Failed States issue no.3: refuge

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Buy a copy here.

In the third issue, themed ‘refuge’:

Photographs by Moath Alofi documenting remote, abandoned and makeshift mosques in Saudi Arabia

An essay in words, photographs and ephemera by Felix Bazalgette on disparate lives in a village near Heathrow

An erotic prose poem by Alex Bennett

Paul Clinton considering the problem of queer ethics

Gareth Evans on the Armenian genocide, diaspora and absence

Britt Hill on the squats providing sanctuary for refugees in Athens

Every Ocean Hughes on changing her name

Stills from the Jasleen Kaur video installation I Keep Telling Them These Stories

A short story by William Kherbek from the graveyard shift at ILoveItCafe

A speculative tale by Joanne McNeil

A selection from the Sabelo Mlangeni series Country Girls depicting queer life in rural South Africa

New work by Prem Sahib documenting a derelict sauna prior to its demolition

New work from a project by Sam Williams made at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A selection of drawings by Lucy AthertonTodd BuraColter Jacobsen and Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings

A very personal archive from the editors, recounting life in the early 2000s in San Francisco, a ‘city of refuge’, comprising photographic work by Jamie Atherton and an essay by Jeremy Atherton Lin originally published in Index magazine in 2003

The debut of our first regular column, in which Bryony Quinn examines the etymology of the issue’s theme

Publisher & Editor: Jamie Atherton
Associate Editor: Jeremy Atherton Lin
Art direction: Sandy McInnes

Published March 2019 in London
ISSN 2515-5997

Failed States issue no.2: suburb


The suburb issue of Failed States includes an original fiction by Wayne Koestenbaum; special projects on the Charles Atlas film Staten Island Sex Cult and the late South African photographer Thabiso Sekgala; a portfolio of posters for queer skate collective Unity selected by Ian Giles; and contributions from writers, artists, photographers and educators from Iceland, North America, Pakistan, South Africa, and the UK, in which…

Baneen Mirza walks the Lahore sprawl
Brian W. Ferry locates the suburban in Brooklyn
Bryony Quinn researches a divisive wall in Oxfordshire
Colter Jacobsen doesn’t remember
Daniel Callanan explores wild places in south-east London
Donal Mosher recalls the dogwood trees of North Carolina
Jack Self goes back to the beginning
Jacques Bellavance photographs Europe-inspired developments around Shanghai
Jenny Lin spends an evening in those same Shanghainese suburbs
Jeremy Atherton Lin follows the searchlights of the Silicon Valley
Josh Cheon digs up his teenage mixtapes
Justinien Tribillon undertakes an etymological adventure
Karen Tongson soundtracks her youth in the Inland Empire
KT Browne finds herself in a remote Icelandic town
Matt Wolf  hangs out in Boca Raton’s retirement communities
Nina Power contemplates the supra-rural
Olivia Laing has a phenomenological moment
Peter Nencini makes public art in Croydon
Sabelo Mlangeni ventures into a wealthy Johannesburg suburb
Tara Sinn moves to a cul-de-sac

Publisher & Editor: Jamie Atherton
Associate Editor: Jeremy Atherton Lin
Art direction: Sandy McInnes
Cover image: Sabelo Mlangeni

The second issue is larger in format, with longer texts, special projects and a greater focus on photographic essays. It will be published at the end of May 2018.

A remote and foreign cosmos

I’m honoured to have been asked to lead a workshop at De Montfort University this month. Over the course of the evening we’ll be looking at ways in which we might make portraits from the material found in queer archives. The title, A remote and foreign cosmos, is taken from Miwon Kwon’s essay on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, The Becoming of a Work of Art: FGT and a Possibility of Renewal, a Chance to Share, a Fragile Truce, which addresses both the archive and Gonzalez-Torres’ radical approach to portraiture.

Workshop participants are asked to choose in advance a queer figure from history and to gather fragments of text that relate — no matter how tangentially — to their life. Working from this motley crew of queer subjects, the evening will comprise discussion, group readings and short film screenings, culminating in a collaborative project of assembling and performing a text-based compound portrait.

The project’s site — — includes a divergent assemblage of texts and other material relevant to the topic. The workshop is open to all.

de montfort workshop flyer small


Failed States, the suburb issue

Most copies of issue one of Failed States are out in the world, and work on the second — researching ‘suburb’ — is underway.

Since beginning this project I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of artist as publisher and the possibilities this presents for researching, making and distributing work outside of more rigid, behemothic systems such as that of the gallery.

The journal, I think, is more research method than work (raising the question: what value does research have if no tangible result can be identified?). It is by no means a commercial enterprise — and indeed, it is keen to avoid many of the traditional structures of publishing (while acknowledging the time-tested usefulness of others) —meaning that the project is under no obligations, other than to the contributors whose texts and photographs are fundamental to its realisation.

Certain parameters do exist however, not least because it is interesting to work within them. Pithiness remains a constant characteristic — although this time I have upped the suggested word-count to 500. The pages of the journal also continues to be a place to experiment with form, and contributors are encouraged to take advantage of this should they feel compelled to break from the usual shape of their practice.

I have described myself previously as a “hands-off editor” in that — for the large part — I consider the pieces I’m given as complete works, almost is if they are ready to be placed into an exhibition. Nonetheless, I am keen that for issue two I assert my role as editor in such a way as to ensure a broad (though, of course, by no means definitive) approach to the theme. Meanwhile, this…


Failed States

I’m currently seeking submissions for a new publishing project: Failed States, a journal of indeterminate geographies.

For each issue contributors are asked to respond to a broad theme: one word describing a state of terrain considered to possess qualities of amorphousness, wildness, instability, collapse, liminality, peripherality and/or delineation.

The theme for the first issue, to be published September 2017, is Island.

Contributions are less than 200 words (pithiness is encouraged) and may potentially take any form: sentence, paragraph, list, recollection, anecdote, idea, proposition, biography, review, confession, cry for help, sms, email, letter, gossip, rumour, paranoia, admonishment, review, scheme, fantasy, fable, itinerary, footnote, key, instruction, script, notation, formula, score, scavenged text, etc.

Further information at

loose in the forest encircling the city and the sown land

  1. There have been periods of my life when I’ve filmed incessantly. I miss that.
  2. “It is the spirit of the unknown and the disorderly, loose in the forest encircling the city and the sown land… wildness makes of these connections spaces of darkness and light in which objects stare out of their mottled nakedness while signifiers float by. Wildness is the death space of signification.”
    —Michael Taussig
  3. Flat against the dirt of this island shivering in a northern ocean, I look for wildness in cracks.
  4. Earlier this year I spent a few days as part of a group studying with an artist in rural Cambridgeshire. Among the many things discussed — and put into practice — was the idea of body-knowledge (a topic pertinent to the work I was currently engaged in; it still is).
  5. Following a session of meditation and movement (attempts at the former never quite work out for me, but the capacity of my body for the latter regularly surprises and intrigues), I took some time to walk the perimeter of the art centre, a former farm.
  6. The dull, startling base of the bird-scarers.
  7. Utopia in intimate gesture.
  8. Utopia is wish landscapes
  9. (someone said the wooden house sculpture in the woods was built by that artist who paints on the gum stuck in the metal slats of the Millennium Bridge)
  10. “Wildness must take us into its mottled embrace and press us to stare into those places of slippage between language and experience and life and death; wildness can give us access to the unknown and the disorderly, and we will enter there at our own risk.”
    —Jack Halberstam, Wildness, Loss, Death
  11. I was given a small, cheap video camera for my birthday this year. It becomes both talisman and prosthetic.
  12. “Our machines are disturbingly lively and we ourselves frighteningly inert.”
    —Donna Haraway, The Cyborg Manifesto
  13. I remember my first weeks in England. The realisation that mud could freeze. The browns of Oxfam knits and dead leaves. Seeing my fingers change colour as I never had before. I didn’t know I’d be an alien when we got here.