Episode 9: Other Worlds Already Exist

16–19 Nov 2017
In 4 weeks
Tramway & Kinning Park Complex & Many Studios, Glasgow

Introduction

At the centre of this Episode is the life and work of Samuel R. Delany. Almost always known as Chip, he is a grand master of science fiction and fantasy, sex-radical memoirist, revolutionary pornographer, social commentator, literary critic, architect of one of the queerest and most uncompromisingly experimental literary careers ever undertaken. 

Science fiction doesn’t try to predict the future, but rather offers a significant distortion of the present…We sit around and look at what we see around us and we say how can the world be different? - Samuel R. Delany from Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction, 1984.

The fact that the forces of patriarchal and heteronormative, abelist and racist society crawl over our skin, colonise our thoughts and move through our veins, can sometimes feel like a kind of science fiction. But in the midst of this ubiquitous, seemingly unceasing violence, Chip’s writing helps us recognise that we always inhabit multiple worlds—and that other ways of existing already dwell among us.

While recognising the harm they cause, he helps reject the stories that power tries to make us believe about ourselves, and creates allegories that amplify his and our lived experiences in ways that are meaningful to us all. He explores worlds that, even whilst under attack, live out of sync with this so-called present.

The only important elements in any society are the artistic and the criminal, because they alone, by questioning the society’s values, can force it to change. Samuel R. Delany from Empire Star

Delany's books inhabit alternate forms of humanity, not as some fantastical future possibility, but as elaborations on already present ways of socialising—recalled as fact, and distorted and amplified through the lens of his fiction.

A beautiful example of this can be found in The Motion of Light in Water, where he reflects on his first encounters of seemingly numberless group sex between parked trucks at the docks or in the St Marks bathhouse. There, you never had to break contact with flesh for more than a few seconds. Delany talks about how men in that space took care of one another not only by offering flesh but by performing a care for the self that encompassed a vast care for others—a delicate and loving being for others.1

I want to have sex with what I want to become. Bhanu Kapil2

So, following Chip’s lead - this Episode is about the movements, feelings and entanglements of already possible worlds that bear the weight of our desires, and how they help us deal with an often unbearable or impossible present.

It’s about understanding ourselves as tuned to a slightly different spot on the spatio-temporal dial, where—off to the side and in flight—perhaps we can recognise what it is about our cultures that could potentially overwhelm brutality.

If we can influence the future and do a positive visualization of what we wanna see: write it down. Visualize it. Walk in it. Redefine your power—what can you do with no weapons and no money. Moor Mother

Other Arika Activities

Archive

Our new work grows out of the old so a good introduction to what Arika does can be found in the online archive that we’ve been building. It already hosts videos, audio files, photos and texts of nearly everything we’ve done since 2011, and eventually will have documentation of 100’s of events going back to 2003. Includes Sonia Sanchez’s favourite joke, Mujeres Creando throwing eggs, Miss Prissy in the club, Ray Brassier chatting to Thomas Metzinger, a poetry reading by Fred Moten, the last ever performance by TEST, Hortense Spillers chatting about flesh and empathy and Keiji Haino’s first basso solo vocal set. Please check it out here: www.arika.org.uk/archive

The archive helps us reflect on what Arika is, how we learn, change over time, and how we might engage in the problems we’re embedded in, locally and internationally. We hope it proves useful and interesting to you too. If you have questions, or thoughts, don't hesitate to drop us a line at thoughts@arika.org.uk

Local Organising

Part of our work at Arika is something we call local organising. We do our best to act in solidarity with local groups whose ideas, experiences and struggles we feel especially connected to, recognising how critical the resistance of these groups is. We co-operate closely with specific groups who are pushing back against the violence of racist borders, poverty and criminalisation of sex work; taking their lead on projects they want to see happen. A few of those events are open to a wide public, like parts of the recent Sex Workers’ Festival of Resistance, most are specifically with smaller groups and are not broadly advertised. Other events we organise, such as the Episodes, are directly nourished and informed by the multiple insights they generate.

 

  • 1. This last paragraph is basically a summary of a much richer argument made by Chip's friend José Muñoz in his book Cruising Utopia.
  • 2. From Handwritten Preface to Reverse the Book in Incubation: A Space for Monsters. Bhanu Kapil writes heart-breaking poems about bodies, metamorphosis and monsters, migration and mental health, race riots and soot. We asked her to be in this Episode, but in the end she couldn’t make it.