Friday, 19 October 2012

may may, may may, may may not a new new

Being a participant in Tino Sehgal’s astounding installation at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall has proved more life changing than I expected. For the past three months I’ve been spending three or four days each week configuring, walking slowly then faster then running, swarming and singing in that immense space with a team of around 50 people at any one time, and then walking up to strangers there and telling them.. stories, anecdotes, ‘conceits’ in Tino’s terminology, about my life.

This isn’t the place for a detailed crit on the piece but I’ve found it profoundly affecting – good for my fitness, for reflecting on what really matters to me, and a unique opportunity to see how people receive and give stories in a setting that’s neither digital nor book related.

At one point the assembled company (there are over 200 of us in total, a fascinating range of people from dancers to anthropologists and including Tim Wright and Bob Stein from my area of work) utter a chant:

Thus thus thus thus…
we ask now,
even if the old rootedness is being lost
in this age
may not a new ground be created out of which
human’s nature and all their works can flourish
even in the technological age?”
              – Tino Sehgal / Martin Heidegger

In the epic depths of the Turbine Hall we have no gadgets to communicate through, just voices and gestures. But for me the work is all about technological possibilities, our ability to connect in non-hierarchical shapes, to gather en masse, to disperse yet remain connected.

Away from the babble of facebookery and twitterverses, I’ve realised I’m weary of the frantic updates on new tech and business plans. I like the sound of that new ground and want to start building on it.
When I do approach strangers here and begin to talk, I can shape my stories differently each time, as fully formed tale, as anecdote inviting one in return, as a problem shared in the hope of solution.  Some snub me, many more smile gratefully, and many more respond so that in the half dark I am sharing intimacies about ageing or grieving or loving or belonging.

The piece opens up wonderful possibilities for ways of doing words, ideas for live events on the continuum between traditional readings and full on theatrical performance, and led to the formation of an amazing pool of creative people, now potential collaborators, including dancers, writers, actors, academics, therapists, artists, storytellers...  who each for their own reasons were willing to take on this unusual job for the summer of 2012.   

So what now? I want to tell stories and hear stories, I want to write fiction and memoir and make things in a collaborative, public setting where I can amplify what I write when I’m ready, and where I can explore with others how we can carve out creative spaces which use the technology that suits our real needs best so we can flo flo flo flourish rish rish rish rish. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

october update

October Update

Chris is:
still a participant in Tino Sehgal's These Associations at Tate Modern Turbine Hall (closing end of Oct);

working with associate Door Rah and intern Minty Nicholson on plans for the first two ifsobooks: Poetry Set
 Free and The Story Park by David Almond (and still looking for secondary schools to trial these in January 2013);

has spoken recently at conferences in Amsterdam and Folkestone;

was guest speaker last week at a seminar for MA students of Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art;
is preparing to be Nearlywriter in Residence at Hornsey Library;

is working with Bournemouth University on the New Media Writing Prize;

is helping International Times to build its online community 

is writing songs

is part of the Loughborough Literary Salon: Digital Survival
Friday 16th November, 6-9pm, Martin Hall, Loughborough University...

Friday, 12 October 2012

RCA seminar in the hybrid realm

This week, as well as continuing to be a participant in Tino Sehgal's These Associations at Tate Modern I've been working to build the community of readers around the regenerated International Times where this image comes from, from a Situationist poster in 1968. 

I was also the guest speaker at a seminar at the Royal College of Art's MA Critical Writing in Art and Design on Media Platforms: Writing re-imagined in the age of hybrid media, convened by Monika Parrinder. The session was very stimulating and included the students writing collaborative on google docs about their nearly incidents for the website. I'll post their contributions there next week. Here's the course description and a useful booklist too. 

"A big issue for writers today is that media and audiences are constantly changing. The promiscuous developments of new technologies – say Apps – and the constant emergence of web platforms – including blogs, Google Docs and many many more  – open up alternative and exciting ‘spaces’ for writing to inhabit. In these spaces, writers can become publishers, unexpected writing collaborations and communities can emerge and a more demotic relationship between writers and readers is possible. All the while, reading habits themselves are changing …although not, of course, totally: for the book thrives. It’s in this hybrid realm – in the feedback loops between page and screen, ink and 0s and 1s, writers and readers – that writing now operates. For some, this expanded space is post-digital… But labels aside, this series of workshops will explore the processes and relationships, both practical and philosophical, which emerge as pertinent. The kinds of questions we will ask are these:

- How can we inhabit new writing spaces?
- How can we develop writing as a set of encounters between people, media and contexts?
- What roles can writing – as critical practice – play in this culture?
Rather than simply jump on the bandwagon of new developments, how can writing weave things back into a framework for thinking?

Indicative browsing/reading:
• Visual Editions – new writing and book innovations/collaborations
• - a peer-reviewed journal of critical writing produced and published by the emerging electronic literary network
• – promotes the study, research, criticism, and application of media ecology
• ‘Wired’ magazine
• ‘New Media and Society’ – a research journal in communication, media and cultural studies
• ‘Theory, Culture & Society’ – a research journal in the social and cultural sciences
• Anthony Bryant and Griselda Pollock (eds). ‘Digital and Other Virtualities: Renegotiating the image’ (New York: IB Tauris, 2010)
• N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Writing Machines’ (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002)
• Arthur and Marilouise Kroker (eds), ‘Critical Digital Studies’ Book/Website (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010)
• Lawrence Lessig, ‘Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy’ (New York: Penguin Press, 2008) Read online here:
• Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, ‘Linked: The new science of networks’ (Cambridge MA: Perseus, 2002)
• Friedrich Kittler, ‘The history of communication media’
• Vilhem Flüsser, ‘The future of writing’ and ‘Images in the new media’ in ‘Writings’ (Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 2002) and
• A Concise Lexicon Of/For the Digital Commons

The introductory session… aims to situate new writing practices in a ‘feedback culture’. This is a broad cultural condition where media are hybridised and distributed, and production and consumption occupy the same space; and people’s clicks and comments are looped into the process. What are the implications for word and image, writer and reader? In high-tech, high-speed, high-res world, how can words compete with the image? Should they even try? Perhaps writing has a renewed importance, as refuge …reflection …as what?

We will map some of the emerging roles and modes of writing in this realm. On a practical level, we will be asking what possibilities and challenges all this provides for writers, writing and reading. On a philosophical, we will be thinking about what implications they have for future-possible writing.

Indicative reading
• Colin Davies and Monika Parrinder, ‘Re-writing Design: Responding to a feedback culture’ (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2010) – a platform for generating research/writing about visual culture
…and it’s affiliated Limited Language Daily
• Matthew Fuller, ‘Media Ecologies: Materialist energies in art and technoculture’, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007) Download:
• Malcolm McCullough, ‘Digital Ground: Architecture, pervasive computing and environmental knowing’ (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005)
• Caroline Bassett, ‘The Arc and the Machine: Narrative and new media’ (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007)
• Lawrence Lessig, ‘Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy’, (New York: Penguin Press, 2008)
• Mikhael Bhakhtin, ‘The Dialogical Imagination: Four essays’ (Austin: University of. Texas Press, 1981)
• Jenny Sundén, ‘Material Virtualities: Approaching online textual embodiment’ (New York Peter Lang, 2003)
• Naomi S. Baron, ‘Always On: Language in an online and mobile world’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

New Media Writing Prize Deadline Approaches

The New Media Writing Prize 2012 is open for submissions (deadline: midday GMT Friday 12th October 2012). Go to  for more details - and then ENTER SOMETHING!!! 

national poetry day

@poetrydayuk // #NPDLive

For National Poetry Day, Inua Ellams will be run an online poetry exercise/workshop. Simply put, Inua will tweet instructions and participants, wherever they are can follow these instructions. At the end, they will have written a poem. The theme for National Poetry Day is ‘Stars’ and the poem is also along this theme.

To participate, all that is needed is something from which to read the National Poetry Day‘s twitter feed at or at @poetrydayuk. A computer or a smartphone will do. In a school, I’d suggest a classroom equipped with a computer that is projected onto a white board. This is so the students can watch the tweets as they appear live on The page ought to refresh itself, but if it doesn’t, refresh the webpage manually and the instruction will come through fine. Participants can sit, watch for the instructions and write in notebooks or writing software.

The date for the workshop is on the 4th of October, at 14.00 sharp. The workshop will begin on the hour. The instructions will come every five minutes and the whole exercise will last 45 minutes exactly.

Please have the poem(s) typed up and sent to Chris Meade of if:book UK at by the week’s end and all the poems will be collated and published online.

Happy writing!

Best wishes,
Inua Ellams.