Holly Pester - Using anecdote as a method to generate a collection of poetry, critical fictions and literary fragments this book performs a response to the history and function of the Women’s Art Library

Holly Pester, Go to Reception and Ask for Sara in Red Felt Tip, Book Works, 2015.

Anecdote literally means unofficial, unpublished knowledge. It is non-quantifiable and contrary to evidence; anecdotal data won’t ever support a rule, or provide the basis of a law or theory. Here’s an anecdote for you: in The Percy Anecdotes, a collection of nineteenth-century literary tidbits collated by the Percy brothers, it says that “anecdote” was ancient Greek slang for an unmarried woman. Personified, the anecdote becomes aberrant and female, an example of marginalia. As a form of practice and research, the anecdotal is a complex of “theory in the flesh of practice”. Archives are full of fragments and proper scholarly practice honours this incompleteness. The anecdote, however, fantasises connections, negentropically forming stories from fragmentary information. Materiality and story come together over the bones of an archive.’ – Holly Pester

Using anecdote as a method to generate a collection of poetry, critical fictions and literary fragments this book performs a response to the history and function of the Women’s Art Library. The stories segue through the archive of personal correspondence, artists’ slides and administrative papers, as well as a poster archive documenting exhibitions, parties and activism in 1980s Feminist art movements. Anecdotal, gossiped and mistreated histories form aberrant narratives as a result of an inverted mode of archival research.

Ask for Sara: A Day of Gossip, Anecdote and Feminist Art Practice in Archives
Timeline Date (Date published / Date of event): 24 April 2015
‘What would it mean to let the custodian, archivist, librarian guide a research enquiry through her personal testimony of the histories, people and drama of a collection’s narrative? To court the anecdote is to do bad research. To court gossip – the anecdote’s deviant cousin – is to subvert research altogether.’
– Holly Pester
Drawing on the archive as a repository of unofficial and unsanctioned knowledge, Ask for Sara is a one day event that will feature leading scholars and practitioners in art, feminist practices, queer theory and archival research in discussion and debate about radical forms of knowledge production.
Through performance, readings, talks, and critical questioning, the subject of gossip and anecdote becomes both object and agent for the exploration of aberrant archival engagements that position ‘knowledge as surreptitious appropriation’. 1
Ranging from personal narratives to diverse testimony and exchange, story and fabulation to critique and informal history, the event features: Librarian and curator of the Women’s Art Library, Althea Greenan, in conversation with Nina Wakeford, on the archive and the experimental production of material.
Writer and media historian Kate Eichhorn will present Epistemologies of Excess: Gossip and Rumour in the Archive, a paper expanding her work on the roles of readers and writers in the formation of communities of practice and resistance, and the afterlife of texts in archives.
This will be followed by a diversionary storytelling and anecdotal panel discussion between the academics, writers and artists: Ben Cranfield, Rita Keegan, Anne Tallentire and Holly Pester chaired by Gavin Butt.
The event will conclude with an afternoon of readings and performance by poet, writer, editor and translator Paul Buck; writer, academic and performer Season Butler; and poet, interdisciplinary writer and lecturer Holly Pester. The event concludes with the book launch of Go to reception and ask for Sara in red felt tip.

Holly Pester is a poet and multidisciplinary writer. She has worked as an archivist, lecturer and practice-based researcher with readings, performances and sound installations featuring at Segue, New York, dOCUMENTA 13, Whitechapel Gallery, and the Serpentine Galleries. She teaches courses on Oulipo and Poetic Practice at the University of Essex.


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