The Infernal Grove Study Group (Nocturne+TBB)

STUDY GROUP

hosted by Nocturne and The Blue Building Gallery

The Infernal Grove Study Group
CAPITAL, DRUGS AND THE SEARCH FOR ENCHANTMENT

Thursday Oct. 14, 6:30-8:00pm EST

Presented by in partnership with Nocturne and The Blue Building Gallery

All are welcome to join the conversation remotely on zoom here.
Reading: Silvia Federici’s Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (2018) (pdf) (audio)
Video: The Infernal Grove


Reading the text is not a requirement for participation in the discussion.

The study group will be livestreamed at The Blue Building Gallery (2482 Maynard Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia) where before the discussion viewers can see the Infernal Grove video installation and watch the 40-minute film at its heart.

The study group brings into dialogue a group of artists from across the continent who have lived experience with substance-use, and who represent a range of current relationships to sobriety and its alternatives. They will discuss “Re-enchanting the World: Technology, the Body, and the Construction of the Commons” from Silvia Federici’s book Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons.

In recovery programs, perhaps by necessity and certainly by design, there is a push to accept received wisdom. But for addict-intellectuals, it’s hard to forfeit critical thinking to recovery. In addiction, connection to the intellectual can become tenuous. It’s easy to lose the relationships and identities that support rigorous critical thinking. Recovery can mean recovering those relationships and identities. 

This first session of the Study Group explores the notion of drug-taking as an adaptive strategy in a world stripped of ritual and connection to land.

The Infernal Grove Project exposes the disproportionate effects of public trauma (including the COVID pandemic) on drug users, especially addicts of color.  It’s become an organizing principle in our thinking about this work: we need to show the connections between addiction and the socioeconomic forces that create and exploit it.

ig: @the_infernal_grove

This iteration of The Infernal Grove Project takes place on stolen Mi’kmaq and Onondaga land.

Cooper Battersby and Emily Vey Duke have worked collaboratively since 1994. They work primarily in video. Their works can be found at V-Tape in Toronto, Video Databank in Chicago and Argos in Brussels. They are currently faculty at Syracuse University.

Liz Roberts makes artwork that is often collaborative and rooted in moving image and sound. Recently she’s been working on autobiographical filmmaking as a way to try and reckon with the violence of an extractive documentary camera. She has held teaching positions in cinema and art departments at Denison University, Columbus College of Art & Design, and Ohio State University. While living in Ohio she worked collectively and horizontally with a large group of artists called MINT in their warehouse space. Her work has shown widely, and her early films are in the collection of the Filmmakers Cooperative in New York City.

The Infernal Grove Project – About

@the_infernal_grove

The Infernal Grove is an unsystematic structural analysis of drug use, addiction and recovery (not necessarily in that order). It is anti-carceral, anti-prohibition and seeks to amplify the voices of radical harm-reductionists and their coalitions. It recognizes the value of the sacred while rejecting all forms of piety. It posits wonder and the land as spaces of enchantment, as not an antidote to but an extension of the space opened up by drugs.

It’s based on the artists’ lived experience of drug use and the consequent interventions of state and medical establishments, which included both involuntary hospitalization and outpatient rehabilitation.

It is a video installation presented this fall at The Blue Building Gallery, Atlantic Canada’s first independent, state-of-the-art facility for presenting contemporary art. An associated study group will be presented as part of Nocturne, an all-night art event in Halifax in October, and again at the Rendezvous with Madness festival in Toronto in November.

The film is based on interviews with members of Vancouver’s Drug Liberation Front, a radical harm-reduction group that gives out free, tested crack and fentanyl on the street; with Samona Marsh and Hugh Lampkin of VANDU, the first drug-users union in North America; with video art pioneers Paul Wong; with a white-rapper-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur from Oregon and Zaire Knight artist from rust-belt New York; with a “sober influencer” from Nova Scotia and the brother of a for-profit rehab chain; with drag artist Mikiki about his (entirely positive) experiences in the chemsex scene. The interviews are woven together with hypnotic time lapse video of the natural world.

The visual material has been collected over several years through a process both painstaking and wobbly. Much of it is timelapse and all of it is made to draw the viewer into the inside of beauty—to actually be in beauty for a while—because inside beauty there is a room, and in the room is enchantment or wonder.

The Infernal Grove [v1 TBB]

The Infernal Grove [v1 TBB]
38min

The Infernal Grove is an unsystematic structural analysis of drug use, addiction and recovery (not necessarily in that order). It is anti-carceral, anti-prohibition and seeks to amplify the voices of radical harm-reductionists and their coalitions. It recognizes the value of the sacred while rejecting all forms of piety. It posits wonder and the land as spaces of enchantment, as not an antidote to but an extension of the space opened up by drugs.

It’s based on the artists’ lived experience of drug use and the consequent interventions of state and medical establishments, which included both involuntary hospitalization and outpatient rehabilitation.

This is the version 1 of The Infernal Grove as it was shown at The Blue Building Gallery in the fall of 2021. The Infernal Grove video will change which each new exhibition or screening.

You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born

2019
33 minutes

You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born is a visually rich film that follows a woman through a life characterized by damage and loss, but in which she finds humor, love, and joy. With a score that follows the span of Lenore’s life, from her birth in the early 70s to her death in the 2040s, the film takes us from moments of harrowing loss to those of poignancy and dark humor.  Her life is told through voice over, narrated by performers who range in age from nine to sixty-nine, and is beautifully illustrated with images of animals (including humans), insects and landscapes.

Film theorist Eli Horwatt writes “You Were an Amazement… conveys how the human animal’s ineluctable death drive can be the source of both profound comedy and tragic cruelty. In the many stories relayed across this short but voluble film, viewers are invited into an intimate identification with the experiences of marginalized others.”

Featuring Becca Manley, who played Shelly in Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, Barbara Woodford in Shane Meadows’ This is England 86, 88 and 90 and Mary in the recent adaptation of PK Dick’s Electric Dreams for BBC Channel 4.

Something Wonderment

An exhibition at Argos Center for Art and Media Jan-April 2018.

At Argos the exhibition combines two new monumental groups of works. In the video Something Wonderment, made in collaboration with Vashon Watson, the artists explore the notion of wonder, asking questions about the relationship between the visceral sensations we associate with that concept. These include awe, disgust, and the powerful but oft-disparaged feelings derived from the cute and the cliché.

They interrogate the relationship between wonder and religion, asking if the former is a function of the latter or if the latter is a way to contain the former. Using animation, song, macro photography and micoscropy, the work invites the viewer into a world of magic and science, of empathy and revulsion, of humor and heartbreak.

The eponymous new interactive multimedia installation rounds out the exhibition. On a table there are two microscopes that enable the viewer to investigate various objects and organisms – bones, mosses, crystals, bacteria. The devices are connected to projectors that show the objects greatly enlarged.

In relation to this there are six sculptures: dioramas composed of geological crystals, minerals, and small animal remains such as whiskers, bones or feathers. As they have done with earlier works, in the exhibition, the artists draw reflexive parallels between human society and the animal kingdom.

Dear Lorde

2015
27 minutes

“Bone collector Maxine Rose, a 14 year old teenage girl, is looking for validation from her heroes, amongst them the primatologist Jane Goodall, bishop Desmond Tutu and the New Zealand teen pop Star Lorde. Offering them a gift of language, Maxine Rose stands for the desire to be visible and understood, not unlike the desire of an artist. We are particularly impressed by the multilayered story telling structure, the freshness of the characterization, and the honest exploration of an artists` vulnerability."

--Excerpt from the jury’s comment on awarding Dear Lorde the EMAF award. European Media Art Festival

Always Popular, Never Cool

These are some images from our exhibition Always Popular, Never Cool, which was on display this fall at the Markham Museum, a twenty-five-acre pioneer village housing thirty centuries-old structures.  Our piece was part of a huge project called “Land/Slide: Possible Futures“, curated by the astonishingly smart and generous Janine Marchessault, who previously co-curated The Leona Drive Project, as well as Museum for the End of the World at last year’s Nuit Blanche.  Janine also teaches at York University.

Our project is a diorama depicting a sexual assault at a middle-schoolers’ house party, which is interrupted by a kind of feral-child superhero called Ardath, who bursts upon the scene clad in animal skins and riding a coyote.  It has been written about here:

Tee watching with YOLO hatNils watching Nils amd Tee with ipadDorie passed out Artdath and Seth w bed in backgroundardath facing boys ardath and connor with phone