Free Association is a volunteer-run 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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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.

Where Mercury finds you by Angelita Biscotti

Writing isn’t a way of being public or private; it’s just a way of being. The process is always full of pain, but I like that. It’s a reality, and I just accept it as something not to be avoided.
– Jamaica Kincaid (Sun in Gemini)

No more ‘I love yous,’ language is leaving me in silence.
– Annie Lennox (Midheaven in Gemini)

I started a new job as a vegan cook the night of the lunar eclipse in Sagittarius on the 26th of May. I planned my 30-minute break so I could watch the earth’s shadow appear to swallow the full moon. 

In the ancient world, eclipses were bad omens. When the moon can’t receive the sun’s light, the night sky is reduced to utter darkness, or maybe a glimmer of red. They were often interpreted to mean that a king would die. 

Less than 24 hours later, I was out of a job, and so were my fellow chefs, cooks and all other casual staff at a festival that had been planned for over a year. The city I love entered its fourth lockdown. It’s the first eclipse of 2021, and Mercury has just begun its retrograde dance.  

Gemini season, hello. 

Kelly Surtees writes that Mercury retrograde does not affect everyone equally. Some people are more sensitive to it, and to the actions of this impish, fast-moving planet in general. Mercury retrograde is likely to be a bigger deal in your life if Mercury retrogrades in your first house, if your Ascendant or Midheaven are in Mercury-ruled signs like Gemini or Virgo, if your Sun and/or Moon are in Gemini or Virgo, if you have a Gemini or Virgo stellium, or if Mercury is a time-lord this year. 

Mercury rules my sun, so I feel every Mercury retrograde quite intensely. Mercury is in my life partner’s first house, so our home becomes supercharged during this cycle. My earth sun is in the 8thhouse of death, inheritances, depth and enduring bonds, ruled by a fire Mercury in the 7th house of long-term intimate partnerships. Earth and fire together make a volcano. Or a burning bush. Don’t stand too close to me. 

Mercury retrograde can sometimes be seen as a negative. As someone with a dominant natal Mercury, I tend experience these periods as a negative. That said, I was born under a fire Mercury, and fire likes to burn. Mercury retrograde is about slowing down, returning to past moments with new perspective, taking time – capitalism demands that we keep going, even as we burn out, even as the world burns. 

Mercury rules Gemini and it shows. Kanye West is a Gemini. So was Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know what that says about Geminis. I suspect Marilyn Monroe in 2021 would have had mad Instagram game, like Emily Ratajkowski (also a Gemini BTW). Jacqueline Rose wrote of Monroe as a tragic but brilliant figure, limited by her circumstances, but no less committed to the task of thinking through femininity, feminism and artistry. In Virgo season 2020, Ratajkowski’s essay ‘Buying Myself Back: When does a model own her own image?’ appeared in New York Magazine. It’s a harrowing memoir of how men painters and photographers took advantage of her Internet fame, publishing (without her consent) art books containing nude photos from shoots from her early days as a model, when she was negged and harassed, or selling $80,000 paintings based off of her Instagram content. Some of the moments she described were personally triggering, as they reminded me of similar experiences I had as a nude model, and of the universality of these experiences, not just for me, or for models, but for anyone and especially femmes trying to figure out body image, sexuality, relationships and career. You’re constantly bombarded with the message that the only thing you can offer is your sex appeal, and the only thing that matters about your sex appeal is the currency men can get from turning their personal access to you, through sex or photography, into a springboard for their artistic reputations. At the end of the day, it’s not about you or a moment with you—it’s about what they can get from the world through having ‘possessed’ you. 

All the signs tell stories in their own way, but Gemini, a mutable Mercury-ruled Air sign, is probably the most likely to have reach. Many prominent musicians are Geminis. And air gets everywhere, eventually. Ratajkowski’s article was the most read New York Magazine story in 2020. The men she named might still profit off of fans and consumers who think a model should only ever be beautiful, smiling and silent, but now newer models, and established producers and taste-makers, can google these names and know to stay away. People like me who’ve had similar experiences will read Ratajkowski’s words and get triggered – but we will also know that we are not alone. Geminis are not always the most warmly affectionate healers, friends or lovers. Instead the comfort they offer is akin to a Vulcan mind-meld: ‘my mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts.’  

Mercury on a mission is great at calling out bullshit. Palestinian poet and advocate Mohammed El-Kurd was recently interviewed by Vice, and when he was asked how he prepares for media interviews, he said, “I don’t prepare for them. I get up, rub my eyes, and then I go on screen. There’s not much scripting to any of these interviews that I do. A lot of people have been saying that I’m courageous – what I’m saying is a reflection of the Palestinian street. What I’m saying is something we all feel here.” He’s not a Gemini. Born on a Nakba anniversary, his sun and Mars conjunct in late Taurus. Mercury (communication, reason, voice) and the asteroid/dwarf planet Ceres (sudden catastrophe) were two degrees apart in early Taurus on the day of his birth. His North Node is in Mercury-ruled Virgo. No surprise that using his voice to speak truth to power and amplify the voices of his homeland are massive life themes. On 21st May, the first day of Gemini Season 2021, he tweeted: “Hi, as a person living in Palestine I can confirm that we are being ethnically cleansed. Actually have been for the past 73 years. But don’t take my word for it. What do I know? Believe the white woman in a Manhattan high rise saying “Palestinians do face some challenges but..” He and many young viral Palestinian storytellers and activists expand their digital legacy at a time digital power players flex capitalist and setter-colonialist might through Google Maps erasure and Instagram shadow bans, over and above acts of physical and cultural violence. 

We find ourselves called to make a stand and make history through the life spheres governed by this Mercury-ruled sign: the conversations we have when no one’s looking, the social media accounts we follow, the things we share on public posts and stories where everyone can find us. You can’t always control what happens to your likeness, especially when powerful and established artists, capitalists and states try to possess it, believing that to possess your materiality (for now) is to possess your entirety for eternity. But it is possible to find inventive and expressive ways tell your story, to meet kindred spirits, and be met. How and where would you like to be found? 

NOTES FOR YOUR MERCURY SIGN 

Air Mercury (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)

Phone calls. Podcasts. Music. Chitchat. Sound. Cut the pollution where you can. Give your ears the gift of solace. Of focus. What you hear is who you are. What you hear is what you pass on. What you hear becomes how you listen. Sometimes your curation is more content-worthy than your creations.

Earth Mercury (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) 

Try a different medium and see how that changes your thinking patterns. If you usually write or draw on a tablet or laptop, try doing it on a notebook. On scrap from old boxes. With spray paint, or a new pen, or a shit pen. Make marks. Flip the notebook around and see how that changes the way you write. 

Water Mercury (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio) 

There is a risk that your cup is overflowing. There are intense emotions here that need to be explored, though maybe not always expressed. Crying isn’t bleeding, let yourself cry as much as you need. Choose book companions with care. Cuddle the cats you see on the street. Be generous with the hugs you receive, after they’ve passed rigorous stress tests. 

Fire Mercury (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) 

The risks that are worth taking can survive postponement. The things you don’t say right now make you as powerful, beautiful and competent as the things you do. Be honest and be careful are the same piece of advice. Love is also about learning how to say ‘not now, not yet.’ 

Applications are open for Angelita Biscotti’s FREE “Under Queer Stars: Life Writing Astrology” workshop. 14th, 21st, 28th June 2021, 6pm – 8pm. Apply here.

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