04.12.2020 – 03.01.2021
Unfinished Histories Vol. VII
At the end of his last book, Our Death (Commune Editions, 2019), Bonney quotes Lucy Parsons, the anarchist labour organiser whom the Chicago Police described as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”—“You are not absolutely defenseless”. Bonney’s poems take their place among these defences. They take up and carry on the precious, practical knowledge of refusal and resistance. Full of the necessary vitriol, full of the voices of comrades who are no longer here and of tenderness for those who still are.
For the installation, we have selected excerpts of Bonney’s work from Our Death as well as Letters against the Firmament (Enitharmon, 2015). Both books voice a fierce critique of legal institutions and their executive powers, articulating a coherent and historically rooted abolitionist stance towards prison and police.
Bonney’s Letters were largely written during and in the wake of the 2010 student movement in response to sweeping rises in tuition fees, and the 2011 riots following the killing of Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police. They scrutinize the contemporary moment through the lens of the history of the forces keeping us pinned inside the capitalist state and its various technologies of exploitation, separation and prosecution. This is the case in «Corpus Hermeticum» which weaves together the burning of Italian philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno in 1600, with the creation of London Police in the early 20th century by George Peel and the history of Newgate Prison.
Sean Bonney was a poet and scholar who was born in Brighton and grew up in the north of England. He published numerous poetry pamphlets and seven books, as well as completing a doctoral study of Amiri Baraka and the US black radical tradition. Together with the poet Frances Kruk, Bonney set up the small press yt communications. His book Letters Against the Firmament, including a significant body of poetic letters written in response to and in the wake of the London Riots, was published in 2015. The same year, Bonney moved from London to Berlin to undertake post-doctoral work at the Freie Universität, studying the anarchist poet Diane di Prima. His last book, Our Death, was published in 2019. Bonney died on 13 November, 2019. He was an infinite source of knowledge of radical left history – communist, anarchist and antisfascist – and poetry alike. Amiri Baraka, Rimbaud, Katerina Gogou, Baudelaire, Pasolini, and Artaud are among a plethora of poetic influences and voices which found their way into his work. Bonney’s poems have been translated into multiple languages, in the context of both literary institutions and political movements.
Organisiert by Andrea Garcés, Lotta Thießen for artiCHOKE
Head of production: Carolina Redondo