Things I Did in 2014

Each year I do this post rounding up what I did in the previous year. It's a useful way for me to track projects.

-I was at Open School East (OSE) as an Associate until July.

-I ran the first phase of The Bad Vibes Club - a research project into morbid ethics - at Open School East.

-At the London Art Fair I showed some work at Space in Between's stand, and the ARKA group's The Ocelli was included in the film programme.

-The mud formed a finger, pointed by the ARKA group was exhibited as an off-site Space in Between project at Sutton House.

-I began the Radio Anti broadcasting project with Ross Jardine.

-I did more music recording and production work that I still can't talk about but will actually be coming out this year, unlike last year when I said the same thing about the same project.

-OSE had a short residency at Performing Arts Forum in St. Ermes, France.

-Along with Jonathan Hoskins and Lisa Skuret I went to New York to take part in a week long series of events, and present at the Composing Differences symposium at MOMA PS1. A publication with a text by myself, Jon and Nova Benway from The Public School will be available in 2015.

-Just looking through my calendar, it seems like we drank a lot at OSE.

-I made a new performance work with Daniel Oliver called I'm Here. You're Here. Let's Discourse!

-The ARKA group presented Beginnings at Whitstable Bienniale.

-OSE had a week long residency/lovely holiday at CAST in Helston.

-I tried out a new performance piece called Communal Juicing at OSE's exhibition at PEER gallery.

-I made a new film, Clypping (with Tim Bowditch) and a new performance, Somatic Practice (with Eleanor Sikorski) for Wirksworth Festival.

-The ARKA group presented Beginnings at Axolotl, a group exhibition at Model Gallery in Liverpool.

-In what would eventually become a kind of weird research project leading me towards emotionally and physically terrifying situations that I mined for creative content, but originally began as a way of meeting new people, I joined Tinder.

-Radio Anti produced a day of performances and broadcasts for the Art Licks Weekend. You can listen to the recordings online here.

-And, without any conflict of interest whatsoever, I also produced a new performance for another part of the Art Licks Weekend, called Communal Juicing, performed by Katie Braden, Daniel Oliver and a masticating, cold press juicer.

-I had a solo show, also called Communal Juicing at Space in Between.

-The ARKA group's film EXTRAMISSION (2011) was screened at Night Contact as part of Brighton Photo Biennale.

-The ARKA group exhibited On Between, a new installation of sculptures and sound, at Zabludowicz Collection.

-OSE had a fundraiser, and with the help of Lucy Beech's barnstorming speech, managed to raise the money they needed to run for another two years. Yaaaaaaaaay.

-The Bad Vibes Club began to produce original research, I gave a talk about music, melancholy and philosophy at the ICA called The Minor Sixth

-Myself and Matt Breen also produced a segment for Jenny Moore's You Can't Win Them All Ladies and Gentlemen live radio project, a critical appreciation of the film Happiness by Todd Solondz.

-And now it's 2015 and your life is slipping away from you.

Have a good year everybody.

MAO: Live in the Studio Day 6


Abjection, Transcendence, Desire & Disgust

MAO: Live in the Studio Day 4 (pt 2)


MAO: Live in the Studio Day 4 (pt 1)

Eleanor Sikorski is on her way. I'm going to write this, then she's going to arrive and make everything work. I've had an idea. I'm glad about that.

Perversity and Bodily Desire

At the heart of sex is abjection. An exchange of fluids - saliva, vaginal fluid, semen, anal mucous. In sex there is a tacit agreement to somehow ignore (transcend?) the historically/evolutionary produced psychological response to these materials as things to be cast off or cleaned up.

More than that. In sex, these abject materials are revered, they are the sacred fluids of shared bodily desire.

At the heart of sex is abjection, and this reveals a perversity at the core of bodily desire. And from bodily desire we lift the metaphor of all other desiring activity. There is no desire that is not a perverse desire.

The ultimate perversity is Thanatos, or, the death drive. The death drive is the drive (or the french "pulsion". I like pulsion, it feels less packed with agency, less about decision. Like the difference between choice and selection.) to return to a non-living state. The urge to be dead. It opposes Eros - the urge to survive and reproduce. They meet each other in sex.

The urge to love until you produce more life. The urge to fuck until you die.

No, that doesn't get it really. They're not really opposed. It's more like sex is somehow also death, la petite mort.

MAO: Live in the Studio Day 3

I want to return it to the world as a thing,
mark it forever with some dark signature.

MAO: Live in the Studio Day 2 (pt 2)

MAO: Live in the Studio Day 2 (pt 1)

I abject
You abject
He/She/It abjects
We abject
You abject
They abject


I'd like to verb the noun please. I think we're doing it all the time, abjecting things, casting them off, pushing them away. Down more like, down below us, so we can rise above them. So we can transcend them.

Abjection, Transcendence, Desire & Disgust

Abjection has previously been related to the human body (via Jacques Lacan/Julia Kristeva). Here's an incomplete list of abject things: dead bodies, innards and organs revealed to us by accident or design, blood, shit, piss, vomit, mucous and pus, semen and vaginal fluid, saliva, body odours and farts, coughs and sneezes.

The abject is that which is between subject and object, that which the subject casts off, into objecthood, in order to transcend objecthood and retain its identity as a subject.

But what if we operate within a discourse of objects? Well, then there are no subjects. Only objects with particular orientations, consciousnesses and metaphysics.

The act or process of abjecting is no longer restricted to that which was human being abjected into the non-human, but becomes a wider process of shedding material - conceptual or physical - in order to retain a particularity of being.

To give real world examples of non-human abjecting processes is necessarily anthropomorphic and implicitly tainted with human metaphysics, but even to imagine these anthropomorphised abjecting processes is to understand that they exist: a tree shedding leaves, a fire consuming oxygen and producing carbon dioxide, a computer processor pumping out heat, a local council selling its property interests, an international brand subcontracting production to the economic south.

And, to return to the human (which tbh we never left) we now have an expanded notion of abjection for ourselves, beyond the bodily abjection of Lacan/Kristeva.

I call it cultural abjection.

Cultural abjection is the process by which humans define themselves by rejecting that which they are not. It's a simple process - an act of selection, "choosing" one thing over another. Selection is something we all do, whether that's selecting one brand of coconut water (rather than another brand of coconut water), or selecting to get the bus (rather than to walk, or cycle, or drive a car).

I don't mean to imply free will here, some kind of free floating agency. Agency is a privilege, defined by cultural, economic and social context. But even if you can't drive the car (because, say you haven't got enough money to own one, or there aren't any roads), you still don't drive a car. Even if there is only one brand of coconut water in the off licence, you still don't drink the other brands available elsewhere.

If you're put off by this line of thought, don't worry, I agree with you. It's terribly off-putting. It brings up an awful, out of date, bourgeois notion; that of taste. And taste, I'm sure we'd all agree, is a notion to be rejected, a notion to rise above, a notion to transcend. Taste is to be abjected.

What I'm interested in is the possibility that taste is not some irrelevant effervescence produced by ideologies and cultural/socio-economic contexts, but that it is an essential part of those ideologies. Taste (the act of selecting one thing over another) helps produce those ideologies, as those ideologies help produce taste.

How does the bourgeois reproduce itself? Through selection that enforces the symbolic order in which it operates.

(I guess it should be more like, how do we bourgeois reproduce ourselves, though I'm cringingly aware that I'm often not as bourgeois as I thought I was. My family drank a lot of orange juice from concentrate, I call public school private school, I've never been skiing.)

Modern Art Oxford Live in the Studio Day 1

In McDonald's I sat next to three teenage boys on their phones with headphones in exchanging information through the free wifi and through speaking and listening. One of them had a girlfriend or a girl he knew I didn't know which. He spoke to her on his phone and another one filmed him on his phone and said fifty shades of gay.

New Look don't sell wet look leggings any more. What size she said. I said it doesn't matter. They're only on the sale rail now she said.

Shoes in Primark. Oh my god these shoes were a pound said the girl behind the till. I said that's because they're disgusting. I had a semi-erect penis whilst walking around Primark holding wet look leggings, nude platform heels and a pink fleece.