Uncaptioned image.
35mm slide from The Jean Fisher Archive

35mm slide from The Jean Fisher Archive

The Jean Fisher Archive Reading Group - Session 4

24 January 2023, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Nine Elms

Part 4 in our series of reading groups 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 16 January.

Session 4, Box number 1 In the Spirit of Conviviality

Tuesday 24 January 2023, 18:30–20:30

Guest speaker Tony Fisher

Main reading (to be sent to participants):

From Box 1:

Jean Fisher, In the Spirit of Conviviality

Initially commissioned 2004, revised and published in ‘Francis Alys’, London and New York: Phaidon Press, 2007, pp 109-120, Russell Ferguson (Author), Jean Fisher(Author), Cuauhtémoc Medina(Author)


Following on from session 3, session 4 will further explore Fisher’s philosophical interests and how they converged in the early 2000s on the experience of the convivial in art.

What forms of sociality does art create? How does it produce the space for a new kind of ethical subjectivity? And how might its form of poiesis – the way it discloses the world – constitute a kind of political intervention without simply being subordinated to political goals, activist stratagems, or instrumental aims?

These are among the questions that Fisher posed in her short but penetrating essay on Francis Alÿs’s work When Faith Moves Mountains that will form the central text for this week’s reading group. The session will begin with a short introduction to the work of Francis Alÿs, explore some of the wider context behind When Faith Moves Mountains, and orient the group to the concept of the convivial.We will then, as a group, collectively restage and discuss the questions that Fisher poses by looking at her text In the Spirit of Conviviality in detail.

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.