Madness is a Very Slippery Terrain 

“Madness is subversion. You are subverting a norm. You are going at it from an angle that will leave other people not knowing how to deal with you. And in that there is power.” Susan Nalugwa Kiguli

‘Madness is a slippery terrain’ is a piece that brings together work by Susan Kiguli, Ruth Kelly and Emilie Flower. The piece reflects on conversations about madness and political imagination – spotlighting how madness and reason are in continual dialogue in the everyday.

In the installation, poems by Susan Nalugwa Kiguli and Ruth Kelly play behind a wall, accompanied by Susan Kiguli describing the terrain of madness. The voices are lit by Emilie Flower’s projections.

Emilie Flower is a filmmaker based at PICA artist-led studios in the UK. Her practice focuses on video portraiture, archive, and verbatim theatre. Since 2015 she has been working as the film artist for a series of theatre shows in the UK and as an associate artist at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) at the University of York. She is currently one of the resident artists at CAHR, exploring art, archives, and the political imagination. Emilie’s work is grounded in her experience as a participatory video facilitator; since 2000 her work centres on guiding film-based research and testimony projects internationally. Emilie is influenced by her early training in visual anthropology, film, ceramics, and journalism.

Ruth Kelly, born in 1985, is an Irish writer and scholar. She lives in York, in the North of England, and works at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford. Since 2016, she has been working with artists, activists and scholars in Chattogram (Chittagong), Kampala and York to explore questions related to art, archives and the political imagination. Her research is a creative response to epistemic injustice – it explores how storytelling practices and leisurely, playful interaction can help activists reimagine justice and understand it differently together. In her poetry, she is interested in how different cultural traditions are entangled with current political debates in Ireland, and how those political commitments relate to the work she does with activists and artists in other countries.

Susan Nalugwa Kiguli, born in 1969, is a prominent Ugandan poet, performer and scholar. She teaches literature at Makerere University in Kampala. She is best known for her 1998 collection The African Saga, which made literary history in Uganda by selling out in less than a year after its publication. “When discussing my position as a woman writer, I feel like that legendary rag doll pulled to pieces by two warring children in one of my favourite stories narrated by our class teacher when I was eight years old. I feel that I am constantly negotiating my way through my realities and the world of imagination that I build in my poems. I have found the whole process of living and writing within my own society is one of crossing and sometimes staying within borders, or bringing together carefully values and knowledge that do not easily provide straight answers and simple denunciations.”