Talk with Stuart Brisley et al

This Friday I am taking part in a panel discussion in the beautiful George Gilbert Scott-designed chapel at King’s College London, with Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu and Dr Sanja Perovic. The event is part of the King’s College London Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: Underground, and is a rare opportunity to hear Brisley and Balcioglu in conversation, and to hear about The Cenotaph Project.

In addition, as part of the proceedings I shall be reading a new short story published to mark the event, entitled ‘The Holborn Cenotaph’.

Here is the information taken from the A&H Festival brochure. Please click-through for the Eventbrite bookings page.



Sliding Away — Digital London

Here are the slides (only) for a talk that I gave to MA creative writing students who are studying a module called ‘Digital London’, in the department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies (ELCS) at the University of Westminster.

Speaking at the invitation of the brilliant Rachel Lichtenstein, my talk needed a starting point, so I traced the idea of ‘digital london’ back to Cyberia, which in 1994 was certainly the UK’s (and possibly the world’s) first internet cafe. Shifting forward to the turn of the century I discussed my 2003 novel Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), which is set in the East End of London, in a fictional version of what was by then the globally ubiquitous ‘internet shop’.

Then I looked in detail at three of my large-scale digital literature projects: Ivy4evr a week-long, real-time interactive drama pilot for mobile phones that I wrote for Blast Theory and Channel 4 in 2010; Missorts, a permanent GPS-triggered soundwork and public work of fiction for the city of Bristol, and; Shackleton’s Man Goes South (Science Museum), discussing the innovative publishing model that was developed for my most recent novel, the first that the Science Museum had ever published.

I’m sorry that there are no notes — I delivered the talk with just a few headings on index cards to prompt, and answering questions and clarifications as they arose — but in talking about these three digital projects, among the aspects that I discussed in depth were audience/user research and testing, access to data (before and after), that the digital (work) is not bounded by the device, and the need to collaborate and to find new ways to go where readers are, at a time when the physical square-footage of the traditional booktrade is diminishing. I also discussed language, and interaction design, including some impacts of these ways of working on my more traditionally published prose fiction.


Press coverage and reviews of Foxy-T by Tony White

More events and appearances.

From the underground to the public sphere

TonyWhite©ChrisDorleyBrown2012From the underground to the public sphere, from Santa Monica Beach to the High-Lands, from Castañeda to the academy: news of some current and forthcoming events, publications and releases. I’m really excited about these various events and collaborations, so I hope that they are of interest. Do please come along, and do feel free to help spread the word, or to share this with anyone to whom it may be of interest.

ARTISTS IN THE ACADEMY. I’ll be joining chair Deborah Bull, choreographer Jasmin Vardimon, artist Di Mainstone, Professor Philip Crang and Dr Dominic Johnson to discuss the role of artists in the academy, in an event that is presented by The Culture Capital Exchange in partnership with the British Academy as part of this year’s Inside Out Festival. Read more …

Monday 20 October, The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH, 6.00pm—7.30pm. FREE. BOOKING ON THE BRITISH ACADEMY WEBSITE ESSENTIAL (REGISTRATION NEEDED).

Stuart Brisley, The Cenotaph Project, 1987-91, Installation (with Maya Balcioglu). Image: Maya Balcioglu.

Stuart Brisley, The Cenotaph Project, 1987-91, Installation (with Maya Balcioglu). Image: Maya Balcioglu.

THE CENOTAPH PROJECT AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE. I’ll be giving a live reading following participation in a panel discussion revisiting Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu’s Cenotaph Project (1987-91) with Stuart Brisley, Maya Balcioglu and Dr Sanja Perovic (Senior Lecturer in French, King’s College London), chaired by Dr Johanna Malt, in King’s College London’s George Gilbert Scott-designed Chapel, as part of Underground, the King’s College London Arts & Humanities Festival 2014. This event results from a loose collaboration between Balcioglu, Brisley, Perovic and myself that has been made possible by my appointment as creative entrepreneur in residence at King’s College London, supported by CreativeWorks London. Read more …

Friday 24 October, Chapel, King’s Building, Strand Campus, London WC2R 2LS, 7:00pm—8:30pm. FREE. EVENTBRITE BOOKING ESSENTIAL.

Full brochure (PDF) for Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: Underground.

-5A FRAGMENT FROM THE LIVES OF THE CONQUISTADORS. A psychedelic parable about Cortés presented as a piece of Castañeda apocrypha. This new short story was commissioned for LA artist Steven Hull’s huge Puppet Show performance at last year’s Glow (a triennial, all-nighter arts festival on Santa Monica Beach). The story is now available on a beautiful, yellow vinyl, gatefold LP from Nothing Moments, featuring audio of the story with sounds and music by Petra Haden, Tanya Haden and Anna Huff, Steven Hull and the legendary Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers. A two-fold, full colour pamphlet insert features the full text of my story, plus photos of A Puppet Show at Glow and an interview-essay with all participants by Christopher Schnieders.

Listen to a preview of ‘A Fragment from the Lives of the Conquistadors’ on SoundCloud (12:50)

A Puppet Show LP is now available to buy direct from Rosamund Felsen Gallery, LA, for $25.00 + international postage.

Video still © Inga Tillere, 2014

Video still © Inga Tillere, 2014

HIGH-LANDS. A new short story that was originally commissioned for radio as part of Remote Performances, a groundbreaking radio project by London Fieldworks and Resonance 104.4fm in August 2014. ‘High-Lands’ was broadcast live from Outlandia, London Fieldworks’ amazing artists’ field station high above Glen Nevis in the Highlands of Scotland. The story also draws substantially on research with artist Stuart Brisley, made possible with support from CreativeWorks London. ‘High-Lands’ was performed with live soundscape accompaniment by Johny Brown of the legendary Band of Holy Joy.

Listen to ‘High-Lands’, live from Outlandia (feat. Johny Brown), on my SoundCloud page.

 Image: Science Museum

Image: Science Museum

SHACKLETON’S MAN GOES SOUTH. The Science Museum’s giveaway of my latest novel, and the accompanying display in the Atmosphere Gallery, charting the literary and scientific inspiration behind the book, was re-optioned earlier this year by the Museum, and now continues for at least another full year until April 2015. You can obtain the book free in all ebook formats from the Science Museum website, or from a specially developed, touch-screen ‘ebook dispenser’ that is part of the display in the Atmosphere Gallery.

Press about Shackleton’s Man Goes South

-6MISSORTS. Visitors to Bristol will find that the new edition of the free Bristol walking map — Bristol City Council’s official tear-off guide to getting around, which is available from outlets all over the city — has been updated to prominently feature Missorts, my permanent, GPS-triggered soundwork for the city.

Visit the Missorts website.

A limited edition paperback of the companion novella Missorts Volume II is available direct from Situations.

Wanted: A New Kind of War Artist. My short argument for Huffington Post back in the summer, on the need for new approaches to talking about climate change and a role for artists and writers within IPCC and climate science sectors in face of the current policy impasse, continues to gather interest and comment. Do please read and share, and watch for developments.

Forthcoming gigs, readings, festival appearances and events are regularly updated on my events page. For review copies, press queries, or if you want to talk to me about doing a reading, a lecture or taking part in an event of some kind please feel free to email me.

Unsafe Passage

CB-DRIFT-cover_2I am pleased to be taking part in Drift: Collective Reading & Forensics a live reading at the Whitechapel Gallery this evening as part of a dual launch both of Caroline Bergvall’s new book, Drift (Nightboat Books), and her forthcoming residency at the gallery. Caroline has been touring a live production of Drift, which was first commissioned for the festival lost.las.gru by Gru/Transtheatre in Geneva, and is produced by Penned in the Margins and Sound and Music. From Southend to The Southbank, with dates in Bournemouth, Milton Keynes, Liverpool and London, the tour is now finished. This was the blurb:

a journey through time and space, where languages mix, where live percussion meets live voice, where the ancient cohabits with the present. Ancient tales of exile and love re-emerge to shadow today’s lives and losses. Internationally renowned performer Caroline Bergvall teams up with experimental Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach and Swiss visual artist Thomas Köppel and together they invent a language of extremes: from the ancient pool of English and Nordic poetry to the lyrics of pop songs and damning human rights reports into contemporary sea migrants’ disaster.

For this evening’s performance, Caroline Bergvall has mustered a mob of writers and performers, friends and colleagues, for a collective reading. I won’t give anything away, but I am just looking at the script now, and as Caroline says in her accompanying notes: ‘It looks complicated on paper but should remain v organic and easy and going w the flow of the narration.’

imgsizeI have been following Caroline’s work for a while. In 2010 I took part in Middling English an event accompanying her then current exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. Going back a bit further — twenty-odd years ago — between 1991 and 1994 I set up and directed a programme of live art commissions, screenings and readings at The Showroom gallery, then in Bethnal Green, which enabled me to work with artists and writers including Oreet Ashery, Anne Bean, Tim Brennan, Stuart Brisley, Tim Etchells, Anthony Howell, Richard Layzell, Deborah Levy, Sharon Morris, Gordana Stanisic, Aaron Williamson and many others. As part of that project, I commissioned an earlier ‘multivocal’ piece by Bergvall. Strange Passage was The Showroom Live Art commission 1993, supported by the then Arts Council of Great Britain. It was a great piece of work. The voices of Bergvall and others filled the Showroom’s idiosyncratic linked spaces, while Christopher Hewitt performed lighting miracles using a Heath Robinson rig that he had made from multiple household dimmer switches. The text was published as a chapbook by Cambridge poetry publisher Equipage. What I hadn’t realised until Caroline mentioned it recently, was that it had been her first major commission.

hold-everything-frontcover-max_221-061b049a927f7dfe2cf54a57fbdca4e2It is an interesting coincidence that with my novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South, and with publication of Bergvall’s Drift we will now each have recently and independently published books that explore from differing literary perspectives what I think may prove to be one of the defining movements of our time: the mulitudinous epic, and the great unfolding tragedy that is contemporary maritime migration. Perhaps, as John Berger puts it in his 2007 essay collection Hold Everything Dear, we are each in our own way simply ‘choosing the voices [that we wish] to join.’

Often branded incorrectly as ‘illegals’ or referred to as ‘Irregular Maritime Arrivals’, tens of thousands of people are being killed at the Global Frontier. In Australia, the Border Crossing Observatory project whose Australian Border Deaths Database maintains a record of all known deaths associated with Australia’s borders since 1 January 2000, estimate that at least 1,495 people have died (a figure that ‘Includes those who are missing, who have not been rescued or recovered and are therefore feared drowned’). Border Crossing Observatory writes:

Controlling border crossing has become a prime concern under conditions of late modernity, leading western governments to introduce increasingly coercive control measures, ranging from visa regimes to military fortification. Far from eradicating spontaneous border crossing, this ‘defensive geography’ has fuelled illicit people smuggling markets, and forced asylum seekers and illegalized travellers into increasingly hazardous journeys. In seeking to account for, rather than merely count, border-related deaths this project by Dr Leanne Weber and Professor Sharon Pickering intended to shift the debate about contemporary border controls towards the acceptance of a more mobility-tolerant future.

01_fomigrantstalaga29_0d4a4___GalleryIn the same period it is thought that 22,000 (twenty-two-thousand) people may have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea — more than 3,000 this year alone. It makes grim reading, but Tara Brian and Frank Laczko’s report Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration (International Organisation for Migration) is a useful primer on the subject.

Bergvall’s Drift uses ‘a medieval sea poem a forensic report an aircraft surveillance image a runic sign’ to lament — and ‘to account for’ — the so-called ‘Left-to-die-boat’ which left Tripoli in March 2011 with seventy-seven people on board. After drifting for fourteen days all but eleven passengers were dead, two more died shortly thereafter, and this at a time when ‘NATO was enforcing an arms embargo in the central Mediterranean Sea, meaning that during that period it was the most highly surveilled section of sea in the entire world’.

It is a great book, and Caroline is a unique performer.

I hope to see you there.


Caroline Bergvall (et al), Drift: Collective Reading & Forensics

Creative Studio, Whitechapel Gallery, E1 7QX

Thursday 9 October, 7pm – 9pm

Booking essential. NB Advance online bookings have closed. Please call the Information Desk 020 7522 7888 to check ticket availability and to book with a debit or credit card. £8.50/£6.50 concession (£4.25 Whitechapel Gallery Members).

Shackleton’s Man Goes South, square thumbnailTony White’s latest novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South is published by the Science Museum — the first novel they have ever published — with an accompanying display in the Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery. The novel is available free from the Science Museum website and from a specially-developed, touch-screen ebook dispenser in the Atmosphere Gallery. The novel giveaway and exhibition run have been extended by the Museum and now continue until at least April 2015.

Power-tripping at the energy conference

Stephen Peake opening the TippingPoint: Stories of Change conference, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Photo: Gorm Ashurst

Stephen Peake opening the TippingPoint: Stories for Change conference, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Photo: Gorm Ashurst

I spent an interesting couple of days at the latest TippingPoint arts and climate science conference in Oxford, which was held in association with Stories of Change, a new AHRC-funded research project that aims

to help to revive stalled public and political conversations about energy by looking in a fresh way at its past, present and future. The project draws on history, literature, social and policy research and the arts to encourage a more imaginative approach to current and future energy choices. The project is shaped around the cross-party commitments to decarbonisation that sit at the heart of the UK Government’s Climate Change Act. Research has shown that many people feel disengaged, disempowered or actively hostile to the changes to the UK’s energy system required to meet the targets embedded in the Act.

Highlights of the two days included Stephen Peake’s opening presentation (captured in Gorm Ashurst’s photo above): an entertaining and highly-animated demo of changing energy uses and outputs on a high and low-carbon/energy grid that he had mapped out with loo rolls on the floor of the Sheldonian Theatre.

Split into random groups of six during the introductions on day one, participants were asked to write a fifty-word story, something that would take less than two-minutes to speak or read aloud. Looking for shortcuts to aid the non-writers among our group, I wondered if we could each try and come up with a limerick. I thought that the simple, rhythmic form and rhyme scheme, the nonsensical impulse, might make the task easier; more playful and enjoyable. That was the theory.

Day two started with very inspiring presentations from some remarkable women including Julia Hawkins of Ashden, scientist and IPCC author Karen O’Brien, Julia Davenport of Good Energy Group PLC, and Gunjan Parik of the C40 Cities: Climate Leadership Group.

Funnily enough, given this progressive context, and an impressive gender balance overall, both of speakers and participants, I also gained the tiniest of insights into what being mansplained (or mansplained to?) might feel like, although obviously since I too am a man, this had not been reinforced by a lifetime of gender-based discrimination, harrassment, oppression and/or violence. Still, an observation I had offered in an open conversation with some fellow delegates got casually shot down repeatedly and authoritatively by a man who (and this is the clincher) was in fact wrong himself ;-)

Stained glass in the Hall of Exeter College, Oxford.

Stained glass in the Hall of Exeter College, Oxford.

A group of us was chatting over lunch, in the rather ostentatiously class-bound — if not to say highly stratified and ossified — surroundings of the Hall at Exeter College. We were talking as so often at such events in recent monts about the need for new kinds of stories about climate change, and new kinds of storytellers. In my recent article ‘Wanted: A New Kind of War Artist’ I argued that the IPCC and the climate science community seem over-reliant on their primary, policy audience and on the news media, where they could be finding new ways (including by working with artists of all kinds) to address wider, public audiences; electorates, even. To illustrate the point here, I raised the obvious recent example of how badly the IPCC’s publication on 31 March of this year of their Working Group II report on impacts of climate change had fared in gaining news coverage; how this most important and unequivocal of reports had immediately been bumped down the news schedules, e.g. on the BBC TV news flagship Newsnight, where UK Chancellor George Osborne’s same-day announcement on the (rather woolly, as it turned out) subject of ‘full employment’ had seemed like a deliberate spoiler, as indeed for US audiences had Exxon/Mobil’s report on climate change risks, also released on that same day; 31 March 2014.

A journalist at our table corrected me. No, he said, the Exxon report hadn’t been published on 31 March but some weeks later, on the same day as the IPCC’s Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change, which had moreover, he said, been rather weak, and that was why any coverage had been bumped. Furthermore, he added — bringing in invisible reinforcements — that he knew for certain that this was the case, because some friend or relative (his brother? I can’t remember!) had been personally involved with the publication of Working Group III.

AR5cover1_275_356_70Having written about both the IPCC AR5 Working Group II report on climate impacts and the Exxon report in the days immediately following their respective publications on 31 March, (and, separately, about Osborne’s seeming IPCC spoiler of the same day) I was pretty sure of my ground, and said so, but there was no getting around the confident assurance of my interlocutor, who by now (as Solnit so eloquently puts it in her influential essay) had his ‘eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.

Within what was otherwise a broadly and generously interdisciplinary gathering, such pulling of rank — power-tripping at the energy conference? — struck a strange, isolated note. It is a timely and useful reminder that interdisciplinary working brings together people from many professional domains or ‘communities of practice’, as Scott deLahunta writes in the special section of Leonardo (volume 39, number 5) that I co-guest-edited with Bronac Ferran and James Leach:

In face-to-face meetings in the context of a project, it is professional borders that drift and open as collaborators search for the best means of relating to one another and stimulating creative and lateral thinking. However, these borders will constantly reassert themselves…

In his article’s abstract, deLahunta outlines his argument

that the role of facilitation within art and science collaboration projects is perhaps best described not as a function or position, that of the facilitator, but as a framework for thinking about relations and how to encourage a certain quality of exchange. The article reflects on how the themes of willingness, inter-profession, conversations and wording, empathy, and collaborative writing relate to the conditions for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Leo395_cover-175TippingPoint events seem to be about precisely such a process: creating a framework and encouraging ‘a certain quality of exchange’. And this latest event in Oxford was no exception. Indeed some of the conversations that began at this and their previous conference at the Free Word Centre earlier this year are continuing to develop as I write. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, so much for making the task easier, I don’t think anyone else managed to write a limerick. I had to leave before the final session of the conference, so sadly I didn’t get to hear any other groups’ fifty-word stories either. However, after a few false starts (‘Lord Lawson, that arrogant peer…’, anyone?) I had managed to come up with one limerick as I walked along St Giles on the way to the conference on the Sunday morning.

There once was a climate denier

Who sat very close to the fire.

Asked if he was hot,

He said, ‘I am not!’

And denied that his socks were on fire.


Shackleton’s Man Goes South, square thumbnailTony White’s latest novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South is published by the Science Museum — the first novel they have ever published — with an accompanying display in the Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery. The novel is available free from the Science Museum website and from a specially-developed, touch-screen ebook dispenser in the Atmosphere Gallery. The novel giveaway and exhibition run have been extended by the Museum and now continue until at least April 2015.

Panel Beating #4 — The Cenotaph Project & the public sphere

Stuart Brisley, The Cenotaph Project, 1987-91, Installation (with Maya Balcioglu). Image: Maya Balcioglu.

Stuart Brisley, The Cenotaph Project, 1987-91, Installation (with Maya Balcioglu). Image: Maya Balcioglu.

I am delighted to be participating in an event on 24 October 2014 with Stuart Brisley, Maya Balcioglu and Dr Sanja Perovic, as part of the Kings Arts and Humanities Festival 2014.

This is an output of an ongoing research collaboration exploring Brisley’s deployment of the Republican Calendar in works produced since 1973. This revolutionary calendar was created by Sylvain Maréchal in 1788 and implemented during the French Revolution. Maréchal was a poet, avant-garde playwright and newspaper editor and his decimal calendar was used by the French government between 1793 to 1805, and briefly by the Paris Commune in 1871. Dr Perovic is a leading researcher in this field, and her groundbreaking book on the subject, The Calendar in Revolutionary France, was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

Also drawing on my research with Stuart Brisley is a recent short story ‘High-Lands’, which was commissioned as part of Remote Performances, a recent broadcast collaboration between London Fieldworks and Resonance 104.4fm. There is more info about ‘High-Lands’ on my Tumblr, here. The story was broadcast as a live performance with a soundscape created by Johny Brown of the legendary Band of Holy Joy direct from Outlandia, London Fieldworks’ unique, tree house field station for artists, which is situated high above Glen Nevis in the Highlands of Scotland. Free audio of that performance of ‘High-Lands’ is now up on SoundCloud.

Here is the blurb for our event on 24 October, which is to be held in the chapel at King’s College London:

This panel revisits Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu’s Cenotaph Project (1987-91). The British painter, sculptor and performance artist Stuart Brisley is widely regarded as a key figure in British art. Along with his frequent collaborator, Maya Balcioglu, he has unflinchingly probed the political, cultural and social mores of his time in a career now spanning its sixth decade. Cenotaph literally means an empty tomb (from the Greek kenos, empty and taphos, tomb.) It both conceals remains that are lost or buried elsewhere and serves as a powerful signifier of military and state power. It thus raises questions about the relation between what is ‘above ground’, state-sanctioned, revealed and what remains underground, buried and concealed. For this project the artists exhibited replicas of the Whitehall Cenotaph, scaled down to match the typical height of a council flat ceiling, in six locations across the country. From a mute signifier of ‘official history’ the various, smaller cenotaphs opened a space for a critique of history and the possibility of change.

Video still © Inga Tillere, 2014

Video still © Inga Tillere, 2014

The discussion concludes with a reading by author Tony White from a new work of critical prose fiction, which will use the figure of the cenotaph to focus on revolutionary aspects of Stuart Brisley’s work since the early 1970s.

This event results from a loose collaboration between Balcioglu, Brisley, Sanja Perovic (Lecturer in French, King’s College London) and Tony White that has been made possible by White’s appointment as creative entrepreneur in residence at King’s College, London, supported by CreativeWorks London.

A cenotaph will be on display in the Chapel for the duration of the festival and can be viewed 10am-10pm weekdays, except while Chaplaincy or Festival events are taking place.


Chapel, King’s Building Strand Campus

24/10/2014 (19:00-20:30)

Part of the Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: underground.

This event is open to all and free to attend, but booking is required via Eventbrite.

Presented by the Department of French & the Centre for Enlightenment Studies, King’s College London.

Panel Beating #3

 Image: Science Museum

Image: Science Museum

I’ll be discussing my novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South alongside other artists featured in the Science Museum’s Climate Changing programme, together with a range of experts who bring different perspectives to the challenge of engaging audiences with climate change. Speakers include Joshua Sofaer, Thomas Thwaites, Guy Henderson, Sophie Thomas, (Co-Director of Design, RSA), and paleobotanist Professor Robert Spicer. The symposium is Chaired by journalist and broadcaster Quentin Cooper.

Here is the blurb:

Engaging audiences with climate change and sustainability is notoriously challenging. And it’s no wonder. Complex scientific, economic, social and political issues seem impossibly intertwined. The prognosis is often perceived as gloomy yet intangible, with vast changes to our world unfolding slowly over decades and centuries. Solutions are hotly debated, though most encroach inconveniently on our own lifestyles. It is no surprise that emotional responses often range from guilt, to powerlessness, to complete disengagement. Artists often find new routes into these topics. The Science Museum’s Climate Changing programme, running since 2010, has featured the work of various artists who reframe these issues in their own uniquely creative ways.


Artists on Climate Change
Thursday 11 September 2014
Dana Studio, Queen’s Gate
FREE but booking essential