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


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.