whereby the month of one’s birth occurs in a ‘sign’ that that ‘says something’ about a person’s personality, career prospects and romantic possibilities. Astrology is about the sun because everything that happens in Western astrology occurs along the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun around the earth. We know now that the earth travels around the sun, but the ancient communities that first developed astrology could not know this. They would only observe the sun changing position in the sky relative to their own earthly dwelling. The Rising Sign is the sign on the eastern horizon, where the sun rises, the moment one emerges from the mother’s body. The Midheaven marks the highest point in the sky, where the eastern hemisphere meets the west, where the sun was at noon on the day of your birth. The strength of the houses in the horoscope depends on their position relative to the Ascendant, whose light emerges from the point where the sun’s path begins.  The seasons are caused by access to the sun’s light. The sun enables life. The sun enables time. 

In a scathing 78-page critique of the sun-sign newspaper astrology of the 1950’s (that didn’t spare professional astrology trade publications, soap operas, science fiction, popular movies and happy endings), Theodor Adorno accuses astrology of endorsing a limp grip on personal responsibility for the unfolding of one’s life. According to the sun-sign column, personal success and failure are enabled not by one’s will or broader social inequalities, but by the movements of celestial objects that only the astrologer has the authority to translate. Of all the possible messages that could travel to earth from on high, the messages that make their way into the doorsteps of newspaper subscribers are banal, familiar refrains packaged as provocations from planetary gods on high. Popular amongst the 1950’s equivalent of today’s consumers of Broadsheet or Co-Star, astrology, Adorno writes, “does not teach its followers anything to which they are not accustomed to by their daily experience; it only reinforces what they have been taught anyway consciously and unconsciously. The stars seem to be in complete agreement with the established ways of life and with the habits and institutions circumscribed by our age. The adage ‘Be yourself’ assumes an ironical meaning” (Adorno, 1994, p. 36). 

Adorno’s not wrong about some things. 1950’s sun-sign columns were shit. Here is one of many examples he cites:

From Adorno’s The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on Irrational Culture, p. 62

Reading them now is like looking at vintage magazine ads for girdles and pantyhose next to advice columns that told young single women how to land older millionaire gentlemen – or viral Twitter posts about the kind of partner suited to you based on your ‘sign’ or fashion magazine articles about the way Venus retrograde compels you to do regrettable things to your hair, that the ad on the next page promises to remedy. 

What’s concerning about this essay is the absolutism, the certainty, the smugness. The way someone meant to be anti-dogma comes across as the finger-wagging fact whisperer throwing a bucket of rain over your parade, telling you it’s for your own good because Daddy can never be wrong and by the way, everything that gives you the slightest bit of chill on a shit day binds you to the structures that further your own alienation from your individual human potential as well as the collective good. Daddy knows this to be true because he probably has never had to work bullshit jobs, because he’s made the right life choices and his opinions fetch air time decades after death. His faith in the horoscope readers’ absolute faith in the literal details of the column is amusing. The possibility that members of the public might be able to consume pop-cultural forms with ironic detachment, or that creatives at the bottom of the culture industry food chain might be self-aware bullshit-jobbers, seems lost on him. 

Yes sun-sign astrology – and birth chart astrology in general – can be banal and narcissistic. Every time someone inboxes me about something Co-Star ‘taught them’ about their art fuckboy situationship, I hear the death knell of a brain cell. ‘Co-Star isn’t in that relationship with him,’ I want to say. ‘You are. What do you think?’ 

Yes astrology can and does breed the danger of knowingness (and maybe it takes an equally smug Frankfurt scholar with a Virgo Sun and Ascendant to point this out). Knowingness is a defence against the natural anxiety that emerges from the experience of being alive on earth as a conscious subject. Turning to the stars and the charts is an attempt to displace the anxiety – this was just as true for the ancient sovereigns, the medieval merchant, and today’s lockdown worker-from-home seeking, literally, ‘some kind of sign’ in something greater than ourselves. And yes the media astrologer or a celebrity birth chart reader who pockets north of 200 USD for a one-hour consultation, relies on a manufactured authoritarian guru aura – an aura made spicier by the fact that people who turn to astrology do so in the midst of a terrible month or a terrible life.    

I wish Adorno could see how femmes, trans, queers and astrologers of colour today have repurposed techniques originally designed for the perpetually anxious slave-owning white men of the ancient world, for women, femmes, trans, queers and people of colour who struggle with different modes of anxiety about the experience of being alive. The anxiety of risking eviceration because of how you are visible in a world built to shut you out. I wonder what Adorno would say about the moments of resonance in a client counselling session, when a little giggle squeezes out from a guilty smile during a client’s “Oh shit” moment, when discussions about Saturn or Mars placements create space for people to call themselves out on unhelpful emotional patterns they’ve been repeating. 

Consider this image: Adorno going for a morning cuppa, getting the paper, accidentally turning to the horoscope page when his intention was to read the latest opera review, getting triggered by something someone said about Virgos. Think about what the Virgos in your life would do. The most Virgo thing in the world is the determination to erase all traces of Virgo-ness. Like Annie Edison trying to show how not-uptight she was in Community Season Three Episode Seven, and then, in the next breath, asking Britta if you say “loosey-goosey” or “goosey-loosey” when someone who really was loosey-goosey would not think to do so. In writing this essay, Adorno may have unwittingly revealed his self-hating Virgo-hood on full throttle. Ruled by Mercury, Virgos express contempt through lengthy, surgical, masterfully argued exposition. Writing 78 pages of criticism about a pop culture form you revile with every fibre of your being is the scholarly equivalent of the hate-fuck. 

True, astrology can, has, and continues to enable capitalism and empire, but many femme, trans, queer and POC astrologers practicing today have also used it to facilitate queer dating, art, compassion for those who are different, curiosity about a self that’s always been shoved into boxes, diagnoses, stereotypes, slurs. Adorno’s arguments might have been right for his moment, but they fail to capture the whole picture today. Astrology is, but more importantly, astrology does. What is it we do when we do astrology? 

In its finest moments – often in unseen quiet spaces, maybe with an astrological counsellor or curled up in bed alone with an astrology book that sings to you in ways you’ve never been sung to –  astrology enables a visibility that is only possible through deep and loving listening. You watch yourself witnessing the light and dark within you. You notice the ways you were right and wrong about yourself. You realise you are not your patterns, that you can be a different breed of Capricorn or Cancer than what you’ve always been told, by people who may have meant well but didn’t know you. With each new day, the sun casts its light across a different sky. You too are capable of transformation. 

Bibliography  

Adorno, Theodor W. 1994. The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture.London: Routledge. 

Graeber, David. 2019. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. New York: Penguin Press. 

Sparkly Kat, Alice. 2021. “Why Those US Army Astrology Memes Felt So Cringey.” Cosmopolitan, June 15, 2021. 

Sparkly Kat, Alice. 2021. Postcolonial Astrology: Reading the Planets through Capital, Power and Labor. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.  

Prado-Richardson, Tabitha. 2019. “Who Needs Astrology?” The Lifted Brow 41.  

Angelita Biscotti is a Boon Wurrung Country-based Spanish-Filipinx queer astrologer available for birth chart readings via Zoom. @angelita.biscotti