Sophie Seita My Little Enlightenment Plays

13 June - 6 July 2019

14 June – 6 July
Opening night Thu 13 June, 6 – 10pm
SPACE Mare Street
FREE & all welcome

Thu 13 June, 7pm Opening performance: My Little Enlightenment, performed by Sophie Seita (with live electronic sound by Rhodri Karim). Seita will perform alongside 20+ artists who will be performing live on the night as part of SPACE's Bring Your Own Performance (BYOP)

Sat 6 July, 4.30pm Closing performance: Les Bijoux Indiscrets, or, Paper Tigers, performed by Sophie Seita, Emma Attwood, Erin Robinsong, Jocelyn Spaar, Naomi Woo, Prudence Bussey-Chamberlain, and Simone Kearney.

Sophie Seita’s My Little Enlightenment Plays is a multimedia project centred around three experimental theatre pieces: 1. Don Carlos, or, Royal Jelly; 2. Les Bijoux Indiscrets, or, Paper Tigers; 3. Emilia Galotti’s Colouring Book of Feelings — all of which present imaginary tête-a-têtes with Enlightenment thinkers, writers, and scientists. At SPACE Mare Street, a selection of videos, sound pieces, texts, performance props and costumes from the last three years of Seita’s multidisciplinary project come together in one installation for the first time — as a layered world that allows for the work(s) to be seen in a new light, as traces of past events, future scores and performing objects themselves. Each element in a performance visualises, embodies or translates Seita’s text into another medium — which is itself a queer-feminist and oblique translation of Enlightenment texts and ideas. For this, Seita collaborated with artists in other media who created sculptures, projections, music, and clothes that functioned as her props and sets. 

Seita’s exhibition at SPACE asks how a dialogue with Enlightenment figures can positively mobilise aspects of that era politically and aesthetically (tolerance, hospitality, a diverse utopia), while critiquing others (progress, fraternity, imperialism). Highlighting the Enlightenment’s relevance to our contemporary artistic and political preoccupation with ‘values’ and ‘truth’, the exhibition tests knowledge, universality, rationality, certain forms of empiricism, individuality and progress, asking: for what and whom? How and how far? In a time of ‘alternative facts’, how can we salvage the speculative in creative work and follow its utopian promise towards imaginative ways of producing and distributing knowledge? What would a new feminist, queer, and welcoming ‘Republic of Letters’ look like today?

My Little Enlightenment Plays blends this reworking of historical material (astronomy, astrology, Mesmer’s energy healing, salon culture), with contemporary queer affect theory, the (pseudo-)psychology of colour-symbolism and Bauhaus-style abstract costumes and experimental dance. Translating and challenging the Enlightenment’s opposition of sentiment and rationality, the exhibition harnesses the experimental spirit of things that don’t quite work and are thus exactly aligned or fizzingly oblique, toying with current assumptions about seriousness, identity, obscurity, form and fun, and showing that deliberate artifice can be an affective space and vivid presence in which the audience can dwell and be held.


Sophie Seita is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher whose practice spans performance, lecture-performance, poetry, translation, installation and video. Throughout her practice, poetry offers a specific form of thinking beyond genre and media boundaries, a kind of polyvocal, opulent research into the ways we are choreographed by language. A commitment to queer-feminist politics, collaboration and experimental aesthetics underpins all her work. Her performances and readings have been (or will be) presented at the Royal Drawing School, Art Night 2018 and 2019, the Royal Academy, Bold Tendencies, Parasol Unit, Raven Row (all London), the Arnolfini (Bristol), La MaMa Galleria, Company Gallery, Issue Project (all NYC), Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris), SAAS-Fee Summer Institute of Art (Berlin), Taller Bloc (Santiago, Chile), Kunsthalle (Darmstadt, Germany), Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge) and elsewhere. She is the author of (most recently) Provisional Avant-Gardes (Stanford University Press, 2019) and the artist books My Little Enlightenment (Chicago: Other Forms, 2019) and Transpositions (2018), the translator of Uljana Wolf’s Subsisters: Selected Poems (Belladonna*, 2017), for which she received a PEN Grant; and the editor of The Blind Man (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017) named one of the Best Art Books of 2017 by The New York Times. Other poetry, performance texts, interviews, and translations can be found in the books Meat (Little Red Leaves, 2015), Fantasias in Counting (BlazeVOX, 2014), and 12 Steps (Wide Range, 2012), and in The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The White Review, Bomb, Emergency Index, Lana Turner, Hotel, and 3:AM. She lives and works between London and New York and teaches at the University of Cambridge.


Sophie Seita wishes to thank the following performers, poets, musicians, photographers, artists, filmmakers, and important allies who contributed to and helped with the project: Kat Addis, Vahni Capildeo, Olivia Carr-Archer, Emmy Catedral, Prudence Chamberlain, Laura Cobb, Corina Copp, Cecilia Corrigan, Lucy Ives, Lanny Jordan Jackson, Natalia Jaeger, Constance De Jong, Josef Kaplan, r. karim, Simone Kearney, Adrianna Liedtke, Wendy Lotterman, Celine Lowenthal, Holly Melgard, Luke McMullan, Anna Moser, Yates Norton, Ciara Phillips, Nisha Ramayya, Lúa Ribeira, Erin Robinsong, Ada Smailbegovic, Jocelyn Spaar, Emma Stirling, Bridget Talone, Tom Varley and Naomi Woo.