Matters of Interest is a twice monthly peer-led series of Skype based research-roundtables designed to bring together artists and designers during ~and beyond~ the COVID-19 crisis. Each MoI takes place as a group chat, during which a subject of interest is researched and discussed by participants in one 90-minute conversational thread of online articles, links, texts, books, pdfs, images, loose and more formed thoughts. The research shared and discussed is then collated into a Reader available as a pdf downloadable > > > Big Shop Friday
‘Reader’ documents have captured a new vocabulary, sculpting a multitude of voices into a new one, a language of ‘togetherness’ formed through co-editing google docs associated to each Skype session and it’s theme. Mutual knowledge has been both shared and received, available in as big or as small doses as desired. There is no expectation and no limit, the Moi’s have deciphered a friendly foundation to prompt, familiarise and celebrate sharing.
Yet, as with defining all communities, summarising MoI in a single tone, voice, paragraph, article is a paradoxical, inaccurate and a futile exercise. Whilst an attempt may be made to detail MoI’s form (Skype based chats) and structure (twice monthly), any such singular attempt will surely miss the spirit of this thing we call Mol.
What follows then is not one article, but four: four in(ter)dependent articles from four in(ter)dependent co-spiritors who believe in the power of the scenius, who oppose the genius, and who invite you to join the group chat :)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What is MoI’s identity?
Matters of Interest
Some pronounce it as m’oi, the french translation of ‘me’ which couldn’t be further from Matters of Interest’s existence, it relies upon meeting but not the sole ‘I’. Nor is it an actual molethat you’ve grown familiar and fond of in your local park, that you’ve lovingly named Mol (short for Molly). Saying that, it was only a few weeks ago when the recurring skype sessions that Matters of Interest began as, suddenly jumped into an alternative, slower and nomadic physicality, associated with the movements of such a creature. An extension of our online communications travelled to Moi participants in the form of a mailed gift, parcels decorated in stamps, a little train window with numerous mole mascots sat inside enjoying the scenic view. Just like the mammals' underground movements, this postal communication travelled silently and unseen to resurface in a geography elsewhere, it’s timings not completely known or controlled. This received object enabled a shared experience, where a group of individual screens could feel closer in physicality, virtually unified through the identical drink they had been sent a few days before and would in a few momen (or should I say, hey mol!)ts more, drink together. Like buying a round at a pub or a friend a saturday morning coffee, generous contributions and ‘gesture’ itself are at the core of this project and it’s sustainability.
Moi, me. It is sourced from the beginnings of something personal and personable, yes. I joined the second session of Moi myself because of my interest in the garden as a space to rewild, reflect and nurture creative encounters in my local area whilst adhering to social distancing. Prompted by my own personal intention, I was diverted into a shared investigation with many and was generously offered so many diverse and relevant references. That term ‘the more the merrier’ I can wholly say, here resonates true. The reader titled ‘The Rural, Gardens, Allotments and other Sanctuaries/Empires’ brought me to the obvious yet (somehow ?!) previously unknown to me, Derek Jarman. I consider the garden as a ‘host’ as a cyclical, many layered being which moves at the slower pace of the seasons. To quote the artists directly, ‘the gardens boundary is at the horizon’. The threshold of a ‘fence’ or ‘wall’ remains permeable, in my own garden space which now holds the name of Garden Wall has itself jumped locations and consider the margins between public and private space, behaving as a nomadic ‘thing’ which I struggle to describe. A ‘research project’, a ‘sculpture garden’, a collective thing that in naming it for it’s physical barrier, Garden Wall facilitates exchange and offers a shared agency of reclaiming space, embracing uncertainty and being curious of the world outside.
What does it mean to re-think the garden, something so familiar and domestic which many don’t have access to? Can we host and welcome in others to a place that evokes exclusivity, to be a space for amplification (liberation) but also invisibility (safety).
Change occurs slowly in the garden as spring turns to summer or immediately shifts due to a thunderstorm or violent gust of wind. This multiplicity of something deep and long term sitting beside a light and unexpectant equilibrium has enabled me to return and retrieve a mindful approach to gardening, making and collaboration. It owes it thanks to it’s mothering model, the ultimately unfixed nature of Matters of Interest that speaks here within this scenius text itself.
‘Together we walk through the injury of naming into a celebratory occupation of a body that refuses fixity…we remain “porous bodies” in our pathway toward liberation. Endlessly, we reboot, revive, scroll, survive.’ - Glitch Feminism, Legacy Russell
That is the beauty of the ever-changing form of Moi and the rejected address of one, named individual. It writes and sends to many and in turn, it receives many back. It doesn’t act from a solo sprinting off from a starting-line with a series of runner’s all lined up in competition. It doesn’t aim to exist only at the ends of one set of finger tips, because that wouldn’t be a conversation, I’d just be sat here typing/talking to myself and that isn’t going to get me anywhere. Moi ebbs afar to and through others, through the support of and to others; a collection of fingertips all tapping away at once.
As I sit here now typing this, I see Emily online and just like that, I’m no longer feeling lonely writing this text on my own and instead finding a live comfort in us being here together, responding to each other. We don’t exist in a vacuum, if anything I could only describe it as a disco tornado of so many wonderful ideas and voices. Be it through screen, through conversation, through the shared joy and appreciation of a specific text. Be it in Milton Keynes, patiently waiting in-between in the Midlands, up’North in Yorkshire, brimming in Brum or somewhere in London. Recurring skype sessions have harboured collective rumination, a familiarity to other creatives and a doorway to a woven web of online references, a nurtured extension of collaborative interests. The fact that I refer to Moi to many as a ‘sort of reading group’ is because it supports very much that, to read and discuss together but to also to read and respond to one another, the ‘we’ rather than the ‘me’. From that, we evolve as a collective awareness of ideas both within, around and outside of art. We are shape-shifters, listeners and supporters, guides and wanderers, all in one and yet in many. Moi hosts a flexibility to fluctuate in physicality, scale, theme and schedule (which was a blessing when it seemed the whole art world would plan every online talk for a Thursday eve). It blurs between the liminal space, a ‘no-mans’ land, a safe space for the other. As a group, we’ve encouraged and learnt from one another, re-learnt and re-thought.
A mound of soil grows as the mole protruding through it blinks blindly at the day, then it returns below, it’s eyes full of new information, to see and to process. Back to its invisible meanderings beneath the ground. To the soil that spans to different geographies and a few days or weeks ahead, be it unseen and unheard, the mole decides to appear again and say hello to another Mole.
Why aren’t we sending Pooleyville a skype chat or reader?
^^^^oh my yes?!
There is something quite interesting about the space that MoI holds for the people that arrive for an evening on Skype, and something that is potentially a little tricky to fully articulate. Is it a support network? Research group? A portal for undirected exchange? ‘It’s a reading group’ I always say and then check myself ‘yea, a reading group’ not knowing fully what MoI is or might come to be. But I think that's part of the interest (yes pun) in MoI, it’s this undefined space that you can offer up and take what you want from it.
It’s almost like MoI is a breathing living thing. It’s moving. It’s moulding. It’s shuffling. The people who attend aren’t always the same and the topics/activities/thoughts/processes are forever in a state of flux. It’s fresh and takes a breath in between weeks. It’s a mole popping up somewhere else with a new thought to share/discuss/chew over. It’s a space in between spaces that soaks up discussion, thoughts and references and ejects them back out to circulate further in a yellow scroll.
In and out of networks and familiar faces, Mol kept reappearing and politely nudging me to join. I craved conversation, people, a new space for research thoughts, an online space that wasn’t another Zoom, (rejecting that Zoom fatigue and choosing Zoom’s older sibling) and something to navigate in that grey year after graduating. Another nudge from Lucie and I joined the call, not knowing what to expect but feeling fully captivated by the interests and conversation that I was brought to.
“To those for whom the end of a civilization is not the end of the world;
To those who see insurrection first of all as a breach in the organised reign of stupidity, lies and confusion;
To those who discern, behind the thick fog of “crisis” a theatre of operations, maneuvers, stratagems - and hence the possibility of counterattack;
To those who strike blows;
To those watching for the right moment;
To those looking for accomplices;
To those who are deserting:
To those who keep going;
To those getting organized;
To those wanting to build a revolutionary force, revolutionary because it’s sensitive; This modest contribution of understanding of our time.
There is no other world. There’s just another way to live.”
— Jacques Mesrine
Artists and other cultural workers are small and fragile when working alone. Heavy aftershocks of what 2020/1 brought have resonated for a long time, which has puzzled us where energy is spent reconfiguring where we as practitioners can continue working. For MOI, finding a strategy for working hasn’t been about choosing which method is to be used -- the lost or not-yet-discovered blueprint is hidden somewhere between a joint action with clever timing, solidarity and practicing every time we meet what the next meet should bring.
Life and ‘us’ as MOI have been broken down into functions that correspond to our ‘social needs’. The spaces for relaxation, the space for eating, the space for working, the space for entertainment, the space for socialising, and the car or bus for tying that all together. MOI was a result of a reconfiguration of all of those things in lockdown and reflected those in-transit thoughts we ponder when commuting from one place to another; from home to work and the studio, to our lockdown home (bed), and a more vertical version of us at the dinner table, desk or garden for work.
For me, MOI certainly has been a social therapy group for all of the ‘art’ I was no longer making. Or at least now unwilling to make because the conditions for making work haven't been right. I used MOI as a group to explore my own validation for no longer ‘making’ ‘work’. Disinterested in 90% of ‘gallery art’ in general anyway, lockdown and MOI validated all the sorts of stuff I found solitude in; the household items dumped in Walsall canals along with a single-tail goldfish that had now outgrown any canal-carp I’d ever seen; community effort writing joyfully poetic statements on public towpaths like ‘clit-clown’ and ‘Free Education, Free Gucci”; ignoring any (pandemic) call-out for artists and instead looking for more places to collaborate, balancing the neo-liberal systems I find myself so often working within when competing with other precarious cultural workers for opportunities that gravitate towards mediocrity, if not a little exploitative at best. What sort of action is better than refusing working in these systems to force institutions to re-evaluate how they work? We don’t need competition, we need trust and cooperation.
Collectivity is something that MOI arbitrarily gathers to participate in different parts of ‘cultural activity’. If we think about all roles as listeners, participants, organisers, speakers, thinkers and audience members in one way or another, there are of course other emergent possibilities for the exchange of shared and individual experiences of MOI; then we allow for some form of emergent collectivity that recentres a new purpose or aim for our next time together. Despite our differing experiences of what MOI is, we look amongst the commons to produce new forms of mutuality between participants and spaces to recentre us as a learning community.
‘the possession of a share in, or a right to something’
Matters of Interest is (perhaps) some-thing like a slime mould.
Slime mould is the name given to several kinds of unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells, but can aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures.
Matters of Interest is the given name to several kinds of unrelated eukaryotic creative practitioners that can live freely as single cells, but can aggregate together to form multi-Skypular reproductive structures.
As the cells con-ggregate into these states of multicellular structures, their power to source nourishment -food, water- increases. They do so -with more urgency- in times of precarity.
As the creative practitioners con-ggregate into these states of multi-Skypular structures, their power to source nourishment -collectivity, care- increases. They do so -with more urgency- in times of precarity.
In the con-ggregated form, the slime mould can readily change the shape and function of its parts, and may form stalks that produce fruiting bodies, releasing countless spores, light enough to be carried on the wind or hitch a ride on passing animals.
In the con-ggregated form, Matters of Interest can readily change the shape and function of its parts, and may form connections that produce fruiting relationships, releasing countless conversations, light enough to be carried on the chat-thread or hitch a ride on passing animals.
When a slime mould mass is physically separated, the individual cells find their way back to re-unite.
When creative practitioners are physically separated, the individual practitioners find their way back to re-unite.
In practical terms, Matters of Interest (MoI) is a twice monthly peer-led series of Skype based research-roundtables designed to bring together artists and designers during ~and beyond~ the current COVID-19 crisis. Each MoI takes place as a group chat, during which a subject of interest is researched and discussed by participants in one 90-minute conversational thread of online articles, links, texts, books, pdfs, images, loose and formed thoughts.
The research shared and discussed is then collated into a Reader available as a pdf download.
Matters of Interest group-chats are an opportunity to form new relationships with others who hold similar research interests, with regular contributors joining from across the UK and Europe. As a peer-led series, themes are selected from contributors' suggestions.