Two Summers ago, I went on a boat to the Arctic Circle and swam in the sea and crawled through the ice as a virus and an alien and myself. It was very cold and intense, but I finally felt close, really close, to the melting polar Ice Caps.
2020 Summer and the virus was suddenly something really tangible and terrifying for everyone in the world. We were stuck inside, but were allowed to take a daily walk. I wanted to carry on thinking about ecologies and nature and bodies and intimacy, so I decided to get into the River Cole – a river in Birmingham that runs really near my house. Because it’s in Birmingham, the river is dirty and full of the run-off of people’s lives and this felt/feels important. So, I started the process of walking down it.
In the last year I have done five walks down the river, moving further towards the mouth each time. In this residency I hope to do a lot more walks, getting further away from my home and deeper into the river. I want to also spend time editing, writing, and collaging with the footage of walks I have shot since I made this film in 2020. In the Arctic we didn’t have any access to the internet. Now, cyberspace has become one of the only places we can be together and it’s been both horrible and warm – the way that everything is connected online – like root systems or rivers, even though a lot of the internet (like root systems or rivers) is rotten.
It’s good to reside here for a month and work inside this ecology, too. Look around and get in touch using comments if you’d like.
Watershed (the work so far)
This video (click above ^^) documents the first part of my walk down the River Cole, as well as a lot of anxieties present in the first lockdown in 2020 in the UK. I made the video for So Remember the Liquid Ground , an exhibition curated by Benjamin Darby, Yoojin Kang, Akis Kokkinos, Angelina Li, Lenette Lua and Louise Nason as part of the MA Curating Contemporary Art Programme Graduate Projects 2020, Royal College of Art in partnership with Gasworks.
Aubree Penny – a friend and also curator – commissioned me to perform Some Men Have Mistaken Me for Death in a sex workers graveyard in London, AND commissioned the film version of After the Ice, the Deluge for An Alarming Specificity at Haverford College in the USA. London
Aubree wrote an audio transcription of Watershed, which you can read here: https://vitalcapacities.com/3108/
And a visual description, which you can read here: https://vitalcapacities.com/3110/
Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?
I’m an artist, writer and educator from Cape Town in South Africa. I live in Birmingham in the UK, a place people think is terrible, but I really love. My work is about bodies, ideas, and things, that don’t fit into near categories, that move between states – like bleeding women; genderqueer people; and melting icebergs. I am hoping at the moment to make work that builds intimate and complex relationships between bodies and nature, often quite literally by putting myself in a river etc.
JW: One of the aims of Vital Capacities is to create an accessible site (so more people can use it) – how do you think this will be an opportunity to develop your way of working?
In the play I made with Carl Gent last year, All Us Girls Have Been Dead for So Long, we had all of the dialogue projected on the walls because our actors didn’t have time to learn it, but also because it made the play more accessible for hearing impaired people. We also had a BSL interpreter called Richard dressed as a mermaid and sitting on a TV. I am hoping the
residency can expand my ways of thinking about accessibility as something that is always already in the work, as opposed to something that is added on. I am interested in what the online equivalent of a BSL mermaid called Richard is.
JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?
I am working on a project where I walk the length of the River Cole, a river that runs past the top of my road in Sparkhill in Birmingham.
JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?
About two miles from my house there is a community Stables where I volunteer. The river leads to it. The walking Is a very laborious process because of my costume, and the unpredictable-ness of the river and riverbed. My boots keep filling with water, also. I am hoping that in the next few weeks I will reach the stables and be able to interact with and
film the horses as part of this work.