Beneath the streets of Rome lies the Cloaca Maxima (‘The Great Drain’), one of the worlds earliest sewage systems (named after the Etruscan deity Cloacina, a goddess of purity and filth). Pliny The Elder called Rome a “hanging city”, referring to the rivers churning beneath it through the Cloaca Maxima’s depths. It seems this feat of engineering was considered much more than merely a place to dispose of the city’s waste, but was a numinous and mysterious site, a literalisation of the city’s Underworld.
This is a kind of mock-up of something that’s been floating around my head for a minute. I’ve been crushing on illuminated manuscripts recently (particularly the 9th Century Christian Gospel manuscript The Book of Kells), and have been thinking about how to do a similar thing for a text-based adventure game (for example, here’s one I made earlier – I have no idea what the new game will be yet, but I’m trying to be ok with working in the dark about that and just following my guts). So this is it, an animated border for a game to come.
For over 5 years now whenever I start a new painting or drawing, before I put anything else down on paper, I draw some guts. It feels like they should be the foundation from which everything else is built on top of. The image of guts have become a stand-in for me that speaks to eating, digestion, shit, waste, and desire. So it feels appropriate for this to be one of the first things I make as part of the residency.
The first thing I do whenever I start a new project is draw a mind map or diagram as I find it to be a super useful way of getting a sense of where I want the work to go. And so, this is a mind map of interests I’m aiming myself towards for the Vital Capacities residency.
Looking back over it, there’s one glaring absence in this map: cannibalism. I just watched the TV show Hannibal, and am low-key obsessed (and probably permanently tainted) by it’s very gay tale of aching desire and the high aesthetics of anthropophagi (or human-eaters). To my mind, cannibalism connects nicely into the above mess of interests. There is a beautiful Buddhist food offering my girlfriend taught me, composed by Roshi Joan Halifax: “Earth, water, fire, air, and space combine to make this food. Numberless beings gave their lives and labors that we may eat. May we be nourished that we may nourish life.” Food always carries the dead with it. Of course, Hannibal accelerates his victims proximity to their death, and a number of times refers to them as no better than factory farmed livestock, so I’m not sure ‘ethics’ are high on his agenda, so much as aesthetics.
I love finding a title for a new body of work, it feels super freeing to have a banner, ‘SEWER SONNETS’, under which all sorts of ephemera can be connected and begin communicating with each other. I am really interested in how sonnets are this weirdly specific poetic form (traditionally it is a poem composed of 14 lines in iambic pentameter) that has emerged as THE genre of love poetry, and potentially even more specifically as the ultimate genre for dead lovers’ poetry.
Text here with an edit
I believe that objects can possess spiritual energy. This umbrella is one of them. It is a Ghanaian Royal Umbrella and made for the kings and Queens. These are not just for shelter from the west African heat but function as symbolism. The artist designs and collaborates with the King/Queen and enriches it with contemporary and specific symbolism. T
The Royal umbrella is handmade with high-grade materials and depicts royal levels to the public.
I was fortunate to find an artist that makes Royal Ceremony umbrellas. The umbrella I have has the spirit of a Queen Mother. It is red with gold fringing. This spirit is present through the experience of building this shrine.
This week I have been changing this umbrella. I am transforming the umbrella into a shrine for the transgender deity I am envisioning. I will share the images at a later stage.
continuing to sketch > < continuing to sketch
visible roots left in the ground > < follow up for the tree
tabla tabla strings and vocals >
a call to recent studies >
video description: set to another Lollywood classic, this short clip splits the screen into two separate panels. Each one follows the camera movement from dead roots laid in the grass upward to a living tree and then up again to the blue sky – the movement is from grey decay to lush green and blue life. As the intro to the song finishes and the first vocal is about to drop in, the image pauses for a brief moment…two tabla-like images appear side to side. Both are rotating circles with an inner circle of a blackened wood texture, made to appear like the syahi, the central point of the tabla skin. Both rotating circles give the sense of vinyl records being played, with the outer ring on both circles featuring two distinct family images. One is of my two grandfathers sternly sizing each other up. The other is of my grandmother and her best friend sizing up the camera. As the song continues and fades out, the images are taken away by a burning line across the screen.
For a new online work, I’m creating a radar visualisation in which each of the dots will be assigned an image and text that reads ‘I AM NOT TARGET PRACTICE’.
The images that I’m hoping to incorporate are of cloud data centres run by AWS, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. I took screenshots using imagery from the ESRI satellite and focused on the data centres in Virginia because it has the highest density of such places in the world.
I’m planning on overlaying these images with cloud satellite imagery so the view of them is partially obscured.
(Alt text for image gallery: satellite imagery of data centres, many are angular and white with fans mounted on the roof).
Some Depressing voice notes
I was going to post my voice notes that I made to capture a tone I needed in the work I am making but actually, I dont want to share these with anyone until I am ready so I am not posting them all but Ill post one.
Im using my voice notes to try and process my feelings
This piece “IN LIMBO” is the second in a series called “Thought Experiment”, a place in the mind similar to a blank page ready to be painted. Where logic is left behind and I simply put pencil to paper and work off instinct till reoccurring themes seem to show up on the page through imagery, telling me what’s on my subconscious mind. The short film I made that documents the process of creating the artwork began to merge with the artwork as the project went on. As both were trying to figure out what the project was about at its core while simultaneously working on them in real time. Realising both were to do with the relationship between images and words was a revelation. And made me realise what I’ve always hated and loved about trying to explain art is that things always feel left unsaid. As I get older I try and embrace this more, realising that explanations always feel incomplete because I see art as a universal visual language that communicates ideas and emotions which words don’t exist for. This project made me realised that I want my artwork to encourage people to stretch their own creativity, similar to a Spot The Difference or Where’s Wolly does for children. I enjoy making the viewer read the drawings and try to see how the images relate and connect using their own creativity. Even if that means seeing interpretations that I didn’t initially mean to be there.
A series of images made by combining maps that show surveillance network Five Eyes locations in the UK and cloud optical thickness.
The icon of the red triangle with the eye within it was the default setting in the tool I used to create these images. Note: to change in future.
As a way of communicating and accessing divine vitality, anointed Garments become a token, and their symbolism is vital to the experience of creating rituals. It is not only representation but the surface/platform for the divine to be present within the fabric and in this plane. These garments facilitate becoming a vessel for the creation of a brand new universe.
How do I create an anointed garment? Colour is key. Colour communicates various meanings in this process, white is the colour of the garment I am creating. White represents innocence, purity, light and authority. Creating anointed garments requires personal cleansing rituals, prayer/meditation, and the offering of self. As part of this residency, I will become the mediator for a transgender deity, and white is the colour called forth.
I began the process with a collaborator to design and create a garment for the mediator/vessel here on earth. These are the current sketches of the garment. Upon completion, it will be offered to the deity and prayed for.
This Valentino show served as a form of inspiration. These Garments are other worldly. I enjoyed watching this show.
This week I’ve been experimenting with layering up cloud imagery and the control dashboards used within missile control centres.
I’d been thinking about the false premise that more data guarantees more clarity, something that James Bridle talks about in his book New Dark Age. It’s a premise often used to bolster the perpetuation of surveillance technologies. But as Bridle alludes to, more data also means greater complexity and increased potential for confusion and comprehension. It is an uneasy paradox that destabilises the idea that more data enables us to see more clearly, when the reality is more cloudiness.
We have likely heard or experienced the temptations of the ‘big red button’ – do not press, urging us to do the opposite. But I’ve also been thinking that even the existence of a button sets the stage for the following events. It is there so the temptation is to use it (this is one of the ongoing arguments against the likes of Trident). So my experiments this week also looked at the aesthetics of disappearing dashboard controls, blurring into this clouded vision.
The images of dashboards are released under a Creative Commons license by photographer Todd Lapin and show the control panels within SF-88, a former Nike missile base in the Marin Headlands, US. Nike missiles were anti-aircraft missiles often equipped with nuclear weapons between the 1950s and 1970s during the Cold War. Here is a link to the Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Cloud dataset credits: Jacobs N, Abrams A, Pless R. 2013. Two Cloud-Based Cues for Estimating Scene Structure and Camera Calibration. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI) 35:2526–2538. DOI: 10.1109/TPAMI.2013.55, and Jacobs N, Bies B, Pless R. 2010. Using Cloud Shadows to Infer Scene Structure and Camera Calibration. In: IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR). 1102–1109. DOI: 10.1109/CVPR.2010.5540093.
this work is a quick sketch >
it’s a rough work based on recent research >
< it also uses previous studies
the footage is taken from one mountain spring in the Harz >
suddenly any place where the water flows is a place I can imbibe with a sense of home/belonging >
bodies of water as liminal spots of belonging >
this work draws its title from lyrics in Mark of my Departure >
it is meant tobe funny >
video description: set to a classic Lollywood tune this video juxtaposes different images of flowing water in different shaped frames. The frames are sometimes overlapping, sometimes slowly elongating and are synchronised to reflect moments in the musical journey. The water is flowing from a small stream across grey-brown rocks flanked by some greenery and soft moss. The water is clear and the flow is strong.
As the beat drops and the tabla comes into full swing, two circular images are seen rotating on the screen. The two images are in the same style and both created in the same way. On the left is an image of my grandfather, reading a newspaper, looking away from the camera. His image is framed by a circular photograph of a chopped tree trunk. Using the same method, the image on the right has the chopped tree trunk frame with an image of my father and his brothers in it, all sporting the wild 1970s style of facial and head hair. The two images rotate continuously in the style of old vinyl before slowly fading out.
more studies in chopping the tabla
these are my two grandfathers surveying each other
my grandmother and her best friend
MADE THE SYAHI
Using the image of the chopped down tree stumps, I fashioned the syahi for these tabla’d images, making the symbol of dislocation the central point of attention. Reversing the process from the previous studies, trying to be more direct in the tabla reference and combing through the family pictures. This process has reminded me that so much of this work is about building an archive for/of the family that reconnects the ancestral lineage severed by dislocation.
studies in chopping up the tabla
studies in chopping up the tabla
these studies are produced by pushing family photos into images of chopped trees < these trees are located in the Harz Mountains in Germany where the bark beetle has destroyed local forests < amongst the decay and disease wild flowers and grasses < growback >
< the bark beetle is a kind of predatory invader to the forest < “nature” has its own forms of violent destruction < reoccupation of habitat < re-inscription of its role < colonialism >
< normally a tree would be able to ward off the beetle by producing its own resin < but increased heat and drought have weakened this defense < many trees are dying < many trees are being chopped down < chopping >
< roots in the ground remain as the wood is chopped and moved elsewhere> < chopping >
< the stump is a sign of this dislocation < a mark of my departure >
< the stump becomes the image of the tabla face < except it misses the syahi < the syahi is the blackened tuning paste in the center of the drum < the syahi is the pupil of the eye > < in the iris >
< in the iris < my father and his brothers < my grandfather alone < the generational split that I never knew < their relationship with the looking lens < the brothers facing the eye of the camera < the father lost in his work < neither looking at each other < both brothers and father >
< in my eyes >
< in my eyes < as I walk>
< at the rhythm and pace of a tabla>
< through the dying forest < and mystifying growback >
A God realised. It was meditation to see the transgender God in space/reality. This is the beginning, where I create rituals for its appearance and movement in space. The black paint represents the Universe, a body that holds the planets and the stars and commands space-time. I understand my body as an integral part of this experience. I am interested in finding out: Am I in a trance as a vessel? How do I create transformation for other transgender bodies? How do I open myself to this present moment? I want to be consumed.
The God is nameless at this point; however, Trumu Fetish is the title for the experience of veneration.
A song by E B U. Listen to this while watching. I have added the lyrics too.
Take me back To the silky black The silky black of liquid sap Slate and stone I feel at home With space to roam This feels like home Solace on a hill Stones standing still Standing proud Out of the ground Quietly Watching me Comforting Company So take me back To the silky black Take me back To the silky black Happy to be bound By the embrace Of homeland Written By - E B U
So this is my second draft of the first scene of Episode 1