Two Provocations.

Yoko Tawada at Love Letters to a (Post)Europe, Athens (2015) Image: Eftychia Vlachou

by Lisa Alexander and Mary Paterson


Provocation – Athens, 2015

In the Greek language there are more than four words for Love. Five years ago Europe entered a deep crisis indicating something that ran a lot deeper still, ‘a crisis of social imagination’ in which economic dogma had taken hold of public discourse’ according to Berardi. This also marked the start of ‘Europe’s uprising’ by its people: the encampments in Madrid, Athens, Rome, London and beyond. The body’s presence in public squares confirmed something infinite and unquantifiable to a global system.

Now we seem to have come full circle and economic dogma is being used to inflict regime change. There has been a lot of debate on what has been enacted in the name of Europe over the last few months.

This event asks artists to respond with the action, idea or form of a love letter. Of now. It may also be ending it. An action approaching another, a double listening.

Levelled at this crisis of social imagination, economic dogmatism and neoliberal tyranny is imagination, empathy, sensuality, presence, being together, singular witnessing, living manifestos, stories, acts of friendship, fellowship, solidarity, refusals of order, nonsense, gifting, calls from and to the wilderness, rants, tough love, seductions, messages in brokenness, adoration, utopias and post-utopias, songs from the margins, addressing the now.


In the summer of 2015 the artist Lisa Alexander wrote this provocation for artists to respond to, for an event in Athens later that year: ‘Love Letters to a (Post)Europe’. Following the global financial crash of 2008, Greece’s economy was suffering and its membership of the European Union was under threat. Greek citizens faced the choice to leave the union or to suffer brutal austerity measures. The European project was under threat. The continent was at the mercy of unelected technocrats and economists. The people who caused the financial crash seemed to be controlling the terms of citizens’ suffering.

Lisa’s provocation inspired an incredible festival of performance. Artists from all across Europe came together to explore what it means to love and live in a place you don’t always agree with. Love Letters to a (Post)Europe took place in Athens in October 2015.

In 2018, Lisa Alexander wrote another provocation. The political moment had changed. She was writing from London, the financial capital of Europe, and the capital of a country that voted to leave the EU in 2016. The Brexit referendum was won on a platform of nationalism and anti-immigrant feeling. Lisa invited reflection and postscripts from the artists who came together in Greece in 2015, and an honest reappraisal of our roles in Europe. The result was a book that documents the entire journey: To You, To You, To You and a new festival of performance which took place in London almost exactly three years after the original. Responses by artists new to the project were performed alongside responses from the Athens event. Performance and gatherings also took place in the port towns of Liverpool and Folkestone and in Ormskirk.


Provocation – London, 2018

Since then borders inside and outside have grown backwards in time. A clock that’s stopped can fool us for it shows the correct time twice a day. New languages have been created for these borders based on malappropriating old words.[1] Our enemies were once the distant cousins we gave shelter to after a long journey. Is it possible to decolonise memory that halts the ability to dream? Fifty years on from 1968 and Liberty just published A Guide to the Hostile Environment. The world’s seas are privatised by businessmen and kleptocrats. Walls are being built again. Privilege is superficially fixed for the few. Austerity is a lie as debts can never be paid off but what if debt becomes a journey, a search for ways of being with each other? the soul’s dark summits are non-negotiable[2]

Love is political, love is a philosophy. With love there’s room for warmth and dissonance and freedom of movement. To see the horizon or be a grain of sand on the shoreline. To be singular and multiple, sing songs of unfixing or reparation, cast spells of decolonization and seduction.

This event asks artists to gather and to respond with the action, idea or form of a love letter. Of now. It may also be ending it. An action approaching another, a double listening.

[1] Hostile – host – hostel – shelter – welcome – gifting-giving – rituals of multiple exchange – a host of offerings etc.

[2] Etel Adnan.

More information on the project

Excerpt from the book


Lisa Alexander is an artist who works across the mediums of performance, text and installation. She also curates performance and writing. Her artwork and research explores the subjectivity of witnessing, artistic practice as a lens on social change or as a trigger for social imagination. Lisa’s work is informed by a prior training in dance. She was an Associated Researcher on Performance Matters (2010- 2012) and holds a PhD in performance and experimental poetics from University of Roehampton, London (2014) and a BA honours in Dance Theatre (Trinity LABAN, London scholarship 1996).

Mary Paterson is a co-host of Something Other. 

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