The Doubting Colloquy

Sally O'Reilly and guests

  • The Doubting Colloquy

    Brian Griffiths, some basic treatment, 2016

Past Event


This event was on Thu 23 Nov, 7pm

Writer Sally O’Reilly has invited five guests to speak about the effect of doubt on their fields, from climate change science to philosophies of time, psychoanalysis and ecofeminism.

Short talks, readings and performances on themes of doubt, uncertainty and lack of confidence are framed by readings from O’Reilly’s novel, Crude – a comic account of an art critic’s troubled quest for self-worth and specialist knowledge in a country called Academia.

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Writer and campaigner Alice Bell discusses doubt and confidence in relation to our ability to tackle climate change. As well as battling against a lack of belief and the ‘merchants of doubt’ who wilfully discredit evidence, we must also fight new doubts that we can tackle climate change at all.

We hear fromProfessor of Contemporary Literature and narrative theorist Mark Currie, on the importance of uncertainty for our relationship to the contemporary world. He explores new philosophical arguments that can help us understand the current crisis of prediction.

Psychoanalyst and writer Anouchka Grose talks about self-doubt, Impostor Syndrome and the problem of trying to ‘be’ something.

The artist Rebecca Jagoe examines the role of doubt in ecofeminist ideas of the body: porosity, viscosity and liquidity become important in dismantling a humanist tendency towards individualism, yet also pose threat to the boundaries of a neurotic self.

Finally, musician and singer-songwriter Serafina Steer performs vocals and on harp, including a new piece written especially for the Doubting Colloquy.

Sally O’Reilly was Writer in Residence at Whitechapel Gallery from 2010-2011.

About the Speakers

Alice Bell is currently director of communications at 10:10, a climate charity specialising in developing climate action at a community level. Before then, she worked in museums and journalism, but mainly academia. She did a PhD at Imperial College, where she was also lecturer in science communication and set up an interdisciplinary course on climate change. In her spare time, Bell is a trustee at Medact, part of the Art Not Oil collective, and blogs about the history of climate change: http://climatehistories.com/.

Mark Currie is Professor of Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. He works in the fields of narrative theory, literary theory and the contemporary novel, and has a particular interest in expectation, anticipation and other forms of projection into the future. He is the author of About Time (2007) and The Unexpected (2013), both of which explore issues in narrative time. His other books include The Invention of Deconstruction (2013), Postmodern Narrative Theory (2011) and Difference (2004). His current project is titled Absolute Uncertainty.

Anouchka Grose is a psychoanalyst and writer practising in London. She is a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research. She has written non-fiction books – No More Silly Love Songs: a realist’s guide to romance (Portobello, 2010) and From Anxiety to Zoolander: notes on psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2017) – as well as fiction: Ringing for You (Harper Collins, 1999) and Darling Daisy (Harper Collins, 2000). She also writes for the Guardian.

Rebecca Jagoe’s practice presents the uncertainties of queer subjectivity within contemporary late capitalism. Working across performance, text and object, their work is a material memoir examining notions of body, self and subjectivity from the perspective of queer femme identity. Recent shows and performances include I Want My Ideal Paste at Kelder Projects, London; Hot Retaliations at Clearview Ltd, London; HYPOKEIMON: en Dessous de Sang at GNF Gallery, Brussels, and DARK WATER: The Dead of Night at CGP Gallery, London (all 2017). Jagoe is a commissioning editor for E.R.O.S. Journal; and their writing has been published by Salt Journal, 2HB, Rice+Toye and MA BIBLIOTHEQUE.

Sally O’Reilly writes for performance, page and video. Recent projects include the novella The Ambivalents (Cabinet, New York, 2017), the novel Crude (Eros Press, 2016), the libretto for the opera The Virtues of Things (Royal Opera, Aldeburgh Music, Opera North, 2015), a monograph on Mark Wallinger (Tate Publishing, 2015) and The Body in Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson, 2009). She was writer in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (2010–11) and at Modern Art Oxford (2016).

Serafina Steer is a vocalist, a classically trained harpist and a pianist; drawing on several musical disciplines, her work resists categorisation. Having used the harp as her principal tool for many years and for three albums – the debut Cheap Demo Bad Science (2006), Change is Good, Change is Good (2010) and The Moths Are Real, produced by Jarvis Cocker (2013) – Steer started learning the bass guitar by using it to write. Steer is part of the trio Bas Jan; their EP Bas Jan was released in 2017, and the full album Yes I Jan will be released on Lost Map Records in January 2018.

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