Uncaptioned image.
Jimmie Durham, Pocahontas and the Little Carpenter in London, 1988. Installation view at Matt's Gallery.

Jimmie Durham, Pocahontas and the Little Carpenter in London, 1988. Installation view at Matt's Gallery.

The Jean Fisher Archive Reading Group – Session 3

4 October 2022, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Nine Elms

Part 3 in our series of reading groups led by Michelle Williams Gamaker, working through articles and objects from the archive of the late Jean Fisher (1942–2016).

Together with guest speakers, the sessions bring materials from the archive into conversation with artworks, videos, sounds and objects taking questions written by hand in the margins of Fisher’s notes as starting points.

Fisher was a critic and writer whose work often explored colonial legacies and sites of conflict including Ireland, Native America, the Black Atlantic and Palestine. She championed artists including Francis Alÿs, Sonia Boyce, Willie Doherty, Jimmie Durham, Edgar Heap of Birds, Susan Hiller, Tina Keane, Gabriel Orozco, Anne Tallentire and Steve McQueen. She taught widely including at Middlesex University, Byam Shaw and the Royal College of Art. Fisher had a long-standing and productive working relationship with Matt’s Gallery and our director Robin Klassnik, often writing on artists that were shown here and sometimes penning press releases for the gallery.

To join: Spaces are limited. To apply for a place please send a sentence or two (written or recorded) explaining your interest in the project to info@mattsgallery.org by 5pm on Monday 26 September.

Session 3, Boxes number 3 & 7 Toward a Metaphysics of Shit

Tuesday 4 October 2022, 18:30–20:30

Guest speaker: Tony Fisher

Main reading (to be sent to participants):

From Box 7:

· Jean Fisher Toward a Metaphysics of Shit 

(2002) In Documenta 11, Platform 5, The Catalogue, 63-70. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz

Other readings:

‘Guidelines’ from the We the People exhibition catalogue will be read during the session.


In this session we aim to explore some of the philosophical underpinnings of Fisher’s approach to art, and specifically her interest in the figure of the trickster, as found in West African and Native American cosmologies. For Fisher, trickster acts as a cipher for the forms of artistic agency that she was interested in exploring alongside key artist collaborators – notably Jimmie Durham. We will first explore some of the contextual background behind Fisher’s interest in the trickster, and how it emerged from her curatorial practice; and we will then – as a group – explore her essay Toward a Metaphysics of Shit in order to address the question: how does trickster help us understand the problem of artistic agency?

Tony Fisher is Jean Fisher's son. He is Head of Research Strategy and Projects at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; he has published on art, theatre and philosophy. His latest book, The Aesthetic Exception: Essays on Art, Theatre, and Politics is forthcoming with Manchester University Press, 2023.