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.

Participants, Thanks and Support

Participants

Vince Tao – VANDU President, activist
Samona Marsh – VANDU boad member, activist
Hugh Lampkin – VANDU board member, activist
Mikiki – artist, harm reduction worker, @mkkultra
Liz Roberts – filmmaker
Margaret Sadovsky
Paul Wong – artist
Zaire Knight – artist
Matt Kimber – weed entrepreneur
Sarah Whidden – harm reduction worker
Dani ReStack – artist

Credits

Devi Penny – Project Manager + Editor
Aya Garcia – Camera
Marijke Pieters – Kwiers
Kevin Thornton – Music

Thanks

VANDU – Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
DULF – Drug Users Liberation Front
Star Daniels
Eli Horwatt
Jason Fox
Vanessa Lore
Brett Story
Robyn Schleihauf

Support

TBB – The Blue Building Gallery, K’jipuktuk / Halifax
Nocturne – Nocturne: Art at Night a fall festival in Kjipuktuk/Halifax.
Canada Council for the Arts – Provided funding for the The Infernal Grove video.
Department of Transmedia – Syracuse University

Related resources

Speakers in the study group are invites to provide any additional resources they would like to make available for the Study Group attendees.

Liz Roberts provides this article:

The War on Drugs That Wasn’t: Wasted Whiteness, “Dirty Doctors,” and Race in Media Coverage of Prescription Opioid Misuse

Julie Netherland, PhD, Deputy State Director and Helena B. Hansen, MD PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5121004/

Liz Roberts provides temporary access to her brand new and incredible film Midwaste.

Midwaste (2021) — Link has been removed.
23 minutes

Midwaste tells the story of Liz Roberts’ relationship with heroin over several decades. Her connection to drug subculture is inextricable from her relationship to the camera. She started making Super 8 films as a teen, shooting friends she became intimate with in circles of drug use. Her essay-documentary retraces her steps, interviewing friends about their memories of the past, and revisiting footage taken at various stages of her youth. Her methods are palpable and relational; the work opens with her first-ever film (a grainy black and white mud fight starring her friends), becoming more high resolution as Roberts becomes more adept with different cameras and techniques.

As she tells the story of her life, Roberts intentionally complicates the sobriety-redemption narrative so often dramatized in the media. She points out that the moralizing implications of “war on drugs” storylines have very real effects. This is evident in a poignant clip of a Middletown, Ohio City Councilman justifying his plan to refuse to provide services to people who overdose on the basis that it is their fault for costing the city money. “The purpose of this is to scare people,” he says, as Roberts zooms in on a painting behind him, depicting a lone sleigh rider traversing a winter landscape. Roberts’ work presents the stigmatized subject of addiction told via the lasting friendships it produced in her life, reclaiming the nuances of her story. She rejects the obligation to feel shame in the face of a society that criminalizes addiction instead of supporting pathways to recovery. “I was not ‘bad’ then, I am not ‘good’ now,” she declares in a voiceover and title at the end. All along she has been a filmmaker, a storyteller, and a friend.

-from exhibition text by Vanessa Thill for Southern Exposure show MONOLITH curated by Ricki Dwyer

Dani Restack provides two of her videos:

Drawings for Quill
7min
https://vimeo.com/572593613
pass : QUILL

For Vincent
1 min
https://vimeo.com/572583424
pass: VINCENT

Dani ReStack provided 3 texts from ‘Glad Day: Daily Affirmations for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People’ by Joan Larkin

Cooper Battersby and Emily Vey Duke provide this excerpt from Charles Baudelaire’s poem Be Drunk.