Tentacular Thinking: It's What I Live For '

Jamie Steedman discusses writhing tentacles, counterculture, hybridity and collectivity with Zoë Marden. Reaching up from the deep underbellies of capitalist criticism and bewitching sisterhood, her diverse practice makes us consider how we can enact refusal today.

Artist: Zoë Marden

Editor: Jamie Steedman

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JS : Zoë Marden’s work traverses medium, context, people and place. In spite of this text, it defies any kind of classification – very much speaking of tentacular thinking itself; how we may imagine new spaces, new collectives and new approaches to living in the future.

ZM : To think collectively is to think collaboratively. We are forging tentacular networks that never existed within our communities. ‘Mutual Aide’ becomes ‘Making Kin’ and vice versa. Contemporary life is suspended in ways we thought impossible.

JS : Life has become slippery. The irretrievable distinctions of leisure and work, education and play, socialness and hermitage have become (even more) messy through the realms of the virtual. Marden’s long-term project Mermania: Tales of Tentacularity (The Tentacles of COVID Capitalism) epitomises this process of Tentacular thinking. Just like the octopus, the squid, the jellyfish, or Ursula herself, each tentacle also acts as the channel through which Marden’s work materialises. It takes on different forms, different locations, different iterations – each a distinct limb of research and production in itself, all the while bound to a collective body. From live performances such as Unbothered & Moisturised in Art Basel Hong Kong 2019; to online performative lectures such as So Remember the Liquid Ground; to multimedia installations such as Mermania at FUTURELESS, SomoS Art Gallery, Berlin; these tentacular limbs become not only the driving thought behind the work, but the actual work itself and the manifold ways in which they occur. They emerge both on and offline, both virtually and in the flesh, folding over and caressing one another with each oozing iteration.

ZM : The impossible has seemed to happen, hasn’t it? 

JS : Which leads to the speculative question, nay fear... 

ZM : What other impossibilities can we think up? What other ‘impossibles’ may become possible?

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