Residency June 2024 – meet the artists

Picture of four artists who are taking part in Vital Capacities in June 2024.
Artists on Vital Capacities residency in June 2024 – from top left, clockwise: Jameisha Prescod, Shrouk El-Attar, Bella Milroy, and James Kong King-sin

For the tenth Vital Capacities‘ residency, we partner with UnlimitedVideotage (Hong Kong) and Wysing Art Centre (Cambridge) to work with artists from the UK and Hong Kong. From 1 June, artists Shrouk El-Attar, Bella Milroy, Jameisha Prescod and James Kong King-sin 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 work throughout the residency.

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Vital Capacities: Gateways – new exhibition

A handpainted image of a white toilet spewing brown liquid into a giant fountain holding high a large white spotted egg on a yellow and orange background.
Sammy Paloma, The Flowering Milk of the Boghead, 2023 (screen shot from artwork)

New work by Vital Capacities resident artists from the May 2023 residency, including work by artists Shaima Ali, Bassam Issa, Sammy Paloma, and Su Hui-Yu & XTRUX.

In May 2023, four artists took part in residencies on Vital Capacities – Shaima Ali (Palestine), Bassam Issa (Ireland), Sammy Paloma (UK), and Su Hui-Yu & XTRUX (Taiwan) – to explore and develop new work, supported by partnerships with Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), Shubbak Festival, Videotage and Wysing Art Centre.

Throughout the month the artists did research, tested ideas and created new work, working with our partners, web designer and digital inclusion specialist. Gateways is an exhibition of new work resulting from May 2023’s residency.

See the exhibition now: vitalcapacities.com/exhibition/

With thanks to Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), Shubbak Festival, Videotage, and Wysing Art Centre. Thank you to Arts Council England for their support.

Guts

A animated gif of a crossroad of white guts on a black background. The guts are pulsing, like they are either breathing or in the act of digestion.
Gif from Surface of Scum, a character generator computer game made by Sammy Paloma & Uma Officer

I’ve been thinking about guts. Or rather, I’ve been thinking about thinking about guts. It’s more of a hunch that there is work or attention needed in that area, both of my life and my art. Guts have appeared in my work for at least the past 5-6 years, if not longer, and yet I feel like at some point they became a kind of stand-in for an unfinished thought. When it started I think the thought was around unseen processes happening in the background (like how wallpaper can function like an engine to the actions inside a room even though u may not consciously notice it). But it’s evolved to take on digestion, and waste, and mess, and desire, and grief. And in a funny way, guts were also always there almost as a reminder to myself to actually listen to my own guts. But there’s some other stuff there too – appropriately – beneath the surface of the image of guts. The guts of the guts. And this post is a kind of note-to-self to feel into that. To get on up inside those guts again. Sorry not sorry.

La Mort

A greeby-brown, browny-green ink painting. A wet looking expanse of brown-green, in the centre of which is a dark-green bubbling bog. Out of the bog can be seen three hands, one foot, and the head of a person who's gender is unclear, wearing a crown on their head (with their tongue hanging from their mouth).

A little painting I did vibing with the 17th Century Tarot de Marseille Death card, taking it’s iconography of harvesting the dead to the site of the bog. I enjoyed making the inks as boggy as possible.

Bogs present and bogs past

I was just in Cambridgeshire, spending a week at Wysing Arts Centre. This was a huge amount of fun, and I’ve got a lot to reflect on from my time there that I plan on writing about here. But, one of the things I was really intrigued by (and had a great chat around with Rosie Cooper, Wysing’s director) was the history of the fenlands in the East of England. Now, this is something I am by no means an expert on, but it struck me as interesting to be in a famously dry part of the country, but up until the 16/17th Century was predominantly an area of wetland known as The Fens. Some amazing things came from the fen drainage, in terms of making the area incredibly fertile ground for food production (the East of England produces around a third of Britain’s fresh vegetables). But also, a huge amount of things were lost, with the drying peat soil releasing millions of tons of CO2, and with sea levels rising this area is incredibly vulnerable to flooding. Also, there’s something here about ‘productivity’, about fen drainage as an immensely violent process of enforcing anthropocentrism on the land, and it’s peoples (something that was fiercely fought against by the Fen Tigers in an inspiring period of history of working class guerrilla warfare). This idea of inefficiency is one I feel a strong sense of (admittedly ambivalent) kinship with. I often feel lazy, which I know is my own internal able-ism, but this makes it no less hard to battle with. Still, I persist to be at peace with the pace of my own rhythms, no matter their own circuitous and non-linear patterns of productivity.

A photograph of me and my girlfriend, Maria, with adorable matching black raincoats, smiling like a pair of fools, utterly drenched by the rain. The green of a field and some trees can be seen in the background.
Me and Maria, caught in the rain on our way to the closest shop to Wysing, in Bourne (which incidentally had great home-made curries in the freezer section)

On the first day at Wysing we went for a walk through the woods to the local shop, where we got drenched in rain as lightning and thunder crashed about above our heads. Brief expulsive rain storms happened proceeded to happen pretty much every evening we were there too. It felt kinda like the wetlands were trying to claw their way back to the soil by tooth and nail. And with rising sea-levels, it seems certain the East of England’s rich arid grave of bogs past will return to wet.

A super cute animation made by young people from Great Fen Greenwatch (a volunteering group for 12-18 yrs), Huntingdon Youth Centre and Great Fen volunteers.

So I’m now thinking back on my past obsession with depicting moments of spillage, which were always ways for me to talk about grief and the impossibility of controlling it. Grief as almost being definitionally a thing that exceeds all attempts to bracket it off, a thing that whether you like it or not will bleed out into every part of your life, colouring all.

‘The Pedal Bin of Cups (Grief Card #4)’ 2021, watercolour, pencil & fluorescent pen on paper, 56x76cm (image credit: Chelsey Cliff)

Baby’s First Sonnet

A photograph of a sketch book page showing the editing process for the poem that is read in the audio file accompanying this post. The page has lots of crossings out all over it on the left-hand side of the page, and on the right is a simple line drawing of a tap. Also in the frame of the photo we can see the sketchbook is on a wooden table that has a couple of long scratches in it, and a few flecks of paint, and a pair of scissors with yellow handles are sat on the desk to the right of the sketchbook.

My first stab at an actual, proper, real, official, legit fourteen-lined sonnet. And it just so happens to be bog-themed. I wrote this in response to my friend Rabindranath Bhose’s work, who is currently working on a boggy solo-show which will be opening this June at Collective Gallery, in Edinburgh. Rabi and his boyfriend, Oren (who is also a super interesting artist), came to stay with us in Shetland a month or so ago. We visited lots of bogs together (including the site where the Gunnister Man was found, about a 15 minute drive from our house here), and I owe a lot of my current, reinvigorated, love of bog-lands to their visit.

So, the bog sonnet. This is where I’m up to with the edit so far (though it’s still very much a work in progress, so go easy on me!):

Thy holy bog / Riddled with holes

All categories stray / Graven made whorls

Other-World’s holes / Face holy sky

Sphagnum crusty stars / Moon shaven thigh

Pot holed skies / Knotted with graves

Bodies aether-deep / Carpet bone weaves

Sopping arid graves / Death reversed tomb

Firmament portalled peat / Bog bless’d gooch

Rite bidden tomb / Fecund stone cog

Ensouling our rot / Thy holy bog

Salt lubes cog / Hanged Man brains

Prayer crossed things / Loss borne gain

Feet like brains / Riddled with whorls

Preserved can’t stop / Other-World tolls

“It’s a sewer of slime!”

A photo of a square watercolour painting using metallic muted tones. The painting shows a stone-work opening to a sewer with a central passageway descending off into the distance. The stones are a metallic lilac hue. There is a black hole in the centre of the image into which a river of muddy green and reddish sludge is either disappearing or emerging from, it isn't clear which way the river is flowing.
A photo of a rectangular painting using bright fluorescent inks. The painting shows a stone-work opening to a sewer with a central passageway descending off into the distance, dividing into two tunnels. The stones on the outside of the tunnel are a combination of greenish-yellow, outlined with red-blue-purple. The stones inside the tunnel are bright green outlined in bluey-purple. A river of muddy dark green sludge is either disappearing or emerging from the two tunnels in the centre of the image, it isn't clear which way the river is flowing.
An animated gif from the movie Ghostbusters 2. It is a long-shot showing Dan Ackroyd's character with a hardhat and headtorch, and holding a torch in his hands, dangling from a wire into a cavernous sewer space, with his legs frantically kicking. The whole image is in a reddy-pink hue. A central river of bright pink liquid is quickly flowing beneath Dan's character into a circular tunnel. At the bottom of the image is a subtitle in bold font and capitalised that reads: "SLIME! ITS A RIVER OF SLIME!"
An animated GIF from Ghostbusters 2

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.

A series of brick semi-circular tunnels disappear into the distance, where stairs can be seen ascending out of these depths. The smooth floor is covered in puddles of water. This is an Ancient Roman sewage system that is light enough that it appears it is now used more for exhibition and tourists than for everyday use.
The Cloaca Maxima

Stills from the film ‘Ravenous’ (1999)

A scraggily looking white man with short but curly brown hair and an unkempt brown beard is cowering against the side of a tent looking frightened. Beneath him are subtitles that read: "he was - he was licking me."
A medium-shot image of an unkempt white man with ginger hair and beard, looking very muddy and spotted with blood, with bulging eyes look up towards a character slightly out of shot, over whose shoulder we see the ginger haired man. Below this are subtitles that read: "it's lonely being a cannibal"
A medium-shot image of an unkempt white man with ginger hair and beard, looking very muddy and spotted with blood, with bulging eyes look up towards a character slightly out of shot, over whose shoulder we see the ginger haired man. Below this are subtitles that read: "tough making friends"
A close up of the face of a gaunt white man, with shoulder length brown hair and a beard, looking very unwell and pale, with cuts and blood on his face and very dry lips. The man looks off in the distance despondently. Below this are subtitles that read: "the potency of someone else coursing through your veins"

I came down with a cold over the last two days and so lay in bed eating soup and crisps and watching films. Two of the films I watched were Anthony Hopkins Hannibal vehicles (Red Dragon, and Hannibal), and both were pretty bad (admittedly, Red Dragon was the least bad of the two), and really showed up how Anthony Hopkins Hannibal is like a one-dimensional cartoon character, in comparison to the genuinely terrifying black hole of Mads Mikkelsen’s iteration.

Anyway, the other film I watched, continuing the cannibal vibes, was the 1999 Ravenous, directed by Antonia Bird, written by Ted Griffin, and starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. I’d never heard of it until I listened to this podcast episode with Sasha Ravitch. The film is utterly bonkers, in a very enjoyable way, and has lots of overlaps with the classic vampire story cliche of turning people into vampires so you have someone who can actually relate to you, the desire to be seen and understood in your monstrosity, not shamed or shunned for it. It also brings in the First Nations, Great Planes, and Great Lakes indigenous folklore of the Wendigo:

“The wendigo is often said to be a malevolent spirit, sometimes depicted as a creature with human-like characteristics, which possesses human beings. The wendigo is said to invoke feelings of insatiable greed/hunger, the desire to cannibalize other humans, and the propensity to commit murder in those that fall under its influence”

Ravenous places this mythical creature as a blunt metaphor for the USA’s imperialist/colonialist expansion and consumption of people, land and resources, whilst offering an assortment of temporary boons and power to those who will exercise the nation-state’s will on it’s behalf (which in the film make the characters rapidly heal from potentially mortal wounds, and give them what Carlyle’s character repeatedly refers to as ‘VIRILITY’).

Interestingly, in the Wikipedia entry for Wendigo, Hannibal the TV show pops up again, as this is what Will Grahams hallucination throughout the series is in reference to:

An animated gif of a the inside of a dark and gloomy catholic church. Candle offerings are burning in the background. The floor is a beautiful mosaic. A strange creature moves awkwardly forwards. It seems to have deer legs and deer antlers, but no head, and possibly the body of a humanoid with their back arched

A kinda illuminated manuscript

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.

An image of a book spread open. The book is the Book of Kells. On the left hand page is a square of celtic knots words in Latin written in a font that makes it hard to read. Above this square is word in an ornate script. The colour pallet is red, blue and yellow, and the paper looks very aged. On the right hand page is a page of writing in Latin, with the first letter of the first word of each sentence being drawn in a coloured flourish, whilst the rest of the letters in all the other words are black.
A facsimile production of The Book of Kells

SEWER SONNETS MAP

A mind map with 15 bubbles in it, featuring the following words: Psychic-map; Bogland; Sewers; Crossroads; The Underworld/The Dead; Bones; Outcast Dead; Griving; Song/Keening; Outpouring; Eulogies; Waste; Toilets; 14 lines of romance/devotion; Sewer Sonnets. 
The words 'Sewer Sonnets' is in the centre of the map with lines flowing out from there to each bubble around it.

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.

Studio intro

A photograph of a monitor between two curtains. The monitor is positioned in the centre of the image on a brown block in front of a window with bars on it. On the monitor’s screen is a close-up of a blonde woman. Two white curtains are positioned either side of the monitor. The wall behind the two curtains is pink. In the centre top of the image are silver balloons which spell out the words ‘STAY SICK’.
Laura Lulika, An Ode to Marge (or how i taught myself to speak again by watching the real housewives), 2018 (installation photo) Image courtesy of the artist. Credit: Judy Landkammer

Hi, I’m Laura Lulika, thanks for stopping by at my virtual studio. I’m an artist, researcher and community cultural worker with a focus on unconventional care methods and community support networks. I am interested in how we experience our bodies and how we care for ourselves and each other.

I have spent most of my time recently delivering workshops and talks on care and accessibility, working with the collective and peer support group, Sickness Affinity Group, and being a new parent.

This residency has given me the timely opportunity to return to my own personal practice and reflect on interests and curiosities that I have yet to explore. In my own experience of being housebound, which started long before the pandemic, I became interested in the culture we

consume in isolation and how that impacts our sense of self. During this residency I am going to dissect the cultural fascination with ‘hyper-able’ bodies, in sports, cartoons and popular culture. The obsession with body limits is simultaneously jarring and relatable to my personal experiences of having an unreliable body. Sick and disabled bodies are commonly perceived as ‘unhealthy’, something to be cured rather than cared for.

And at the same time, we are often pushed to perform feats of ability to be deemed worthy by capitalism. I have gently titled this project, ‘Body Builder’, in reference to my deceased Dad who was a body builder and where I think I can mark the beginning of my own awareness of hyper-able bodies.

This research will inform some playful explorations into how I have consumed, digested, absorbed, adopted or rejected these performative tropes and characteristics.

Please feel free to look around the studio and leave comments and questions in the comments section if you want to.

Hope you find something that speaks to you,

Laura Lulika

Studio intro

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.
Seo Hye Lee, What Did You Say?, 2017 (audio-visual installation)

Hi, my name is Seo Hye Lee (pronoun: She/Her). Welcome to my studio! 

I am a Somerset-based South Korean artist. I consider myself to be an artist that works with mediums of sound, illustration, and installation. I like to explore the nature of sound as a deaf individual in different ways.

As someone who has frequently worked with audio-visual installation, I would like to push my practice toward creating works within the video installation and moving image format. Due to my deafness, I grew up relying on subtitles in film and media. I have since become interested in subtitles as a nuanced form of communication. This residency will provide a fantastic opportunity for me to explore this in greater depth and allow me to experiment with the context of subtitles more boldly, particularly engaging with other artists and researching in depth. For this residency, I will be experimenting with the language of subtitle, and the inaccuracy of auto-generated captions and transcriptions through the medium of video projection.

I hope you will enjoy the documentation of my process and research in my virtual studio and please feel free to ask me any questions or leave comments! 

Interview with artist Katarzyna Perlak

A figure stands reflected in front of a large mirror, showing the person from the waist up. They wear a rose-pink satin negligee, pink fur bra, fishnet vest and shiny black elbow length gloves. They have long pale pink hair and have pink mirrored futuristic sunglasses on. A black fishnet is wrapped tight over their face. The room they are in looks luxurious, with a decorative cream frame to the mirror, and long white and pink drapes against the wall in background.  The image is taken from artists film, Broken Hearts Hotel by Katarzyna Perlak.
Katarzyna Perlak, Broken Hearts Hotel, 2021

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 are thinking about doing during the residency?

My practice engages moving image, performance, sound, installation and textiles and explores the intersection of politics and feelings, tackling perceptibly static subjects such as history, nationalism and power, through affect, desire and collective memory – informed by my own experience as a queer woman and immigrant to the UK from Eastern Europe.  I am interested in the capacity of art to move us through our shared vulnerabilities and enable us to problematise how history is written and traditions represented. 

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Interview with Jaene Castrillon

Installation view of an exhibition. On the left of the image is a tree-shaped collage of many, many black and white images (it's not very clear as the images are small, but some are portraits of people) - they are lit in a sunshine yellow light. The floor of what is assumed to be a gallery is chrome, and reflects the rest of the room. 12 TV monitors make a wall on the right of the image, on 2 screens are an animation of a man drinking from a bottle, on another is a hand touching the screen, other screens are whited out or unclear. On a On the wall and written over the photos in large handwriting is written: I don't want to alarm anyone but I think there's a lil alkyhol in the..." unreadable from there.
Jaene F. Castrillon, Perpetual, 2015 (installation) – image courtesy of the artist

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?

Jaene Castrillon: I am a 2Spirit interdisciplinary artist, activist, author & award winning filmmaker who explores my relationship to the world through Indigenous teachings, ceremony and the wisdom of the land. I describe myself as a settler to Turtle Island of mixed heritages (indigenous Colombian & Hong Kong Chinese) who was raised on the teachings of Elder Isaac Day of Serpent River First Nations.

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