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.


Founder, Programming and Development: Anita Spooner
Designer: Alex Margetic
Web developer: Xavier Connelly
Previous Team: Chantelle Mitchell, Jordana Bragg, Josephine Mead, Angelita Biscotti – thank you!


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.

Sign up for the occasional newsletter




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!

Writing and technology enthusiasts are encouraged to apply.

Application deadline: 12PM, Wednesday, 3 November, 2021


Supported by Darebin City Council.

Sam Lieblich is a Melbourne-based artist investigating networked and algorithmic forms. His work explores the orientation/disorientation of the subject in the other, and the manifestations of the human-algorithm hybrid into which human beings are now subsumed. These digital works combine machine learning algorithms with custom code to foreground systems design and—by finding beauty and intention in the system—try to re-situate human desire in the algorithm.

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.


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.


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.



PHRASER Test Dream

'PHRASER TEST DREAM' is the first presentation of PHRASER: a neurotic artificial intelligence by Sam Lieblich and company. This entity was developed out of Free Association's Intrusive Thoughts workshops.

We psychoanalysed the algorithm, we found ourselves inside of it, extracted our own essence like the internet's wisdom tooth, and made PHRASER, an algorithm birthed of its own reflection, which is ours, a mise en abyme of human and algorithm, trained to speak and see what all of us see, all of the time, all at once. PHRASER is a neurotic artificial intelligence that reclaims race, gender, and the human mind from the servers of technocapital. PHRASER TEST DREAM is the first stage of PHRASER’s evolution. PHRASER’s first generation of NFTs will be available for purchase, scored by a collective of musicians. Visitors and buyers will be directed to calculate and offset their carbon footprint by gathering and planting seeds that will be available at the gallery.

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.

The lifecycle of a perceived nonentity

Gemma Mahadeo

This is written with the view that anyone should be able to perform it, and that they should make any adjustments necessary to do so, regardless of disability, physical or otherwise.

1. wasp

Monsoon rain on tin roof should be heard throughout.

You are standing naked in a bare, cold warehouse lit by fluorescent light, dimly. It does not matter how tall, short, fat or skinny you are, if you have long, or short hair, or if you are using needed mobility aids (chairs, canes, crutches etc.).

You are facing an invisible audience.

One person walks towards you from the right, with a wide paint roller or a very wide paintbrush, saturated with yellow paint, and another from your left with black. They paint you, encircle you with the first pair of your stripes. When finished with the first round, they walk in the opposite direction they came from, then walk towards you again with newly saturated brushes to paint and encircle you till you have been coated in stripes completely from head to toe.

You lie down on the spot you have been standing in and roll till you coat some of the concrete floor in those stripes. Roll as much as you can to cover as much of a straight line as you can. If you can only roll, lie or rock on the spot, that is okay.

This must be performed before dawn everyday.

2. broken strings [tenor viol; top G string ‘g-1’]

Listen to the sound of a violin string, a cello string , and a piano string breaking during performance, whilst watching the video links provided.

Get a tenor viol and turn its corresponding peg very, very slowly whilst pushing it in, till its gut string breaks. You cannot afford to replace the string just yet as gut strings are expensive, so you will not be able to play the repertoire you have recently refamiliarised yourself with.

This is the perfect metaphor for what it is like to live with post-traumatic stress disorder when you are still learning about its symptoms and its manifestations, and you do not have any access to diazepam. You are not performing a musical instrument professionally, but existence is a performance that many struggle through with psychic terror every single day.

Be kind to strangers in quotidian interactions. You don’t know whose life you are saving on any given day.

3. poached pears [with red wine and spices]

A reinterpretation of ‘Spiced wine pears’, a recipe from Laura Calder, French Food At Home (New York: Harpers Collins Publishers, 2003) 195.

Ingredients: 6 pears, 1 strip orange peel, 1 750mL bottle of red wine, 150g sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp peppercorns, 2 cardamom pods, 2 cloves, 2 star anise.

Peel and de-core the pears. Try to make sure the pears are given to you to share. Make sure there is no white pith on the orange peel. Heat the wine and sugar in a large saucepan gently. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the orange peel and spices then bring to boil. Gently place the pears in and simmer, turning them over once or twice if possible, and leave to simmer till tender or for 20 minutes. Remove the pears when they are done. Strain the remaining liquid. Boil this syrup to a reduction.

You can serve them a few ways:

  • serve in a bowl warm with some of the reduction spooned over them
  • let pears grow cool and arrange the halves on a plate with reduction drizzled over them
  • cut into chunks and add to your porridge the morning after
  • cut into chunks and serve with vanilla or plain yogurt as breakfast
  • cut into chunks and serve alongside generous scoops of the finest vanilla ice-cream

You have now made home, at a house. It is not just a house to you anymore. The smell alone with seep into, soak into, permeate the house for weeks afterwards. It is a blanket of safety.

4. [recurring] night terror

The snap of a stalk of sugarcane, the sound of a cane being aimed at a child’s bottom and palms should be heard in succession, repeated throughout.

You are in bed, in the dark.

You sit up bolt upright.

Your head turns towards wardrobe doors in the room, which have light pastel green panels but are mainly off-white.

Your head knows you are safe, here.

Your levels of adrenaline and endorphins are telling you that you are somewhere you feel threatened.

You are frozen, wondering why your eyes process what you see incorrectly and vomit up a paradoxical hormonal response.

You wait for it to pass, to stop being physiologically frozen and terrified.

When your body’s neurochemistry has re-regulated, you try to go back to sleep. This may require pharmaceutical aid. If you have a pet, they may try to comfort you by nuzzling and settling down onto your hair when you lie back down.

5. malikot

Tagalog (Filipino) ‘wag kang malikot!’ means ‘don’t be naughty-cheeky!’

I am a friend to the malikot. I do not begrudge their choosing me. I am honoured. I am certain they have known me since I was a child, and I am glad that we were reacquainted whilst there on a trip as an adult too. 

But it too signifies a precolonial mythological being. A malikot is not a malevolent spirit, but if it takes a fancy to you, if it chooses to ‘play’ with you, it manifests in its human playmate as becoming very physically unwell, suddenly, with no apparent logical, medical explanations.

Symptoms include: high fever that won’t abate and possibly accompanying delirium, sleepwalking, wandering around dishevelled, physical weakness, moaning and wailing, possibly repeating or begging for odd or difficult requests to be granted. At worst, a psychotic episode or break.

These will completely disappear as soon as you have left Philippine borders.

6. dragonflies: shame

cf. Tatsumi Hijikata ‘Quiet House’ 5 ‘A butoh dancer has to be familiar with a bird’s fear and bug’s fear’

Throughout, the sound of a matchbox being slid open is heard. The silence between is the spider your uncle keeps for fighting insect matches being visible. The sound of the box being closed should not be audible.

A boy and a nonbinary child squat in the dust of their rural Filipino village’s street and tear the wings off dragonflies they have caught.

These siblings laugh, giggle together.

The nonbinary child picks up one yet to lose its wings and lets it nibble on their fingertip.

When this child starts to be gendered as female by the community, they will experience extreme remorse for the rest of their lives at having committed this act and will never stop feeling sorry.

Throughout, the sound of a matchbox being slid open is heard. The silence between is the spider your uncle keeps for fighting insect matches being visible. The sound of the box being closed should not be audible.

7. metronome

Wearing comfortable house clothes, lie on your stomach on ground. Swing lower legs at knees from right to left as symmetrically as possible. This is your guardian and teacher. Imagine a cat is sitting on your lower back or buttocks, to keep you grounded.

8. anaesthesia

I am a caramel-skinned person, with dark, dark brown, slightly wavy hair. brown eyes which sometimes change colour according to adrenaline levels. It is important that you note my hair is not black. My brown eyes sometimes change colour according to adrenaline levels, they look clearer or lighter, I’ve been told. I once saw them flecked with green near the iris when I caught sight of myself in a pub mirror, like an endangered, fighting wild animal.

Lie down somewhere comfortable – emulate the savanasa yoga position if you can. Your eyes should be closed, but if you can’t do this, then leave them open and try to have them soft and relaxed in your sockets.

Imagine someone is strapping your upper left arm in order to constrict blood flow.

Squeeze your left hand into a fist and stretch out, flex, unflex, several times.

Imagine people you trust are sticking metal nipples to your breastbone, not on actual chest or breasts. They adjust your clothing with care and tenderness.

Turn your head to your right shoulder. Imagine you are being administered an injection.

Place your head back to face where a ceiling would be. Cup your hands over your mouth and nose, and breathe slowly, and as deeply as you can.

Count slowly, with the view to making it to ten:






Are you asleep yet? This is the most blissful unconsciousness you will ever know, if you ever need general anaesthetic. Do be warned that humans with red hair are more resistant to the effects of anaesthetic, so may need more, and may need to count longer.

I only ever make the count to four.

Gemma Mahadeo came to Australia in 1987, and is a writer and occasional musician. Recent work appears in the Australian Poetry Journal, Djed Press, Hecate, Rabbit, and Subbed In. They edit poetry for Concrete Queers, and reviews for Melbourne Spoken Word. They’re on Twitter as @snarkattack or IG as @eatdrinkstagger.