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.

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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.

To: The Underside of Ships and Maps

Therese Keogh

To: The Underside of Ships and Maps,

Desiring by this Convention to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970 in which the General Assembly of the United Nations solemnly declared inter alia that the area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, irrespective of the geographical location of States[1]

Concerning material distributions in the deeper pelagic zone, the below signatories – reposed in abyssal hills – as a collective composite of residual geologies, address the following.[2] This document is surface-bound. It amasses weight in a motion of fusing, falling, and depositing, which is then propelled vertically at a rate of knots, delivering a suggested reorientation of cartographic representations of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof. From the position of incursions of clinker lodged at the sediment-water interface, the undersigned propose a process of triangulation that provides a substratum for a mapping-otherwise.[3] This tripartite system attends to the spatial dimensions of allegorical formation, with the view of implementing modifications and amendments as the constant needs of ambiguities arise. Regarding the manufacture of fictions, we respectfully assert that this must be considered a matter of scale.

Accelerations of empire and economy freighted on steamships, coincided with the standardisation of triangulation in the drafting of maps. “Triangulation defines an exact equivalence between the geographic archive and the world,” inscribing the Earth in networks of generalised lines that mark the ambition of territorial ownership and knowledge, while shoring an edge between land and water.[4] This process relies on a series of fixed points, from which new points can be generated based on calculations of known angles. Evolving from celestial navigation, where positions at sea are triangulated in relation to constellations of stars, this practice is predicated on an ideal of the Enlightened uniformity of planes. Under the guise of equivalence, though, what is produced is a scaling of imaginaries into a horizontal surface, where “triangulation… served to intensify the Enlightenment’s ‘cartographic illusion’ of the ‘mimetic map’.”[5] This was a gesture towards knowing that was unable to acknowledge the depth of the sea, instead replacing it with a continuous fiction of smoothness.[6]

As steamships coasted over oceans in a gluttonous haul of people and material, they inadvertently marked their own routes with the non-combustible remainders of fuel.[7] Ash from coal fired boilers congealed and hardened into lumps of clinker, which were scraped from the inside of fireboxes and discarded overboard. From the coordinates of surplus clinker on the ocean’s floor, we write to you – the recipients: The Underside of Ships and Maps – as you are uniquely positioned to understand the myths of one another, and therefore provide the potential for a rethinking of cartographic projections. The bottom of a ship recognises that each charted plane has an unaccounted for volume, and the versos of maps read an etched hull as an accumulation of marks engraved on occasions of located contact. What is proposed in this letter, is a reconfiguration of speculative triangulations, whereby “the ocean is allegorized from abstract space to (non-)local place by three key figures: the vessel (ship)… the shore (map), and the body (clinker).”[8] This composition holds the possibility for an alternative cartography, through a conscious redressing of scale forged by the material excesses of steamships.

Sinking beyond the edge of the continental rise, clinker penetrates the soft silt that forms the abyssal plains, providing anchor points for the anemone Phelliactis robusta and the brachiopod Gryphus vitreus.[9] The ground of the abyss is made with the detritus of constantly falling bodies. Marine snow – a showering of organic matter from above – builds up in powdery rises and plateaus, mixing with the material and corporeal aftereffects of modernity and colonisation, which slump into position and stay there. “In actual fact the abyss is a tautology: the entire ocean, the entire sea gently collapsing in the end into the pleasures of sand, make one vast beginning, but a beginning whose time is marked by these balls and chains gone green”; an abyssal depth, pre-empting a metamorphic emergence of interlinking relation.[10] Transformed in their relocation and collective compositions, the clinker arrange themselves in lines that mirror movements along key shipping passages, including: the east-west route between the English Channel and the east coast of North America, the north-south route along the west coast of Africa, and the north-south route off the east coast of Australia.[11] These lines intersect along the floor of the abyss, tracing a 1:1 map of the movements of ships and the material distributions of empire that they facilitate.

Clinker forms a tautological deposit, reproducing the network of ship routes at both the scale of their movement and in excess of it. Rendering a map that unfolds to the extents of the Earth’s oceans, the clinker operates as a material and semiotic tool that signifies the rapid expansions of colony while also producing an indexical record of its reach. Who knew Borges was right; that the tattered map of empire exists at the scale of its spread.[12] Or that such a map undoes the conventions of the ideal of cartographic triangulation by resisting the reproduction of scaled representations at the same time as refusing to be fixed in place (each individual pebble of clinker – despite its alignment according to the map’s ‘whole’ – is open to movement by bioturbations and geologic disturbances on the abyssal plain): “Every 1:1 map always reproduces the territory unfaithfully.”[13] The notion of a map that is faithful or unfaithful has little to do with the accuracy of spatial representation to which it subscribes, and more to do with its allegiances to the structures (power/history/economy) of its own material production. The unfaithfulness of this map of clinker is achieved not through its imprecision, but through its underwriting of an otherwise that reorients the conditions of its drawing.

We turn now to the Undersides to which this letter is addressed; the hulls etched and burred by contact, and the maps stained with misplaced depth; those surfaces that recognise the fictions inscribed in each mark, the reversals of logic and the redressing of record. These collective vertices conform to a geometry that plots passages through the subtext that resonates underneath. Each underside “is a negotiation between what is said, what is written, and what is withheld… Incurable. And uneasy, and like freight… What is withheld is on the back.”[14] This triangulated composition of versos stages a possibility for re-mapping, where the withheld, the unknown, the discarded, collectively stake out an allegorical otherwise of cartographic representation at the intersection of Undersides.

The standardisation of cartographic scaling is “the graphic triumph of geography’s myth,” coming to bear across oceanic surfaces in proliferations of empire.[15] The fiction of triangulated equivalence – developed by the reciprocal reliance of ships on maps and maps on ships – facilitates drafted projections of geometric planes, and territorial projections of ownership and displacement. The “speculative and imaginative nature of colonial mapmaking,” however, makes possible alternative modes of cartographic navigation through a re-charting of scaled residues.[16] Undoing “the dialectic between the seen and the unseen, whose rationalization was critical to the formulation of Enlightenment epistemology,” the ship-map-clinker formula replaces one fiction with another – one that remains “obstinately discontinuous, abyssal, antirational, impossible to fix.”[17] From the position of clinker embedded in the abyssopelagic zone, the undersigned write to you – The Underside of Ships and Maps – now in a cartographic gesture that triangulates positions by way of a winnowing, scraping, volume. As a ternary relation this mapping unfurls through a three-way charting of imaginaries between the clinker, the map, and the ship, where material drifts dislodge authorised projections in a constant drafting and re-drafting of cartographic representations of the ocean’s floor.

We undersign the Undersides, unsettled into new alliances with articulating valves, with reconfigured bodies, with multiple orientations. Clinker comes to mark shifting silt and saline erratics: the desiring intentions of convention – of jurisdiction and common heritage, of a man that’s whole regardless – are reconceived in the “fathoming swells in the tensions and pleasures of the many and the different.”[18] The material signatures of clinker undersign allegiances in excess of the material orientations of their formation; the ships and the maps that forever face elsewhere. Instead, the clinker charts a realignment of the needs of “desire – that messy, sometimes un-gentle, self-shattering descent into the underside of reason,” where the underwriting, underlying, undersigning declarations of flesh and grit, inscribe a re-assembly inter alia of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof.[19]


The Undersigned

[1] United Nations, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (1984): 25. (emphasis in original)

[2] The word ‘composite’ here refers to both a material agglomeration, and the idea of a “composite character” as used by Ashon T. Crawley in The Lonely Letters. Ashon T. Crawley, The Lonely Letters, (Durham & London: Duke University, 2020), 9.

[3] Ramirez-Llodra, Eva et. al “Man and the last great wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea.” PLoS ONE vol. 6 (7) (2011): 4. and Yusoff, Kathryn. “Geosocial Strata.” Theory, Culture & Space, vol. 34 (2-3) (2017).

[4] Matthew H. Edney, Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–1843 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 19. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] Steinberg, Philip, and Peters, Kimberly, “Wet Ontologies.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 23, (2015): 247. 

[7] Kidd, R. B. and Huggett, Q.J. “Rock debris on abyssal plains in the Northeast Atlantic: a comparison of epibenthic sledge hauls and photographic surveys.” Oceanologica Acta, vol. 4 (1), (1981): 99.

[8] Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Allegories of the Anthropocene, (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2019), 142.

[9] Ramirez-Llodra, Eva et. al “Man and the last great wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea.” PLoS ONE vol. 6 (7) (2011): 4.

[10] Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 6.

[11] Smith, Kiona, “A Trail of Rocks Traces Historical Steamship Routes.” Accessed September 3, 2020.

[12] Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” in The Garden of Forking Paths, (London: Penguin Random House, 2018), 35. 

[13] Umberto Eco, “On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1,” in How to Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays, (New York City: Harcourt Publishing), 159.

[14] Dionne Brand, The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos, (Durham & London: Duke University Press), 3-4.

[15] Paul Carter, Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 52.

[16] Tiffany Lethabo King, The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies, (Durham & London: Duke University Press), 116.

[17] Paul Carter, Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 60-61.

[18] Pratt et. al, “Fathom”, in Environmental Humanities, vol. 12:1 (2020): 176.

[19] Rosenberg, Jordy. “The Daddy Dialectic.” Accessed 10 October, 2020.

Therese Keogh is an artist and writer living, working in Narrm/Melbourne. Her practice explores the socio-political conditions and materialities of knowledge production, through narrative writing, studio-based experiments, and interdisciplinary fieldwork projects. Therese works collaboratively – through exhibitions, publishing, and teaching – across sculpture, landscape architecture, archaeology and geography.