11am-2pm, 14 June, 2017, Conway Hall, London
We don’t like doing things by halves in the Art/Law Network. So on 14 June 2017, at the wonderful Conway Hall in Holborn, as part of the fantastic AntiUniversity 2017 Festival, we decided to not just pose questions around art, law and protest, but to just go ahead and CUT UP THE LAW. Just as law cuts and divides, we decided to cut and divide law to unravel the not too indistinct intersections of art, law and protest.
Using the ‘cut-up’ technique of artist Brion Gysin and writer William Burroughs, where text is reordered to text to create new meanings, we did the same with law, in order to highlight the how law can be changed and the role of art and protest in doing this. Burroughs claimed ‘cutting up is for everyone .. right here, write now’ (William Burroughs, The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin, Totem Press 1962).
We had a sturdy crew of lawyers, artists, and agitators guiding through our shared creations and discussions, to find where those intersections of art, law and protest reside, if at all.
Plenty of questions were posed – is it that we can see law’s limits through the lens of art and the vehicle of protest? Is there much difference between art and resistance, are they both media of change, or do their powerful forces go beyond communication, where every act of resistance is a work of art, as thinker Gilles Deleuze would say? Does this mean law is a work of art too?
We put these questions together to form conceptual, tangible and material explorations on the themes with the hope of re-creating law, and protest, through art, coming away with an object or product that replicates, manifests, represents or enacts, these very ideas.
We ended up with some fantastic creations, such as the ‘beast of law’, some voice cut ups (where one person read text from a judgement randomly and then another typed this up), some haikus as well as a depiction of the internal workings of law through the use of the sculpting meshwork.
This workshop came at a pivotal point in our democracy, just less than a week since the General Election, as well as tragically at the same time as the Grenfell Tower fire blazed not very far away in Notting Hill. We had not realised the horrific irony of us cutting up the Housing and Planning Act 2016 that very same morning. Wishing infinite peace for all those who passed, are still missing or remain displaced.
The Art/Law Network facilitators included:
Debra Shaw, Reader in Cultural Studies, University of East London
Charlie Blake, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, University of West London
Lizzy Willmington, PhD Researcher, Cardiff Law School
Rosalie Schweiker, Artist
Elaine Quinn, Lawyer, Editor The Conscious Lawyer
Mothiur Rahman, Lawyer, Spoken Word Artist
Jack Tan, Artist
Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Lecturer in Law, University of Sussex
Members of the Public
The socially engaged art of Gil Mualem-Doron’s ‘New Union Flag’ and soundscape of artists Distant Animals’ ‘Rights Room’ was featured as part of the event.
All photography and filming by Laura Cugusi.
For more information on the AntiUniversity 2017 Festival, see www.antiuniversity.org.