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.

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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.

That not-puritanical purity // Mercury-ruled Virgo // the ordinariness of culture // a farewell

Angelita Biscotti

1.

“What kind of life can it be, I wonder, to produce this extraordinary fussiness, this extraordinary decision to call certain things culture and then separate them, as with a park wall, from ordinary people and ordinary work? At home we met and made music, listened to it, recited and listened to poems, valued fine language. I have heard better music and better poems since. But I know, from the most ordinary experience, that the interest is there, the capacity is there… I don’t believe that ordinary people in fact resemble the normal description of the masses, low and trivial in taste and habit. There are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.” 

– Raymond Williams, ‘Culture is Ordinary’ (Sun, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn in Virgo)

In the final season of Wentworth, Pamela Rabe plays recovering amnesiac Joan Ferguson, who is in the process of retrieving her identity as a prison governor, murderer, murder-attempt survivor, and prison top dog (not in that order). Her amnesiac identity Kath Maxwell struggles with the jarring onslaught of memories not just of Ferguson’s recent crimes, but the violent home in which she grew up traumatised. In astro-speak, Maxwell injects a dose of mutability to Ferguson’s extreme fixity: she brings Libra-Gemini-Virgo-Pisces flexibility to Ferguson’s Taurus-Scorpio-Leo-Aquarius absolutism. 

“I’m not Kath, I’m Joan Ferguson,” she finally tells Greg Miller, the prison psychiatrist and the only person who believed she was genuine in her claims of amnesia. “I recovered my memories weeks ago, all of it. The urge for revenge is so strong. You have to help me. If you don’t help me to control myself, something terrible will happen. I struggle with dark impulses.” 

He freaks out and does a classic white man getaway, mumbling that he can’t work with her, demanding that security remove her from his office, at the moment she’s come to a crucial insight. An insight that could damage his good standing in his profession.

Later in the episode, Miller and Ferguson meet again in his office. He shuts the blinds, and places in her hand an experimental drug. It’s meant to enhance prosocial tendencies and diminish the worst effects of anti-social urges. He asks her to keep this drug, and the fact that she has recovered her memory, a secret. And – “You must commit whole-heartedly to our sessions,” he says. “Really delve into the past to get an understanding of the source of your impulses, with a view to controlling them.” 

In this week’s episode, she does. There are moments in the therapy where they find a pathway to empathy, past the trauma, past her past crimes. There are moments when she’s back amongst her fellow prisoners, doing ‘the right thing’ for people facing their worst nightmares, like figuring out who murdered someone’s lover in cold blood. She finds herself in the liminal confusion of wanting the peace of absolute amnesiac forgetfulness, and wrestles with the possibility of regaining that peace while working through her recovered painful memories. 

She confronts him: “What’s in it for you?” 

He replies, “I’ve staked my professional reputation on you having amnesia.”

She smirks. “You’re such an ambitious little man.” 

“These sessions are about you, not me.” 

“You want to make your name by curing a psychopath.” 

They have become each other’s undoing, and in so doing they become equals. Here is the therapeutic alliance at work, albeit an unholy distortion. His ambition to cure her (and also his desperation to save his career) has turned him into a criminal, running illicit treatments through experimental drugs (though as Wentworth history illustrates, it’s not his first time). His perseverance in meeting her exactly where she is – all her troubled places experienced simultaneously – is something she’s never known before. This, more than the drugs, might be doing more for her discovery of a more empathetic self within. 

2.

The police officer pursuing the crime lord is another couple that endures in fiction and on screens large and small. 

In “La Casa De Papel” (with its awful American title “Money Heist”), Sergio Marquina/The Professor (played by Álvaro Morte), overpowers his pursuer Police Inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño) in multiple ways. 

They become lovers, not by strategy (though not without his clear interest). It is the one flaw in his otherwise foolproof plan to continue his father’s ambition to rob the Bank of Spain. She inevitably learns that he is her archnemesis, the architect of a heist that could make or break her career. The heist team has always been several steps ahead of her unit because of her unwitting romantic involvement with the heist’s leader. She is forced to choose between love and not only her career, but the law she has defended her whole life. 

In her attempt to arrest The Professor, he manages to subdue and restrain her. She’s fucked him up, too. His father died in a shoot-out during an attempt to rob that very same bank. His plan is not just an effort to make money, it’s the continuation of his father’s legacy. 

“This is just paper,” he tells a bound Raquel. He tells her of his father, who was murdered to protect something that isn’t real, that is causing real damage in real people’s lives. The plan proceeds perfectly (he’s definitely a Virgo). He has not only honoured his father, but surpassed him. 

But – sex. Love.

“I’m making a liquidity injection,” he tells her. “But not for the banks. I’m doing it here, in the real economy. With this group of losers, which is what we are, Raquel. To get away from it all. Don’t you want to get away?” 

Love always beckons us towards our unknowns. 

3. 

Virgo. The maiden. An eternal girl, whatever her gender. She is desirable, she is hot property, but can never be possessed. With wings on her ankles, she is ever fleeting. Like the precious perfection pursued by those born under this sign, she is forever out of reach. A virginal though not puritanical purity. A purity not of being, but of purpose. 

Virgo is Mercury’s own. Of Mercury, astrologer-scholar Robert Hand says: “Mercury is impossible to pin down. Mercury, by definition, has no quality of its own. Mercury conveys the essence of whatever it is in touch with. It’s the messenger. The messenger has no message of its own.” 

Bataille, a solar Virgo offers, in Eroticism, a Mercurian take on taboo: “Man is the animal that does not just accept the facts of nature, he contradicts them… There is a connection between man’s denial of the world as he finds it and his denial of the animal element in himself. In so far as man exists, there exist also work on the one hand and denial of the animal element in man’s nature on the other. Man flatly denies the existence of his animal needs; most of his taboos relate to them and so these taboos are so strikingly universal and apparently so unquestioned that they are never discussed. Adam and Eve knew each other to be naked. But nobody mentions the horror of excremental matter which belongs to man alone.” Less than 1,000 words later, he cites a fellow Virgo, saying, “This conception of the transition from animal to human is really Hegel’s.” It’s an essay about incest and reciprocity and why exchange and community are essential considerations in understanding eroticism, and merits further discussion in a fuller essay than in a little paragraph like so.

Humanity, of course, is more than merely ‘Man.’ In Habeas Viscus: Racialising Assemblages, Alexander Weheliye (2014) summarising and responding to Agamben, writes: “The homo sacer, a human being that cannot be ritually offered, but whom one can kill without incurring the penalty of murder. These subjects, by being barred from the category of the human, are relegated to bare or naked life, being both literally and symbolically stripped of all accoutrements associated with the liberalist subject.” (p. 33) To murder, and to be murdered, are acts involving bodies, and occupy the taboo spaces between humanity and animality. They are acts involving symbols, too. To be denied a place of agency in history, to have your place in the history of humanity taken from you, is a murder most foul and a large-scale theft that takes, not just from you, but from your ancestors, your descendants, and your entire community. If you’re not the property-owning straight white man, and especially if you’re queer, if you’re trans, if you’re a person of colour facing multiple intersections of difference, you’re not the so-named ‘Man’ who gets a seat at the table of cultural production. Sure, you’re part of the story, but only insofar as what gets to be called ‘culture’ is always an injunction against something that is ‘not culture’ or not ‘our culture.’ 

After seven seasons of underrated, top notch screen storytelling celebrating diverse talent, the latest season of Wentworth stumbles onto a tired trope: the murdered trans character. Reb, masterfully played by Zoe Terakes, is drugged and left for dead in his lover’s bed. It’s not the worst variation of this trope; he wasn’t murdered because he was trans, he was murdered because the murderer wanted to take something precious from his lover, as revenge for the murder of her own love. From a whole-of-story perspective, Wentworth, like Game of Thrones, has a history of killing the characters you love, brutally and abruptly, and white cis characters have not been exempted. From a narrative standpoint, it heightens Lou’s ambition not only for vengeance, but for domination in the prison, setting into motion a final big-boss battle for the show. 

As a queer and non-binary viewer, it feels like a massive missed opportunity. What would it be like to use the particular cinematographic possibilities of television, to explore a story about a trans person in a happy committed relationship pursuing his transition behind bars? Hours before the murder, he and his lover Lou (played by Kate Box) talk about how much they hate the idea of appearing as just another heterosexual couple once the transition is complete. I would have wanted to see how the show would have dealt with this theme. Surely the brilliant writing and directing team could have found a less travelled path to set Lou into the final-season war-of-all-against-all mindset, without falling into the love-as-a-distraction-from-destruction trap. Just because we’re happy in love, doesn’t mean we’re forever cured of stupidity, hubris, or other human failings. 

4.

This is my last column for Free Association. I just had my solar return, and I am excited to devote my first house profection year to my studio practice, and to continue building capacity and strengthening connections with communities close to my soul. Youth, bodily integrity, and energy aren’t forever things. One has to be healthy before one can be wise. Wisdom, like astrology, is about space and time. Where do I offer my limited time, before the inevitable end of everything? 

I’m writing a couple of books; starting a new figurative-art photography series about gestures of devotion; creating trans-Atlantic links with my fellow young astrologers in North America, where exciting astrological developments are happening, trying not to spend so much time writing grant applications that I’m not putting in my 10,000-plus hours into my craft, or keeping my ears close to the pulse of my people.  

If you’ve been following my work here, I thank you for reading this far. Reading is intimacy. You can’t do it while doing other things. You take time out of your day to do the thing. You’re devoting anywhere from a few minutes to hours of your precious time, not looking at type on a screen, but hanging out with someone’s mind. Sometimes the words and your intellectual and emotional responses, remain with you long after you and the text have parted ways. Australian literary writers, as has been well-documented, don’t make money off their writing. The least one can hope for is to be read. You could spend a lifetime writing millions of words without knowing if your words are landing, or if anyone beyond the occasional reviewer actually leafed through pages that took years from your life. 

To everyone who reached out to me privately to say that what I wrote meant something to them, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Angelita Biscotti

14th September 2021, 17.52 AEST Boon Wurrung Country

The first part of the fifth and final season of La Casa De Papel (Money Heist) is available on Netflix, and will resume in December 2021. 

Wentworth: The Final Sentence is currently airing. 

Bibliography

Bataille, Georges. Eroticism. Translated by Mary Dalwood. London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2012. 

Weheliye, Alexander G. Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human, Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. 

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