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Writing (MA)

Sophie Paul

I am a designer and writer based across South East London and Oxfordshire. My practice revolves around critical writing, collaborative publishing, and experimental performance. My writing often triangulates between critical theory, trashiness, and eroticisms. 

My writing is held at Van Gough House, Poor House Reading Rooms and Tate Archive, and has appeared in BOMB Magazine, ARC Magazine, The Pluralist, Fortified Gazette, and Scrawl. I have written for radio and live voice for Montez Radio and in association with Pitt Rivers Museum, run writing and zine making workshops, and staged interventionist performances at various sites around London.

Alongside Kaiya Waerea (also of this cohort graduating from MA Writing) I am one half of Sticky Fingers Publishing: an intra-dependant feminist publisher based in London. Sticky Fingers have been publishing experimental feminist, queer, crip non-fiction since 2019. We publishing writing that is too fragile, messy and terrifying to be published anywhere else, through monthly mail-outs, open call journals, single-authored publications and commissions. We have tabled at Miss Read Berlin, Glasgow Zine Fair, Artist Self Publishing Fair (ASP) and others. We also hold seasonal readings parties hosted by Donna Marcus Duke a.k.a Donna The First (also of this cohort graduating from MA Writing).

Before doing an MA in Writing I studied Design at Goldsmiths University of London, so my work is interdisciplinary, gathers knowledge from designerly places, interested in materiality.

I am currently a resident at Peripheral Alliances at the Ammersee, a cooperation between Kunstverein München and Euroboden (June-August 2022).

I like ABBA, wild swimming, the work of Kate Moss, cats, Twin Peaks, ginger beer, and when Jennifer Coolidge says “I’m taking the dog” in Legally Blonde.

girls/ bodies/ aesthetics/ image/ place/ surface/ style/ futurity/ interiors/ iridescence/ material/ texture/ shimmer/ slit/ slime/ ice/ plastic/ slugs/ worms/ mould/ pleasure/ pop/ trash/ erotics/ love/ care/ resistance/

I am interested in writing through/with/about girlhoods in the way that McKenzie Wark said “In the language of identity, the girl has never been. She is the empty slot in a language defined by others” (Philosophy for Spiders) and in the way Johanna Hedva said “Language is fucking made of like blood with chunks in it.” (On Hell). This is the girl as image, projection, surface. McKenzie Wark continues, “in the absence of language, where the girl isn’t, could be many other possibilities,” – I speak of the possibility to escape, deceive, scintillate.

My writing brings an interdisciplinary range of voices together into dialogue; often borrowing from feminist philosophy and pop culture. This is to speak of intra-action, a term borrowed from Feminist New Materialisms, in reference to the ways things rub against each other, fizz, diffract and influence each other. This is to speak of what it is like to be wrapped in the world, how moving materially through it allows for a kind of theorizing, how this explores possibilities in place of absence.  

My MA thesis, Notes Towards a Theory for Iridescence is an affective re-writing of the ways girlhood and iridescence intra-act, examining different worldings through texture. Femininity, queerness, and otherworldliness are brought together with textures of oil, crystal, and slime – also leaning on sci-fi and inhabiting the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris, as a character as she journeys to find her Blazing New World (borrowed from Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 novel of the same name).

My work is invested in alternative futures for femininity. My submission to ARC magazine, BODYMOVIEMACHINE critically examines post-disciplinary notions of intimacy and femininity through a chorus of voices. A convergence of three bodies across screen-flesh, throwing together multiplicity, skin, milk, a kiss, debris – possibility.  

A final dimension to my practice examines how objecthood sits in dialogue with place, identity, work. A Portrait in Negative Space… and an evolution of this piece, Treatise on Mould, takes this on by drawing on other kinds of budding, ripening life. Eight Things, a partnership project with the Pitt Rivers Museum, places an archival image of a sundial in next to contemporary writing practice, whilst Jumbo’s Last Stand, an extended research piece, takes this in a different direction by exploring experimental feminist publishing methodologies.

Really, I like to point language, objects, that thing that happened in 2006, and weird acts of light at each other to suggest how we might together find Blazing New Worlds if we take the leap.

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Talismans:

Linda Stupart said This is the future, and the word has become a war cry. (Virus)

Johanna Hedva said Words are like like a sort of motion in themselves they can move things around they can get high up there and you in fact don’t have to wait for them at all that’s what those guys get so wrong. The words take you they just fucking go and bang that’s it and me fuck I want to go now ya I’m fucking sick of fucking waiting. That’s what this is all about that’s all you need to know or care about that I want to fly. (On Hell)

Audre Lorde said When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives. (Uses of the Erotic)

Tai Shani said They are forever on the cusp of realisation; familiar, yet extraordinary. They exist on the threshold between becoming and collapse. (Our Fatal Magic)

McKenzie Wark said You can’t change me because there’s nothing to change. I’ve never been. (Philosophy for Spiders)

Kathy Acker said We want to feed on your flesh. We want – we’re going to reproduce only girls by ourselves in the midst of your leftover cockhair, in your armpits, in whatever beards you have.” (My Mother: Demonology)

Research Image 1An extract from Iridescence, Intimacies by Tavi Meraud. A double page spread flat on a scanbed with much of of text underlined in pencil and annotated, or highlighted in pink
Research Image 2An extract from Philosophy for Spiders by McKenzie Wark. A doubled page spread scanned onto a scanbed with a few lines underlined and annotated in pencil
Research Image 3A scan from my notebook with the pages full of writing and images clipped to the page. An exhibition flyer from Vision Machines, Peggy Awesh's exhibition at Spike Island is attached along with an image of her work the Colour of Love, After the Ice the Deluge by Linda Stupart and Silks by Samantha Scott
Research Image 4A scan from my notebook filled with writing and exhibition flyers clipped to the page. Exhibition flyers are from 'This Way is Very Hard But Not Insoluble at KELDER by Linda Stupart and Carl Gent.
Research Image 5An excerpt from Black Carnelian Grotto by Shola Von Reinhold with flyers and a postcard clipped to the page. A slip of paper sellotaped to the left page is an excerpt from Elemental Passions by Luce Irigaray. An exhibition flyer from Karla Black's Sculptures at Fruitmarket Gallery and a postcard that reads 'Al Damidge' and 'Shimmer' is clipped to the right page.
Research Image 6A collage of images relating to my FMP
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 01Cover and page 1 of Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence, showing the title, an abstract and contents. The cover is made of a shiny mirrored cardboard with a lilac sticker on the front reading: 'How to Live Forever in the Body of a Girl: Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 02-03An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Subtitle reads 'A blazing new World for Iris, Part I' and takes 1 and a third of the spread.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 04-05An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Subtitle reads 'Introduction'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 06-07An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Subtitles read 'Some Girls are Goths' and 'Every Girl is a Shape-Shifter'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 08-09An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Subtitles read 'After Joan' and 'A Blazing New World, For Iris, Part II'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 10-11An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil. Subtitles read 'C1. OIL' and '1.1. I am Not a Girdle!'
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 12-13An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil. Subtitle reads '1.2. Heaven is full of Amorphous Amphibians'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 14-15An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil. Subtitle reads '1.3. The Fold'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 16-17An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil. Subtitles read '1.4. Sinew' and '1.5. The Veil'.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 18-19An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 20-21An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Chapter 1: Oil. 12 images are spread out across the spread with images of Kate Moss and Linda Evangelista painted into classical paintings Thierry Mugler runways, Alexander McQueen's runway 'Pluto's Atlantis', shots from British Vogue 2006, Cecil Beaton's The Debutants, Unmade Bed by Eugene Delacroix, Karla Black's Sculptures, and Bathsheba Bathing by Rembrandt.
Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence 22-23An extract from 'Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence'. Subtitles read 'Ode to my Sister & The Story of Iris and Arke, an Interlude' and 'A Blazing New World for Arke, Part III'.

Iridescence is defined as a lustrous rainbowlike play of colour caused by differential refraction of light waves (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Notes Towards a Definition for Iridescence examines iridescence as it is found in art, dress and popular culture. I hold these up against textual readings of iridescence, in a critical analysis of post-structural feminism and contemporary experimental feminist writing. Through an interdisciplinary range of sources that are positioned next to one another, a range of different voices are brought into dialogue, each with different stakes in the iridescent. These voices are connected through at least one common thread: my body, the girl-body. In the way iridescence is understood to have a rainbowlike playfulness, sparkle and shimmer, it is also associated with qualities of femininity, queerness, and otherworldliness. Each chapter takes on a worlding of an iridescent texture through these overarching themes. Each of these textures, oil, crystal, and slime, speaks to young-girlhood in a material and textual way, proposing an affective re-writing of the ways girlhood and iridescence intra-act. This essay collection employs a written mode that is thus volatile and shimmering, confusing a straightforward definition of iridescence for an interdisciplinary one. In confusing iridescence, we confuse the image of the girl, which in turn allows her to escape.

Medium:

Writing

Size:

23 page extract and 6 research images
BODYMOVIEMACHINE at ARC:Proxyerotics LaunchBODYMOVIEMACHINE at ARC:Proxyerotics Launch was hosted by Donna the First. Three zoom windows with silly filters: a cartoon of a house on fire and a dog filter in Marta's window, a close up of Sophie's face amongst lots of flowers, and Sam's face floating the space infront of the red room from Twin Peaks.
ARC: Proxyerotics 01ARC: Proxyerotics, a series of 4 largescale foldable publications, fanned out on a wooden floor. From top to bottom titles read: 'Proxyerotics Linger', 'Proxyerotics Dream', 'Proxyerotics Morph', and 'Proxyerotics Occupy' each in a different metallic colour in a cursive font
ARC: Proxyerotics 02ARC: Proxyerotics opened up to reveal the contents, which include images and text printed in magenta. Two of the publications sit on top of each other, on half folded to reveal an abstract graphic and another fully open to reveal the texts.

BODYMOVIEMACHINE was published in ARC Magazine Issue 21: Proxyerotics.

Embedding referencing into itself, BODYMOVIEMACHINE is a chorus of voices that critically examines intimacy and postdisciplinary notions of femininity. This is a conversation between disciplines that can also be understood as a convergence of three bodies across screen-flesh, throwing together multiplicity, skin, milk, a kiss, debris; possibility. 

The BODYMOVIEMACHINE emerges from a zoonotic stormcloud, sewing itself back together, insistent upon the idea that inward looking intimacies can be breeding grounds for alternative futures and feminist methodology.

Medium:

Performative Reading with Marta Company, Sam Ray and Sophie Paul

Size:

10 minutes
Research Image 01A spread from 'Natural Enemies of Books' by MMS, from Kathy Walkup's essay, 'The Book as Pot Luck Offering'. The page shows an image of a letterpressed publication cover reading 'A Typografic Discourse / for the Distaff Side of Printing, a book by ladies' in blackletter text with Jumbo's signature elephant signature underneath with the caption 'From Jane Grabhorn's typographic laboratory / JUMBO PRESS SAN FRANCISCO 1937'
Research Image 02A spread from 'Natural Enemies of Books' by MMS, from Kathy Walkup's essay, 'The Book as Pot Luck Offering'. The spread shows an example of Jumbo's work, a letterpress valentines poem in blackletter type.
Research Image 03A spread from 'Natural Enemies of Books' by MMS, from Kathy Walkup's essay, 'The Book as Pot Luck Offering'. The spread shows an extract from Jumbo's 'Three Typographic Tenets' which has been annotated in pencil. Underlined is the quote 'Mad, abandoned, the Jumbo Press is revolutionizing the printing world turn/ing it upside down and topsy turvy'.
Jumbo's Last Stand 01-02Jumbo's Last Stand pages 01-02 with three images that have been blacked out due to copyright. Title reads: 'Jumbo's Last Stand' with the subtitle 'Pleas.'
Jumbo's Last Stand pages 03-04Jumbo's Last Stand pages 03-04, a document held together with a paperclip. Subtitle reads: 'The Jumbo Press: An Interview with Kathy Walkup'.
Jumbo's Last Stand pages 05 and 15Jumbo's Last Stand pages 05 and 15 with a few pages in the middle omitted and one image blacked out due to copyright. Subtitle reads:'AWFUL!! AWFULL!! / on Boredom'.
Jumbo's Last Stand pages 16-17Jumbo's Last Stand pages 16-17, paragraphs are laid out staggered with every other paragraph heavily indented, signifying diary entires.

Jumbo's Last Stand is a 5,000 word research project into the experimental feminist letterpress, Jumbo Press. Jumbo Press was run by Jane Grabhorn, and based in San Francisco in the mid-twentieth century. Jumbo's Last Stand examines Jane's radical ethos as a whole, as she establishes a feminist publishing methodology, and takes special focus on the last publication started at the end of Jane's life and released posthumously in the 1974: Jane Grabhorn's Grandmother's Diary, from the year 1919.

The relevance of this publication is one that represents a lineage of female run small presses that have been neglected throughout print history, yet also runs parallel to a contentious time in US history. 1919 was the year that Spanish Flu ravaged the US and reached its conclusion, in the shadow of WW1. In 1974 second wave feminism was long underway in the US, and Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. Both eras summon images of a deeply unequal society, which still bears visible scars today. This diary sprawls like an inkblot and encompasses the era it was a product of, yet comes to a deep, dense spot – converges – on Tuesday, 8th April.

Medium:

Research Project: Writing

Size:

3 research images and an 8 page extract.
Eight Things: Reading
Eight Things 01A collection of spreads from Eight Things laid out on a black background. Writing is black printed on grey paper. Spreads include the front and back cover, yellow inside cover, and first two spreads. Includes some illustrations of sundials and an image of a turf sundial, which the piece is referencing.
Eight Things 02A collection of spreads from Eight Things laid out on a black background. Writing is black printed on grey paper. Spreads include the last three spreads (continuing on from last image) and the back inside cover. Includes some illustrations of sundials.

Eight Things is an audio project with the Pitt Rivers Musueum Photographic Archives, Oxford. In this 10 minute audio piece, the archive is translated into an unstable alamnac, a putrid public programme, or a backwards A-Z. This image of a turf sundial from 1909 is used to create an alternate time-scape that manipulates light and shadow.

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Just Speak Near By is an audio project produced by MA Writing students at the Royal College of Art, supported by The Pitt Rivers Museum. We were joined by Dan Hicks, curator of World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers, and three colleagues from the University of Oxford: Dr Mary-Ann Middelkoop, researcher on the project ‘The Restitution of Knowledge’ at the Pitt Rivers Museum; Rebekah Hodgkinson, Archaeology PhD Candidate, working with the Colonial Photographic Collections at the National Trust; and Beth Hodgett, PhD candidate, working with O.G.S. Crawford Photographic Archive, the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford and Pitt Rivers Museum.

Medium:

Publication and accompanying sound piece

Size:

16 pages and 10 minute sound piece
Research Image 01A spread from Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval, with an image of black mould on a wall clipped to the page. Underlined is the quote "The warm spores from it's surface melted into slime on my fingers, slipping between the grooves in my skin."
A Portrait in Negative Space, Ode to Clutter, and I Have Never Been a Minimalist 01-02A Portrait in Negative Space, Ode to Clutter, and I Have Never Been a Minimalist pages 01-02 clipped together by a paperclip. The writing is organised by numbered sections. On this spread, 0 to 4.
A Portrait in Negative Space, Ode to Clutter, and I Have Never Been a Minimalist 03-04A Portrait in Negative Space, Ode to Clutter, and I Have Never Been a Minimalist pages 01-02 clipped together by a paperclip. The writing is organised by numbered sections. On this spread, 5, and a short bibliography
Treatise on MouldThe front and back covers and inside spread from a publication called 'ending stopping closing' on a black background. The publication is long and thing, black text on white paper. The title of the inside spread reads 'Sophie Paul / Treatise on Mould'.

A Portrait in Negative Space, Ode to Clutter, and I Have Never Been a Minimalist, and its sister, Treatise on Mould, is an exploration of placemaking through objecthood and identity. It explores the rooms we occupy, specifically as renters shifting around a series of rooms, and how the possessions we take with us and particularities of place paint a moving portrait of it.

"Understand that the place I’m about to show you is less like standing in a room in a house, and much less like spending a prolonged period of time there. This place is more like swilling your hand through running water; a series of sketches connected with a thread."

Medium:

Writing

Size:

4 pages, a spread from a publication and one research image