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Fiona James and Jessica Wiesner

Flat Time House

3 March 2018 - 11.00am-5.30pm


PS/Y’s Hysteria programme and Flat Time House present a daylong workshop with Fiona James and Jessica Wiesner.

As artists and researchers coming from a sculptural background, Fiona James and Jessica Wiesner consider neurological plasticity to be a sculpt-able surface. Building on their previous collaborative practice, this daylong workshop investigates trauma and involuntary gesture as manifestations of the assertion that ‘the body critiques its environment’ (James/Wiesner).

Following an introduction to Polyvagal theory, participants are invited to take part in embodied exercises and group discussion to consider the body as a site of continual adaption, addressing how control, security, neglect and transience work for, and against, typical notions of subjectivity. This will be followed by an experience of Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), a series of simple exercises activating natural reflex mechanisms to assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma.

Due to the nature of the workshop, there are a limited number of places and a requirement to commit to the whole day. A meal will be provided and shared during the workshop.


‘My body critiques me daily – sluggish from drinking or tense from slack stress management, I try its complaints on for size and walk around in how they sculpt me.
Perhaps, the question is how do these outfits hack the hold of habit?’ (James/Wiesner)

This day long workshop is concerned with conveyance. Following the hysteric and their wisdom that even the self is a blind spot, these flows of understanding, communication and coherence exist not in binaries of say voluntary and involuntary actions but across a spectrum of corporeal operations. After all we are creatures of gesture, motioning out into environment consciously and otherwise. This work-day will be a space to collectively embrace and exploit this abundance, not to work towards correction but to suggest coherence is a shifting state from which adaption sculpts and becomes sculpt-able.

Split into three segments we will begin with an in-depth introduction to Polyvagal theory; a recent paradigm shift, radically overwriting notions of ‘the self’ through its material emphasise on interpersonal adaptation and collective regulation. We will move through embodied exercises and group discussion to further our grasp of how the body critiques its environment, offering transient testimony legible in a logic of inter-relational grounding; a non-verbal lexicon.

The second leg of the day will pivot off the offer to experience Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) which uses the feedback of flesh to enter the brain’s archive, reconfiguring potential behavioural responses via the evolutionary structures of memory and effects it has on our armouring and activation. We have been working with this readership modality (that utilises a mammalian mechanism, normally suppressed by the strain of the social, made visible by the tremor; an involuntary yet knowing release) for the past year to assert that the subject is supple, and its resources abundant when trained in a receptive trust that looks beyond what is already articulable.

From this state of enhanced activation, pulsing and plastic, we will move on to dissect how the bodies natural coping systems and networks of conveyance, so often overwritten by language could be scaled up and outward towards a felt infrastructural knowledge; finding abundance in this elusive evidence towards a form of ‘fleshtimony’.

– Fiona James and Jessica Wiesner


Through their long-term collaboration, Fiona James and Jess Wiesner consider collective anxiety a mobiliser of alternative realities with outcomes including: ‘The Distractible Reading Room’ Kunstraum, London; ‘Co-rroboration’, South London Gallery, London; ‘The Incident’, Whitstable Biennale; and, ‘Kino’, Queen Mary University.

Fiona James’ work alines theoretical investigation with performance and has been presented at Residency Unlimited, New York; JVE, Maastricht; Kunstraum, London; Anxiety Arts Festival, London; ICA, London; and, Temporary-Kunsthalle, Berlin. Co-founder of Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre, a not-for-profit site (opening 2018), she is currently training in Brainspotting and as a Trauma and Stress Release (TRE) practitioner.

Jess Wiesner is an artist and researcher whose collaborative projects and solo work have been exhibited at Hessel Museum of Art, New York; Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; Tate Modern, London; KW, Berlin; Montague Space, London; CIC, Cairo; Chisenhale Gallery, London. With a practice that looks to alternative forms of agency, she is currently undertaking research into ill-fitting actions through an AHRC funded PhD (Northumbria/Sunderland Universities).