Towards a Feminism of the Void



In October 2015, Audrey Wollen posted a picture on Instagram with the message ‘a PSA brought to u by ur local chapter of Female Nothingness’. The picture comprises a black and white composite image with the words BEWARE MALE ARTISTS MAKING ARTWORK ABOUT EMPTINESS/NOTHING DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU/GIRLS OWN THE VOID/BACK OFF FUCKERS!!!! next to crudely crossed out images of a John Cage manuscript, and works by, amongst others, Yves Klein (Le Vide (The Void)), Bas Jan Ader (Broken Fall (Organic). Amsterdamse Bos. Holland 1971) and Robert Barry, (Inert Gas Series: Helium. Sometime during the Morning of March 5, 1969, 2 Cubic Feet of Helium Will Be Released into the Atmosphere, 1969).[1]Wollen’s piece, alongside her ‘Sad Girl Theory’ (where she states, and I agree, that ‘the sadness of girls should be recognised as an act of resistance’[2]), is brilliant, both for its immediately blunt but recognisable vantage point, its militancy and its humour. ‘GIRLS OWN THE VOID’ – but what, we might ask, pushing past the humour, does it mean to own (the) nothing? A nothing that is possessed and taken away at the same time. Wollen’s synonymy – emptiness, nothing, void – and the defensive possessive ‘BACK OFF FUCKERS!!!!’ posits an ironic essentialism on two levels: the very idea of owning nothing, and the idea that ‘girls’ have a privileged insight into the nothing by virtue of being ‘girls’. It is precisely the sort of joke/non-joke that cannot be fully articulated, because it takes place on the very terrain of representation itself, which is also where sex and language do their obscure work. In this sense the joke morphs into something much more serious, revealing once again, that all jokes are acts of aggression, even in defensive formation.

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Some New Pieces


Image of Nazi typewriter, including the ‘SS’ symbol (accompanies the e-flux article)

I haven’t updated in a while. In the meantime, there are quite a few new recent pieces available on and offline (links where available).

You can also find my writing on music every month in The Wire.



with Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Nina Power

[Note: this dialogue took place in 2012-13. It was due to be published by a film magazine, but fell through for reasons beyond the control of the authors. Thank you to Geoffrey Nowell-Smith for permission to publish it here in 2017]

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith: Pasolini has often been described as a Catholic Marxist but his Marxism was always unorthodox and he was never a Catholic although brought up in an environment permeated by the imagery and values of Italian Catholicism. Like most people on the left in Italy in the 1950s he was strongly anti-clerical (not surprising given the profoundly reactionary role played by the Catholic Church in Italy in the period) and it is only in his poetry that another side of him appears—an identification with suffering as experienced by the oppressed and potentially embodied in the figure of Christ. Then in 1958 the election of Pope John XXIII was a massive force for change—in Italian society, in the Church, and in Pasolini himself. Catholicism became something to engage with—as myth (in the noble sense of the word), as culture, as ideology, as a political force that was not necessarily quite so reactionary as it had been or seemed to be throughout most of preceding Italian history.Continue reading “SUBVERSIVE PASOLINI: LA RICOTTA AND THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW—A DISCUSSION”

Radical Empathy: Politics and Emotion


‘Radical Empathy: Politics and Emotion’ (this text is the basis for a talk I gave at Roehampton on 9th November 2016, the day of the election of Donald Trump as US President)

by Nina Power

Thank you for coming. What I want to talk about today is part of a projected bigger project (or at least a medium-sized project) that concerns the role of emotion in political and theoretical life. The idea of ‘radical’ empathy stems from the idea of trying to grasp the problem by its root (as in radical feminism’s emphasis on male violence and patriarchy as root explanatory tools). This interest in empathy was partly stimulated by reflections on political organising, in particular the idea of getting people to ‘care’ about the suffering of others in a direct political sense, and here I’m thinking in particularly about campaigning around deaths in custody where, despite the obvious injustice involved in instances where families and friends have lost loved ones – often people of colour – at the hands of the state, and time and time again receive no recognition of any kind that this has happened – no apology, no compensation, no prosecution of the state agents involved, or in the rare cases where there have been prosecutions, no guilty verdict in the courts.Continue reading “Radical Empathy: Politics and Emotion”

‘The Purloined Gender’: Piece for E.R.O.S. (2013)


[This is a slightly edited version of a text that appeared in Volume 3 of E.R.O.S. Journal in 2013]

‘The Purloined Gender’

‘The problem, simply stated, is that one must believe in the existence of the person in order to recognize the authenticity of her suffering. Neither men nor women believe in the existence of women as significant beings’ – Andrea Dworkin[1]

‘The wounds, deprivations and suffering women suffer today – as simultaneously lovers, workers, wives, mothers – have crystallized themselves for me in the image of decapitation’ – Julia Kristeva[2]

‘But here we might ask: What is left when the body rendered coherent through the category of sex is disaggregated, rendered chaotic? Can this body be re-membered, be put back together again?’ – Judith Butler[3]

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It’s not a Debate, it’s a War!



[Picture from Debrett’s site, advertising training courses on debate]

[This is a version of a text that was originally published in Strike! magazine in 2015]

Nina Power

O thou Powers of England, though thou hast promised to make this People a Free People, yet thou hast so handled the matter, through thy self-seeking humour, That thou hast wrapped us up more in bondage, and oppression lies heavier upon us; not only bringing thy fellow Creatures, the Commoners, to a morsel of Bread, but by confounding all sorts of people by thy Government, of doing and undoing. – John Taylor, ‘A Declaration to the Powers of England, and to all the Powers of the World, Shewing the Cause why the Common People of England have begun, and gives Consent to Digge up, Manure, and Sowe Corn upon George-Hill in Surrey; by these that have Subscribed, and thousands more that gives Consent’, in The True Levellers Standard Advanced by Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, 1649.

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Piece on the Folk Revival, 2010


[This piece was originally written for Loops magazine, which I think just stopped at some point before they published the issue that this was written for]

Folk doesn’t need Reviving!

Nina Power

The English countryside appears to enjoying something of a revival of late. Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins (2010) delves into the dark arts of biophilia, lichen metaphors and the crumbling post-revolutionary stakes of a rural idyll that is somehow just as much a base for the military-industrial complex as it is for butterflies. Rob Young’s recent Electric Eden casts a similarly wide-ranging and sympathetic eye over British folk music from Arnold Bax and Vaughan Williams to Ghost Box. Less than 20% of British people reside in the countryside, yet we are obsessed with visions of Albion, of some sort of calm, greenish idyll, even if we forget that the British countryside is also the history of enclosures, of the destruction and put-down of peasant revolts, of heavy militarization, of bigotry and racism.

Continue reading “Piece on the Folk Revival, 2010”