Introduction: The Better Life

Maria Howard, image credit Sally Jubb

‘Standing still and tall above us, the contemporary state is a fiction groomed on pomp, circumstance and coercion. Surging forth with unrestrained desire the 12-Hour Non-State Parade will set forth an alternative imaginary in which the hidden powers and style sheet of the contemporary state and its expression as social relations will be unpacked, subverted and redressed. 

Resounding with passionate calls for action, the 12-Hour Non-State Parade will proclaim alternatives and set in motion a creative and critical mass of national and international practitioners from the arts, theory and social activism. Indicated by but not limited to the ideologies circulating in Jasmina Cibic’s exhibition The Pleasure of Expense at Cooper Gallery.’ [October – December 2019]

The significance of this event occurring in the middle of the University and College Union industrial action, involving some 43,000 members, cannot be ignored. Today—a Saturday and technically a non-strike day—follows five days of action, followed by a further three next week. 

The media and colleagues across UK institutions share their experiences on social media of attempts to pit students’ interests against staff, to penalise workers by denying access to permanence or promotion, and to wrench at the sense of duty academics feel towards students—a care that is rightly placed but not without complexities in how best demonstrated. 

In the last decade the physical and emotional landscape of higher education has fundamentally changed. In seminars our reading often concerns ‘how to live otherwise’ or the imaginings of working outside of conservatism, exploitation, neoliberalism. We think about communities of practice, of thought, and of support. And we think about reparative modes of reading and writing, all with the intention of asking what writing can do, how it might mobilise change and return us to intersectional ethics. The art writing programme is now in its second year and continues to be a conversational nest of optimism. 

Contributions to the Parade from the Graduate Programme in Art Writing occurred throughout the day and included: Maria Howard, Adrien Howard, Sara O’Brien, Jessica Higgins, Siuán Ní Dhochartaigh, Megan Rudden, Misa Brzezicki, Timothea Armour, Camille Cornu, Alice Wadkin, Lorna Ough, and Jen Martin. 

Part of the Art Writing 2019-20 contribution to 12-Hour Non-State Parade International Symposium, Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, Saturday 30 November 2019, 11am – 11pm.