Week 1: Cycles and ‘pointless’ acts

The first class will give time for participants to introduce themselves and discuss their practice in relation to what absurdity means to them. This will be followed by a short overview of the course journey before we dive into the first theme. This week will be focused on performances that link to themes of cycles and repetitive ‘pointlessness’ inspired primarily by Albert Camus philosophical essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. This will be the jumping off point to consider a number of contemporary artists including Francis Alys, Mika Rottenberg and Bas Jan Ader.
Participants will be asked to make a short performance or video inspired by these themes before the next meeting.

Week 2: Alienation and breaking social conventions

We will begin by presenting the work made for the assignment followed by a short crit session. The aim of this discussion is to tease out meanings and suggest next steps for the artists if they wanted to develop the piece. Then the theme of this week will be presented. Starting from the ideas of Martin Esslin, through Samuel Beckett, we will explore artists who break social conventions to communicate a feeling of isolation or alienation, such as Pilvi Takala and Kim Noble. This will link to ideas of public vs private space and we will consider how physical context affects artists’ work in relation to absurdity. Participants will be asked to make a short performance or video inspired by these themes before the next meeting.

Week 3: ‘Nonsense’ as protest

After the assignment presentation and discussion, we will dive into the work of the Dadaists, particularly the chaos of the Cabaret Voltaire. The idea of absurdity as a protest against political turmoil will be discussed. ‘Nonsense’ is a broad term, which we will attempt to unpack together while exploring contemporary artists who maintain a Dadaist sensibility including Mark McGowan, Lauren Barri Holstein, Quilla Constance, and Rosa Johan Uddoh. Short practical exercises will help develop a starting point for the assignment artwork.

Week 4: Misusing everyday objects

As previously, the assignments will be presented and considered. There will also be time for participants to introduce artists they’re inspired by and who they think the rest of the group will be interested in. The theme of this week is the relationship between bodies and objects, inspired partly from Rosie’s own work but also artists including Erwin Wurm, Bobby Baker, Liu Susiraja and Zanele Muholi. Things will work slightly differently this week because participants will be asked to develop a performance during the class, with support from Rosie. We will celebrate the end of the course with a group performance via zoom using items found in the participants home (or wherever they are). There will be time for reflection at the end.