Writing to Listen

Two-day writing workshop with Kate Briggs and Kate Pullinger / June 1 & 2 / Rotterdam /

In his book Landmarks, the English nature writer Robert McFarlane advocates for the creation of “a glossary of enchantment for the whole earth, which would allow nature to talk back and would help us to listen.”* While cataloguing the earth might prove too daunting, this two-day writing workshop with guests Kate Briggs and Kate Pullinger offers a modest step in that direction by attuning to the rhythms of a small allotment garden not far from Rotterdam’s city centre.

The allotment complex where my garden is located is not a natural monument or notable landscape like the Dutch-protected dunes or Veluwe. It is a place where families grow vegetables, older people prune their roses, children climb trees, and people gossip and chat over the bordering hedges. However, despite its ordinariness, its current predicament echoes the plight of other majestic and minor green spaces across the globe. Climate crises and ever-encroaching property development mean its future is uncertain. Since its establishment in 1938, the complex has been reduced to a mere third of its original size. Due to warming temperatures, the trees bloom and birds nest too early in the season. In other words, its microcosmic workings speak to the larger ecological fabric it is connected to.

Working within this urban site, Writing to Listen is a workshop dedicated to finding words to attend to and be in attendance with our natural surroundings, however humble and marginal they may be. Through short exercises, we will engage in situated and embodied forms of writing and assemble words that bind and reweave our entangled connections. We will craft prompts to translate, transcribe, bear witness, and attempt to render the inaudible audible. While committing to the act of writing, we will also explore the profound limits of words and human experience when relating to this plot of city green.

Writing to Listen is an initiative by Renée Turner and part of her doctoral research. It is organised within the context of the Deep Histories Fragile Memories artistic research cluster embedded in the Intermedia Research Unit, LUCA School of Arts, Brussels.

Kate Briggs is a writer based in Rotterdam. She is the translator of two volumes of Roland Barthes’s lecture notes at the Collège de France, The Preparation for the Novel (2011) and How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces (2013), and co-translator of Michel Foucault’s Introduction to Kant’s Anthropology (2008). Her 2017 book, This Little Art, is at once a memoir, a treatise and a history and offers an account of the nature and stakes of translation. She most recently published a novel-essay entitled The Long Form. In 2021, Briggs was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize. For more on Briggs’s publications go here.

Kate Pullinger is Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media at Bath Spa University, where she is also Co-Director of the Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries. She was the academic lead on Amplified Publishing, a project looking at the future of publishing across multiple sectors, including books, video, games, magazines, audio, etc. and is a Co-Investigator on the immersive media project, MyWorld. Next to her academic work, Pullinger writes novels, short stories, and digital fiction, including multimedia interactive collaborative works. Her most recent novel, Forest Green, was published by Doubleday Canada. Breathe, a ghost story for the smartphone that personalises itself to every reader, was a collaboration with Editions at Play and the Ambient Literature Research Project; it was shortlisted for the 2018 New Media Writing Prize. Her novel, The Mistress of Nothing, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 2009, Canada’s oldest and most prestigious literary prize. See Pullinger’s website for her other books and digital media works.

Renée Turner is an artist, writer, and Senior Lecturer at the Willem de Kooning Academy and the Piet Zwart Institute. She is a researcher at Rotterdam Arts and Science Lab, a collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Willem de Kooning Academy and Codarts. She is also a Fellow at V2 Lab for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam. Her individual and collaborative work has been exhibited widely, and she has been awarded grants from the Creative Industries Fund and the Mondriaan Foundation. She is an artistic doctoral researcher within the Deep Histories Fragile Memories cluster at LUCA/ KU Leuven University. Her research proposes a close reading of her urban garden to excavate stories, history, and knowledge embedded within a relatively few meters of soil. You can read more about her activities here.

*Macfarlane, Robert. (2016) Landmarks (p. 14). Penguin Books.

Saturday, June 1st:

10:00-11:30 Arrive in the garden, snacks and introductions.

11:30-13:00 Reading Session: The Annotated Garden (Renée Turner)

13:00-14:00 Lunch 14:00-16:00 Workshop with Kate Pullinger

16:00-17:00 Meal preparations Followed by: Food & drinks

Sunday, June 2nd:

10:00-10:30 Landing with coffee and snacks

10:30-12:00 Feedback on The Annotated Garden

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-15:00 Workshop with Kate Briggs

15:00 Final wrap-up with food and drinks 

Volkstuin Streven Naar Verbetering / Garden #412 / Roel Langerakweg 33 3041 JK Rotterdam 

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Wendy Morris (1960) is a South African artist and researcher living in Belgium. Morris is professor in contemporary arts at the University of Leuven and LUCA School of Arts, Brussels, and senior researcher with the deep histories fragile memories research group.
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