July 11, 2024

Recurrent Queer Imaginaries, Helen Pritchard and Winnie Soon

November 20, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Preview November 19, 5:00 – 6:30pm, including the artists in conversation.

Recurrent Queer Imaginaries is an exhibition of queer manifestos, motto writing and urban dreaming.  It features the new artificial intelligence entity from Helen Pritchard and Winnie Soon, the “Motto Assistant”.

“Motto Assistant” is a machine learner, who continuously writes mottos for revolutions, anti-fascist guiding principles of living, queer love ethics, authoritarian resistances, political movements, class struggles, municipal identities, city planning, art practices, joyful engagements and violent direct action.”Motto Assistant” applies the mottos, as a method of questioning, revising, imagining and developing in light of historical circumstances and cultural conditions. Incoherent and worm-eaten, Soon and Pritchard invite the audience to interpret a motto from “Motto Assistant” as a guiding principle of how to reorganise your collective life and fight injustices in the present.

The exhibition takes as its starting point the histories and uses of manifestos and mottos as operational instructions/guidance for living together and organising urban space. In particular Recurrent Queer Imaginaries explores how queer and feminist manifestos have been used to propose imaginaries for life in cities that “could be” or “could have been.” The artwork explores that when these manifestos, these words, are read together they might, as Ursula K Le Guin speculates, “activate our imaginations” to rewrite living.

The artwork was developed using manifestos and zines (the earliest written in 1971) for queer and intersectional life as source text for machine learning and generative processes. It uses recurrent neural networks to train and process sequences of collective voices, as well as the diastic algorithm to establish a poetic structure. Such a queer model opens up new imaginaries and forgotten language beyond the confines of accurate prediction and effective generalisation.

As part of their process the artists took on some practices of urban dreaming, seeking out manifestos that are housed in the radical books shops and libraries in Kings Cross and Euston, places historically important for the queer movement. Although sites of historic significance for queer spaces, Kings Cross and Euston are both areas that have been effected significantly by the construction and changing urban fabric of London: queer night-time spaces have been replaced by the relentless gentrification by tech companies and start-ups.

The seed text Not for Self, but for All is used in different parts of the text generation. This seed text, which at first was mistaken for a corporate slogan, is Camden Council’s motto for their municipal identity which hangs prominently next to the Google offices in the heart of the new development of Kings Cross. Recurrent Queer Imaginaries is a call to reclaim queer spaces from corporate neocolonial imaginations, operational injustices and reimagine them differently for all, as a commitment to queer liberation.

Now start your motto. 


Helen Pritchard (UK) and Winnie Soon (HK/DK) have collaborated since 2009, on machine reading/writing, operative processes, software critique and the ways computational practices parse queer life. Helen is the Head of Digital Arts Computing, and a lecturer in Computational Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London and Winnie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Digital Design at Aarhus University.


Supported by Aarhus University, Goldsmiths, University of London, Goldsmiths Digital Studios and Liverpool John Moores University’s School of Art and Design.