Transgressing Language

Rose Higham-Stainton

September 24 - 25, 2022, 1-4 pm

Writer Rose Higham-Stainton facilitates a two-part learnshop based around the works and sisterhood of Bernadette and Rosemary Mayer that considers the transgressive power of language in blurring the line between literature and the visual arts, life and practice.

This learnshop is open to any creative practitioner interested in bringing the process of artmaking into writing. Going against the grain of academic or formal learning environments, the group encourages impulse and desire as conduits for writing. Each learnshop will end with an hour-long prompted writing exercise.

Transgressing Language is organized in the framework of SIREN (some poetics), a group exhibition and a poetics devoted to technologies of myth and mouth, earth and alarm, gender and language.

Image: Rosemary Mayer, Banner to Stand Near a Moon Tent, 1982

Part One: A Voice Beyond Reason
September 24, 1-4pm

Drawing on SIREN’s attempt to ‘trace and break the border between language as a visual art practice and language as a literary one’, this workshop will consider language as transgression and voice beyond reason.

Participants will be asked to bring along a text that they feel contributes to the ‘unlearning’ of structural and narrative devices that usually bind language. Through the likes of Leonora Carrington’s The Golden Trumpet and the work of Anne Quinn, the group considers how an aesthetic intention might extend into writing. During the last hour of this session, participants visit the exhibition and choose one work contemplation two questions: What is its intention? How does it break with narrative device?

Part Two: Epistolary Sisterhood
September 25, 1–4pm

Time-based and often air-mailed, epistolary writing is both fleeting and immortalized by scholars, historians, and archives. This learnshop will consider letter-writing as a form of kinship that extends beyond bloodlines for sisters Rosemary and Bernadette Mayer, what Céline Condorelli in The Company She Keeps calls ‘languages that produce different registers, though they may often share similar concerns.’ The Mayer sisters used letter-writing as a mode of direct address and self-reflexive device to discuss artmaking and love-making—a chronicle for living as practice—and thus extend the voice of SIREN to a sisterhood that resembles kinship.

The learnshop considers how the ephemeral nature of epistolary writing might operate as resistance—above and beyond the structures that hold us, calling upon examples such as Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters. In the last hour of the learnshop, participants think about what they want to say in their practice and how epistolary writing might form an edict for one’s practice—communicating its aesthetic or conceptual intention.

Rose Higham-Stainton works at the intersection of creative and critical practice. Her work has been published by The White Review, Art Monthly, MAP Magazine, PIN—UP magazine, The Skirt Chronicles, Ache, Worms Magazine, Passe-Avant, Deleuzine and Bricks from the Kiln and LA Review of Books. Her writing breaches criticism, poetry, prose and centers on women’s art practice. During her residency at Mount Lebanon, Albany, NY (September 2022), she works on a new commission about decentralizing feminist praxis for JOAN, the interdisciplinary publisher in London. She also researches and writes extensively about the life and works of Rosemary Mayer, published first for Passe-Avant and upcoming for LA Review of Books.

Together with poet Sop