Each year students on the MA Writing programme work on a project with a cultural institution based in London or beyond; they also work with one another to produce a collaborative publication; in 2019 these projects were combined to produce NOIT— 5: bodies as in buildings, with Flat Time House (FTHo), the former home and studio of the late artist John Latham (1921–2006).
The project began in October 2018, when the class of over twenty writers was invited into Flat Time House, in Peckham, South East London. Each room of the house is given an anatomical title, as if part of a living sculpture, from the Brain to the Hand to the Body Event, and when Gareth Bell-Jones, FTHo’s director and curator, invited the students to produce the fifth issue of its journal, this relationship between body and building became their most important theme.
NOIT— 5: bodies as in buildings is a collection of essays, short stories, and images exploring what happens when the domestic, the home, and the body are alienated from their most basic associations and given new ones. In these works, the threshold between house and street, the distinction between public and private, becomes porous and inexhaustibly complex.
Taking Flat Time House as a loose starting point, the journal offers an array of writerly proposals about how bodies and buildings are both constructed and experienced, historically specific and imagined, individual and collective. The writing in the collection is nuanced and ranges in style and tone, from the essayistic to the autobiographical, the polemic to the poetic. A text by James Ireland considers the spatial orientation of the page and how it might relate to geologic time, while a series of short narratives by Yin Ying Kong invoke Japanese supernaturalism and the myth of the Tsukumogami, a spirit that inhabits and animates inanimate objects — in this case, books.
Essays by Nina Hanz and Ludovica Colacino consider the body in conjunction with the medical sphere, and Laura Robertson writes a personal narrative of time and labour within the enclosed space of her home. Other subjects covered range from laundry pods to microwaves, soap operas to embassies, and Bellenden Road itself, home of Flat Time House. The publication concludes with an afterword by the programme’s Visiting Professor, Brian Dillon. NOIT— 5: bodies as in buildings traverses the spaces between the somatic and the concrete.
The MA Writing programme at the Royal College of Art offers MA and research students opportunities to explore new ways of writing about art, design, and emerging critical discourses. The programme is committed to the idea that writing and criticism are creative practices in their own right, with their own techniques, ethics, and technologies.
NOIT is a creative journal published by Flat Time House. Comprising new writing and visual contributions, NOIT explores the theoretical concerns and artwork of John Latham and their continued relevance. The title of the journal, NOIT comes from Latham’s reversal of the suffix ‘-tion’ which transforms verbs into nouns. Within the symmetry and opposition of NOIT and -TION, the book is built to mirror the house and the body as separate, yet identical entities.
The design was conceptualised and completed by graduating Visual Communication student Emily Schofield. The design of the publication was approached as somewhere between eccentric and institutional and, therefore, every physical aspect of the book was treated as such. The outer margins appear as a sort of magnet, drawing the contents of the book out to its edges. The abstracted text in these magnetic outer margins creates a feeling of continuity, a spilling over of content from each page to the following – thus mirroring Latham’s thoughts on time and space. Every title displays remnants of what came before.
NOIT—5 was printed by DZA, Germany.
With thanks to Maia Magoga and Sean Steed for their illustration and photography collaborations featured in NOIT—5.