Defining the path – 01

Dictionary definitions for ‘path:’
1. a way or track laid down for walking or made by continual treading.
2. the course or direction in which a person or thing is moving.
3. a course of action or way of achieving a specified result.

For this residency I am particularly interested in the first definition, though I have a feeling that the other two definitions are going to be relevant too.

My personal definition (and there are no doubt many holes in my reasoning) is that a path is a line through a landscape along which a person or group of people can travel, generally on foot or in wheelchairs.
Once a vehicle is used, a cycle or car for instance, I think a path becomes a road. However, a track can be a path and it may be used by vehicles or pedestrians.
Then there are ‘ways’ which can also be tracks and may fall into the definition of a road. Ways are generally ancient and are used by foot traffic as well as horse drawn vehicles, for instance bridleways.. (I really like the term ‘way’ to describe a path. Both path and way have multiple meanings, and those meanings include the spiritual and esoteric).

Here I must acknowledge that how I think and write about paths, tracks and ways is totally defined by my ethnic and cultural heritage and the country in which I have lived for most of my life. I’m white British, a mix of Irish, English and a smattering of Scottish and Scandinavian. I grew up in the countryside and do not feel comfortable in urban environments, though I do currently live in a suburb of Birmingham.
My relationship to paths and ways comes from walking or living in the Cotswolds, Wales, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the West and East coast of Britain. I’m not a wild path walker, I’m a traveller of farmland and gentle hills. I’m a hobbit in all the ways that matter.

I vehemently dislike the suburbs, despite my current living situation. I get no joy walking the endless pavements around my home patch. For me, for some reason I’m struggling to define, a pavement is not a path. I mean technically, it is, but it doesn’t feel like a path. Why is that?
There is something about the feeling of containment that a path has, that a pavement doesn’t have. A pavement is an edge, a border. A pavement is a designated space alongside a road built for motor vehicles. It is conceded to pedestrians and can be taken from them at any moment, despite laws meant to protect us. Pavements might be cut by access routes and driveways, blocked by delivery vehicles and cars, used by speedy cyclists as well as those on foot or in chairs. Pavements are contested, disrespected spaces, sometimes aggressively so.

Thinking about pavements and how problematical using them can be, I realise that the paths I walk in the city or suburb are imaginary paths. I regularly follow certain routes around my home, to the shops, to a favourite park, to the bus stop or train station. These routes can be along pavements, down alleyways, across parkland, over roads. There is no physical path on the ground that I am following when I walk these routes, but there is a path inside my head. It’s more like the route marked out on a paper map where it is the pencil line that becomes the path, that makes a path across the symbolic space, where a physical path may not exist.

In conclusion and for the purposes of the work I am exploring during this residency, my definitions of a path are:
1. a path is for people, not motor vehicles.
2. a path is a line through a landscape and this line can be a physical or a conceptual path created by following a route on the ground.
3. path is not a pavement, but a conceptual path may include the use of a pavement

1. Residency Intention: Slowing Down.

To get me started in this residency space I am slowly, deeply and intentionally breathing into Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’

Turquoise Book cover entitled ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I have a lot to process and it feels important to:

Slow Down

Hand of artist Rebekah Ubuntu holds open Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ on a page titled 'slow down'
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’. Chapter title: ‘Slow Down’

What if we could release ourselves from an internalised time clock and remember that slow is efficient, slow is effective, slow is beautiful?

Extract from ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs’, Chapter: ‘Slow Down’

“…slow is efficient, slow is effective, slow is beautiful…”

Dirt path

It’s not a straight path,
tarmacked and hot under sun,
it’s a dirt path,
meandering
under the oaks.

The path is
freckled with shadows,
as I am freckled.
It’s a redhead’s path,
one for
forest beings,
those who
value
concealment.

It’s a path for
being quiet on.
For walking,
softly,
with silent
footsteps.
Neatly,
along the brown, bare earth.

Dirt Path (audio version)

Curious nostalgia

It’s strange to be a visitor in a city you used to call home.
There are places; shops, cafes, buildings, whole streets that I once felt affection for, my university, my favourite cafe, the library and bookshop where I worked, all places that made this city feel like home for a while.
Walking through here today has been very odd. It’s not home any more and the old affections seem to have morphed into something closer to… curiosity? It’s hard to identify the emotion, but I feel an unexpected emotional distance from places that once evoked strong feelings.

The paths however are a different story. This city is a very busy tourist destination, and as a local I walked through it on the hunt, seeking out the quietest streets, dodging through the crowds, avoiding the tourist traps.
I, a being who is almost pathological in my desire to avoid humans, mentally mapped a whole network of quiet paths, roads, streets, snickleways and alleys to get myself through the city by the least busy, least crowded routes. I rarely took the shortest way to my destination, if a longer route was human free, or relatively so.
I can’t recall those routes just by thinking of them, I have a terrible mental memory, but coming here and re-walking them, some 13 years later, I discover that my body memory is superb. My body knows where to go, which turn to take. Even as my mind struggles to recall what is down that alley, around that corner. My body knows.

Weirdly, I feel as if the paths know me too. Buildings, attractions, shops, those things are mere curiosities now, and they care nothing for me, but the routes, the paths I walk again here, they feel welcoming, embracing.
‘Walk there, cross this road here, come down this alley, yes take that corner,’ I feel welcomed back to the old paths, welcomed into this place, this landscape…

UK & South African artists join Vital Capacities for August

Artists and their work from far left image clockwise: Siphenati Mayekiso; Nadine Mckenzie; …kruse; Artist Rebekah Ubuntu (pictured), commissioned performance at Tate Britain, image courtesy of Tate London. Find Rebekah online @rebekahubuntu

For the fifth Vital Capacities‘ residency, we partner with Institute for Creative Arts (Cape Town) and Wysing Art Centre (Cambridge) to work with artists from both South Africa and the UK. From 2 August, artists Siphenati Mayekiso, Nadine Mckenzie, Rebekah Ubuntu and …kruse will join Vital Capacities, to undertake research and develop new work. Working with our partners, they will explore and exchange new ideas using their studio spaces, and create new commission works throughout the residency.

The artists for August 2021’s residency are:

Continue reading “UK & South African artists join Vital Capacities for August”

Seo Hye Lee interview with Lutte Collective

Seo Hye Lee, [Sound of Subtitles], 2021

Vital Capacities resident artist, Seo Hye Lee, was interviewed by lutte collective as their featured artist for August. Lee talks about her work as a deaf artist working with sound, and her time during the residency on Vital Capacities.

Read the interview here: https://luttecollective.com/

[Sound of Subtitles] by Seo Hye Lee (2021), commissioned with University of Salford Art Collection as part of Seo Hye Lee’s residency, can now be seen in the exhibition by clicking here.

Care Work with Melissandre Varin

Thinking about the ways that we formed ideas about our bodies and who had influence, especially in relation to our identities, is always a headfuck. Doing this project has been a reminder of this so I wanted to try to include an action that felt more nourishing, gentle and caring than my other research.

I asked a new friend, Melissandre Varin, who I had met through an online performance workshop, if they would have a conversation with me about these body topics. I had attended Mel’s artist talk and I find the way that Mel speaks about bodies and their own personal experiences to be very candidly honest and at the same time generous and kind.

A white background with black braided hair of different thicknesses overlaid and layered over each other.
Image from Melissandre’s Installation Work
Continue reading “Care Work with Melissandre Varin”

Break Time… in resistance of professional hyperability

A meme of a huge muscly videogame monster from the videogame Diablo. The monster has rams horns on it's head and a bald round head with spiky slimy teeth and tusks coming out of the sides of it's open mouth. It's wearing some kind of tight leather wrestler style unitard and it#s holding a staff in it's right hand made of bones with a ram's head on top, in the left hand there is a scithe made of a horn and a metal chain wrapped around the arm. The monster's skin is covered in bulging muscles and veins, there are cuts across it's body with large metal staples in them. The skin is greyish yellow. There is a fiery glow around the monster and a silhouette of a creatur'es body barely visible hanging upsidedown on the top left. Overlaid is some white text with a red glow around it that says 'YES I TAKE MY VIDEO ART VERY SERIOUSLY... THAT'S WHY I POST IT ON...' Below that is the 'Vimeo' logo in blue and on the bottom left is a Vimeo Staff Pick logo which is a black circle with a white leaf wreath border and the text in the middle 'vimeo STAFF PICK', it has been edited so that it is distorted and wavy.
I’m a professional video artist and my favourite videogame is Diablo.

I have really enjoyed occupying this digital studio space and having a dedicated period of time working on a single project. The support from vital Capacities and Film London has been amazing and I am excited to develop all of my research and tests into something to present as part of the exhibition later this month.

I am battling my own internal ableist voices which are telling me that I could have done MORE, posted more, worked more.. I have been resisting the urge to be professionally hyperable.. (yuck). And in many ways I have failed because I am exhausted.

So now it’s breaktime! If anyone needs me I’ll be in a static caravan on the Yorkshire coast for the week and you can speak to my out-of-office autoresponse until then.

Why Throwing?

Scene from Sam Hanna's film "Village Potter"- the person who is wearing white shirt and white apron is throwing a round shape of pottery. There is description of what "Throwing" means - "A mass of clay soon becomes an object of beauty in the hands of a skilled craftsman" in simple white font located in centre of image. Behind the person, there is an image of a brown house with small white framed windows and pointed roof.
Scene from Village Potter produced by Sam Hanna 1946-1947

In this post, I’m going to explain why I am using visual of the ceramic throwing process and hands crafting. In the picture above, the definition of throwing is described as “A mass of clay soon becomes an object of beauty in the hands of a skilled craftsman”- this description resonates with my intention of turning the subtitle into something of beauty, and something that should always be included from an accessibility point of view. On a side note: the word “craftsman” should be changed to craftsperson or maker (unfortunately, some old film archives can reveal archaic gender stereotypes).

Craft videos are fascinating as they frequently show pairs of hands making objects from a shapeless form into something beautiful. For me, this formation presents a parallel between the idea of digitally shaping words into the language of subtitles, exploring its poetic nature. I’d like to thank Will McTaggart from North West Film Archive for the recommendation of the beautiful craft films by Sam Hanna—to view these, this website has a compilation of Hanna’s craft films- the link is here.

As we are reaching the end of June residency, I would like to focus on making a visual connection between videos of hands throwing, crafting, intertitles, and open captions using re-written subtitle language.

Oddy-Body

Someone wearing an unofficial teletubbies costume of the character Po, who is a large round red alien looking type creature with big ears and a circular antennae coming out the top of it's head and a blue square on it's tummy. They are standing at the bottom of a set of stairs in a white hallway. The costume is saggy and mishapen and the face is slightly menacing with wide eyes and a smile. The image has been edited to accentuate the sagginess with a slight swirling all over the costume. White text with a black background in two arches says 'feelin more oddy-body than body-ody'
Po from the Tellytubbies

A long-term enthusiasm of mine is mascot costumes. I have a collection of images on my laptop and phone of my favourites. I especially like Tweety for reasons I will explain in a later post.

Two costumes hung on stands, one is of Sylvester the cat and the other is Tweety Bird. Sylvester is a black cat with white feet, hands, stomach and cheeks. Tweety is yellow all over with an orange beak and big black eyelashes. They are hung in a small fabric cubicle, the fabric is cream coloured. They look creepy and awkward with no human bodies inside them to fill them out. At the top of the image is some white text with a black background which says 'when you both feel more oddy-body than body-ody'
Sylvester and Tweety Bird from Looney Tunes
Continue reading “Oddy-Body”

Artists from across UK join Vital Capacities as artists-in-residence for June 21

Three images in a composite – top left image: a black rectangular lightbox with a white screen has the word what with a question mark written 3 times on it, black pipes leave the box on the left and right sides. Top right image: a white heart shaped balloon has the words stay sick written in the middle. Bottom left image: a collage of green leaves, white daisies with yellow centres, and stripes of yellow and red streak across the image.
Artworks from top left, clockwise: Seo Hye Lee, What Did You Say?, 2017 (audio-visual installation); Laura Lulika, An Ode to Marge (or how i taught myself to speak again by watching the real housewives), 2018 (installation photo); Linda Stupart, Watershed, 2020 (video still) – images courtesy of the artists.

For June 2021’s Vital Capacities’ residency, we are collaborating with Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN)Phoenix and University of Salford Art Collection. Working with three artists from across the UK, Seo Hye LeeLaura Lulika and Linda Stupart.

Across June, artists will be researching and developing new work, with work commissioned in collaboration with our partners. Artists will be experimenting with ideas, developing new projects, and sharing work with audiences. The artists are:

Continue reading “Artists from across UK join Vital Capacities as artists-in-residence for June 21”

04 ಕಥೆ Kathe (Story) / Dematerialise

a pixelated form of a hand is in the foreground in bright yellow and orange. It is set against a grey checkered background and to its left are an assortment of individual pixels in bright red. Tinges of blue appear throughout the image.
Image still from Dematerialise by Vishal Kumaraswamy

As an artist working with experimental technologies, hacking/re-purposing tools to create artistic works I’m often looking for ways in which I can create intimate shared experiences. Even before the pandemic, a lot of my practice was being conducted solely through computer based interactions due to a lack of funding and other resources. This mode of working allowed me to focus my practice towards making accessible works and I began thinking about the language, technology and context accessibility of my works within a larger contemporary art conversation.

Continue reading “04 ಕಥೆ Kathe (Story) / Dematerialise”

Free workshop by Tzu-Huan Lin – A Train to Utopia

A digital collage with a train in the centre of the image. The train is on train tracks coming from the left centre of the image. The foreground and background is made up of a coastal drawing showing boats, green cliffy lands, water, dolphins, people fishing and on horseback. In the left background is a dark brown train station which the train is going towards. Above the train are two black and white flying fish with wings. In the right foreground is a black and white owl-like creature with a long tail, looking down and sitting on a ledge. Above his head, in the background, a sign reads ‘VTOPIA’ in old-fashioned text. In the bottom left corner of the image is a small 3D drawing of a white building on grass with angular block-like boulders. Across the bottom of the image, in large gold text and black emboss, in capital letters are the words ‘A TRAIN TO UTOPIA’.

Digital workshop on Mozilla’s immersive platform Hubs – imagining and building Utopia by Vital Capacities artist, Tzu-Huan Lin  

A Train to Utopia is a digital workshop taking place on Mozilla Hubs led by artist, Tzu-Huan Lin. Questionning Utopia’s existence (and if we can create it), the workshop explores ideas related to this unknown but longed for place.

Continue reading “Free workshop by Tzu-Huan Lin – A Train to Utopia”

03 your dataset won’t let me thrive / your dataset must die

‘your dataset won’t let me thrive / your dataset must die’ are a pair of video essays that seek to counter the mythologies surrounding Artificial Intelligence datasets & algorithms They are carried out as a comparative study of the works of the Black Beat Poet Bob Kaufman and the Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah whose words (translation) are input into the text based neural network GPT-2.  The visual aesthetics of the work are drawn from generative AI imagery of brown faces, creative programming as well as animated representation of the words of each poet alongside text generated by the algorithm. The inability of the algorithm to generate text drawn from sufficient references to Black & Bahujan lived experiences reveal the encoded biases within the dataset and trace their origins to harmful mythologies of Caste & Race.

The works were commissioned by the Mozilla Foundation as part of the Reclaiming AI Futures project for the AI Observatory (https://ai-observatory.in/)

The image is a screengrab from the video 'your dataset won't let me thrive' and contains text laid against a black background with some generative abstract imagery. The text reads 'Abomunists Join Nothing But Their Hands or Legs, or Other Same'
Screengrab from ‘your dataset won’t let me thrive’

The image is a screengrab from the video 'your dataset must die' and contains abstract imagery of an AI generated face set against a dark blue background'
Screengrab from ‘your dataset must die’

02 Subaltern Futurism

Over the last two years, I’ve been developing a theoretical and critical framework titled ‘Subaltern Futurism’. Subaltern Futurism is envisioned as a speculative resource framework for artistic research, practice and the technological education of marginalised. Drawing from anti-caste literature, critical race theory, bahujan solidarity practices among other guiding experiences, it asks if artistic practice can become pedagogical tools to communities that are excluded from regular access to critical discourse around contemporary art & technology. The framework views technology through a sociological lens, as a fundamental right and shared resource. It expands upon Gramsci’s post-colonial notion of the Subaltern as ‘colonial populations who are excluded from the hierarchy of power’ to include the current state of digital colonisation, the shared sites for the digital commons and sections of technology users rendered ‘subaltern’ due to the capitalist pursuit of efficiency. Subaltern Futurism speculates that developing empathic relationships with technology through a range of critical & pragmatic actions can assist in the imagination of radical futures that are diverse, inclusive and conducted from multiple geographies especially arising from the global south and from contexts outside of euro-centric biases of inquiry. By considering a very wide scope at the outset, it is envisioned as a multi-year generative project occurring as various modular forms and widely disseminated within the ethos of open access.

Continue reading “02 Subaltern Futurism”