Intertwined – New Exhibition on Vital Capacities from 22 July

Artworks from top left, clockwise: Seo Hye Lee, [Sound of Subtitles], 2021; Laura Lulika, Body Building, 2021; Linda Stupart, Watershed 2.0: Pandemic CYOA Cyberspace Edition 2021, 2021 – images courtesy of the artists.
Intertwined is our new exhibition on Vital Capacities, presenting new works by resident artists – Seo Hye Lee, Laura Lulika and Linda Stupart. The works have been commissioned in collaboration with our partners: Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), Phoenix and University of Salford Art Collection. Intertwined opens on 22 July. See the exhibition now by clicking here.

For our June 21 residency on Vital Capacities, we invited three artists from across the UK to explore and develop new work. Over the course of the month the artists did research, tested ideas and created new commissions, working with our partners, artists, web designer and digital inclusion specialist. Intertwined is an exhibition of the commissioned work resulting from June 21’s residency. 

Seo Hye Lee was co-commissioned by University of Salford Art Collection, whose experience of working with archives was especially important in contributing to Lee’s new film, [Sound of Subtitles]. Over the month, Lee researched approaches to subtitles and captioning, and how sounds are described or omitted using these tools for increasing accessibility for D/deaf and hard of hearing people. Lee worked with film archives across the country to develop a silent film that invites you, through the captions, to imagine the sounds, and the stories behind them, while provoking the viewer to question the role of captioning. 

Laura Lulika’s new work, Body Builder, was co-commissioned by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, which includes moving image, music, spoken word, performance and collage. Over the course of the residency, Lulika explored hyperability, mascot bodies, the false binary of healthy/unhealthy, and the absurdity of footballer’s fake foul dives. Lulika has created an interactive collage, combining Frankenstein mascots, pub settings and automobile bodies all with their own tales to investigate. 

During the residency, Linda Stupart continued to explore the River Cole, a process begun in 2020, resulting in the work-in-progress film, Watershed (2020). During June 21, Stupart continued to walk and map the River Cole, which has resulted in the creation of an interactive story/game, with images, texts and music; Watershed 2.0: Pandemic CYOA Cyberspace Edition 2021. Stupart’s new work has been co-commissioned by Phoenix in Leicester, who supported them to explore new game-based platforms, including Twine – a programme for making choose your own adventure (COYA) games, with which the new work has been created. 

To find out more about how the artworks came about, explore the artists’ studios, where you can see the developments which led to the new work. To see the exhibition click here

With thanks to Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, Phoenix and University of Salford Art Collection for their partnership and collaboration. Thank you to Arts Council England for their support. 


   

Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

 

Exhibition: In Search of Chemozoa by boredomresearch

In Search of Chemozoa, is a new project by boredomresearch (British artist duo Vicky Isley and Paul Smith). The project is based on their residency at Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (USA) and at Aspex Portsmouth, responding to new therapeutic approaches centred on managing rather than curing cancer. Combining computer animation with film from inside laboratories and in natural environments, boredomresearch presents ideas for an alternative cultural understanding of cancer. Informed by interviews with over 20 scientists, the film presents an original view of the relationship between the latest cancer research and developing theories about biomedical and ecological health.

‘In Search of Chemozoa’ by boredomresearch (2021)

‘For we are but a single cell’ by boredomresearch (2020)

For we are but a single cell provides an insight into the science behind the artwork, including interviews with scientists from the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center who discuss the importance of nature in cancer research. Together a bridge is formed between creative fiction and scientific insight that is changing how we respond emotionally and practically to one of the most challenging diseases for humanity.

To learn about the making of the film, click here to explore the technical animation methods used in creating In Search of Chemozoa. And try out the interactive Chemozoa mutation modeller designed by Arizona Cancer Evolution Center in response to In Search of Chemozoa

boredomresearch talk about their residency in Arizona, and their experience working with scientists and cancer research in this interview with Lucy Sabin, click here to read.

As part of the exhibition, Aspex Portsmouth has commissioned two learning resources and an animaton for younger visitors, find them by clicking here.

In Search of Chemozoa was commissioned and funded by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center at the Biodesign Institute (USA) through an award from the National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute, developed in partnership with Aspex Portsmouth (UK) and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

This online exhibition runs in parallel with a 3 channel moving image expression of the work at Aspex Portsmouth, UK – showing until 25 July 21. For details on the exhibition at Aspex click here.

About the artists

boredomresearch is a collaboration between British artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, internationally renowned for exploring an understanding of the natural world through the medium of computational technologies. Becoming intimately aware of the vulnerability of complex systems, including those which support human life on earth, they present a daring new vision for technological innovation, centered on reuniting the presently splintered domains of art, science and society.

Their work considers our strategies for coping in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. Collaborating with world leading scientists the artists are challenging a broader concern over a tendency towards increasingly complex solutions to answer the dilemma of environmental crisis.

www.boredomresearch.net

     

      Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

A close up photo of a dome-like blob which is glowing with pricks of colourful light, glowing like citylights in the night. Electric blue and bright red dots cover the blob's surface, and flame-like spines grown from the surface, which are bright yellow, white and red at the base.

Making of and more: In Search of Chemozoa

A scientific panel with green and yellow sections, with options to change the environment of Chemozoa. In the centre is a picture of the Chemozoa model in yellow and green.

Making Chemozoa

Here we present boredomresearch‘s Making Chemozoa, which exposes some of the technical animation methods used in the making of In Search of Chemozoa. It also shows ways in which scientific concepts were added to the film, and how they influenced what the film looks like.

Mutate Chemozoa

Arizona Cancer Evolution Center have created an interactive model, which you can download. The model allows you to mutate Chemozoa, by changing the environment, feeding Chemozoa and altering mutagenic properties. Visit the site and download the model here.

A scientific panel with green and yellow sections, with options to change the environment of Chemozoa. In the centre is a picture of the Chemozoa model in yellow and green.

More about ‘In Search of Chemozoa’

Exploring new perspectives in response to the first study of cancer across species, boredomresearch present a poetic rendering of an in silico model organism, called Chemozoa, commissioned and created in collaboration with Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (US), the artwork responds to mythical creatures documented in scientific literature to reveal tensions and interconnections between human and planetary health. Combining computer animation, filmed environments and scientific speculation, boredomresearch weaves a poetic narrative that introduces new ideas emerging from cancer research. In Search of Chemozoa looks at the ‘fuzzy edge’ of cutting edge science where myth, fantasy and speculation encourage creativity and insight.

When in residence at the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center in 2018-2019, boredomresearch witnessed the beauty of the Placozoan being studied by Dr. Angelo Fortunato who is developing novel model organisms to understand cancer across species. It was the complex web of ideas radiating from this simple organism that inspired boredomresearch’s imaginary Chemozoa; a fictional organism that experiences the same disease process that touches so many lives. With the dynamics of cancer programmed into their cells Chemozoa are designed to survive in toxic environments that act as an analogue for chemotherapy. The artwork responds to new therapeutic approaches centered on managing rather than curing cancer. The artificial physiology of Chemozoa does not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy cells and therefore no clear distinction can be made between cancer and body. As such the Chemozoan escape the existential crisis of experiencing an internal conflict between healthy and unhealthy, self and other characteristics of cancer. The Chemozoa allows us to reflect on our own relationship with conflict, foregrounding the benefits of balance in the management of singular identities made of conflicting parts. A philosophy that extends beyond the health of the individual to encompass the health of our societies and our sustaining natural environment.

Against a backdrop of anxiety over planetary and human health, boredomresearch considers the possibility of more exotic microscopic life and the insight that might otherwise never be revealed in their absence. This microcosm, in which artistic and scientific creativity become one, allows the artists to explore new ideas of balance and stability in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. The film proposes the existence of this mythical being through the form of pseudo-documentary with a narrative voiceover that introduces us to the imagined beings and their struggles in an atmospheric underwater world. 

In physical exhibition venues In Search of Chemozoa is presented as a three channel video installation, where the side screens provide a more micro and macro perspective of the Chemozoa and the central screen provides the central narrative and overarching environment context. For this online exhibition boredomresearch have created a single channel version of the work which focuses on the central narrative and incorporates some of the more detailed shots from the two side screens. 

In Search of Chemozoa offers us an opportunity to consider the increasing importance of ecological perspective in areas of research relating to human health where we are encouraged to acknowledge that  to live long healthy lives we first need to accept a fragile balance that plays out at the level of the cell. New insights benefit from acknowledging that the conflict between cells in the body, as seen in cancer, is the same as the conflict in ecosystems made from beings whose interests are not always aligned. In doing so we move from an aggressive ‘war on cancer’ dialogue to one that prioritises values of peace and stability. Nature has shown cancer researchers how to preserve health in the body. Can cancer research offer us a vision for how we can return health to a world that is becoming increasingly hostile and inhospitable?

To watch In Search of Chemozoa online, click here.

In Search of Chemozoa was commissioned and funded by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center at the Biodesign Institute (USA) through an award from the National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute, developed in partnership with Aspex Portsmouth (UK) and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

This online exhibition runs in parallel with a 3 channel moving image expression of the work at Aspex Portsmouth, UK – showing until 25 July 21. For details on the exhibition at Aspex click here.

About the artists

boredomresearch is a collaboration between British artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, internationally renowned for exploring an understanding of the natural world through the medium of computational technologies. Becoming intimately aware of the vulnerability of complex systems, including those which support human life on earth, they present a daring new vision for technological innovation, centered on reuniting the presently splintered domains of art, science and society.

Their work considers our strategies for coping in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. Collaborating with world leading scientists the artists are challenging a broader concern over a tendency towards increasingly complex solutions to answer the dilemma of environmental crisis. Find out more: www.boredomresearch.net

      

      Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

 

Interview with boredomresearch by Lucy Sabin

Vicky Isley (VI) and Paul Smith (PS), aka boredomresearch, interviewed by Lucy Sabin (LS).

“You could think of it as cancer in the form of an organism”

LS:  As I understand it, this artwork was inspired by the laboratory methods at the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, specifically their use of ‘model organisms’ for studying adaptations to cancer in other species. Could you describe some of the model organisms and how they inspired you? 

VI:  One of the organisms the scientists are inspired by is the saguaro cactus. It has these semantic mutations, which are like cancer. You know the cacti you get in Westerns, the stereotypical ones with the arms? When they get big, some of them mutate and develop ‘crests’. They essentially have what looks like a brassica broccoli coming out of their head. The Center actually commissioned a landscape gardener to create a cacti garden outside their laboratories – a garden of cancerous cacti! So, their approach already involved collaborations with artists before we arrived.

PS:  For In Search of Chemozoa, we took as inspiration one of the organisms that they were working with [the Placozoa], and kind of created its nemesis by literally programming the cancerous mechanic into its cells. From birth, effectively, the cells of the Chemozoa are dividing and mutating in a way that we could understand as cancerous. You could think of it as a simulation of cancer in the form of an organism. Then we have a whole universe for this organism in terms of its being and how, in its life cycle, it relates closely to the ways that the scientists are thinking about approaching cancer in humans. It’s a way of managing cancer long term so we can live long healthy lives with cancer rather than trying, and failing to cure cancer. So that’s very much the life cycle of this being. It’s trying to regulate that cancerous divergence in terms of the mutations of its cells rather than trying to remove, trying to cure.    

VI:  Inside the Chemozoa, you’ll see these red bits floating around and that’s to represent the toxic algae that they’re feeding off. And so effectively they’re giving themselves their own chemo dosage. That’s why it’s all about balance because they’re trying to balance how much they’re feeding and how much they don’t. In the Chemozoa film, as they’re feeding, they’ll grow bigger but also, you’ll see this mechanism of apoptosis where the cells basically commit suicide. Then the Chemozoa shrink. 

PS:  What they’re trying to do is manage the divergent clones. As the cells mutate, they have a population of clones that could potentially… in the case of a human tumour the risk is that they could include mutations that are quite aggressive. This could lead to cancer developing in a way that could be fatal for humans. A lot of the research just focuses on how you manage complexity in terms of that diversity and maintaining balance. 

LS:  You modelled the Chemozoa on a real marine microorganism, the enigmatic Placozoa, one of the simplest known animals on Earth that was first discovered in the late 1800s and remained forgotten by biologists for the next century. What is it about the cancer research on Placozoa that caught your attention? 

VI:  When the Center invited us to their labs, we became part of that team. We were bridging the two labs: there’s a psychology lab, which investigates cancer in terms of cooperation and conflict, then there’s the evolutionary biology lab. The dialogue between the two labs is quite fluid. One of the researchers, Dr. Angelo Fortunato, was also working across both labs. We were drawn to Angelo, who was investigating the Placozoa, because he’s so creative. With his tanks, he does these ‘plotter’ drawings where he sticks bits of acetate to the glass to plot the organism’s movement by hand. The drawings are phenomenal and he’s so immersed in that world.  

VI:  Angelo blends cancer research with evolutionary biology. It was the two-prong approach that really pulled us into his research on the Placozoa. He was working with concepts of human health while remaining profoundly thoughtful of environmental health and the fact that the two cannot be separated. That way of thinking about those two things is very in tune with how we’re approaching our work not just to think about our own survival in terms of keeping the insides of our bodies going but that we are also ourselves bodies that impact on their environment. 

 

Life is a restless balance

LS:  That holistic approach to health seems encapsulated in the title of the exhibition where you first showed this work, ‘Restless Balance’ (Arizona State University, 2020-21).  

PS:  Yes, the way that we’re showing the work in Arizona in connection with several other works, all under the umbrella of the idea of restless balance or searching for some sense of stability but recognising change and the awkwardness that that creates. When we first wrote the descriptive of the exhibition, there was a sense of it sort of forewarning the [Covid-19] situation that we’re currently living through. 

VI:  So restless balance is not only present in the cells of organisms, but also in our thinking about cooperation and conflict in environments as well. That’s why In Search of Chemozoa foregrounds the environmental setting, because we wanted to think about it not only from the organism’s perspective but from a wider perspective. One thing that Angelo [Fortunato] noticed, when he was trying to create this environment for the Placozoa to live in the lab, was that these tiny things would eat everything! And he was thinking, “Wow, this is something that no one’s really looked at before. It’s tiny and it’s hard to see in the world yet it must be having a big effect. This must be one of the architects of the environment in which it lives”.  

LS:  Of course, a new model organism can never be an abstraction; it must be considered as an integral part of the environment in which it lives and the conditions it has evolved through. The documentary that you produced to accompany In Search of Chemozoa demonstrates how the scientists did some guesswork in optimising the conditions for the Placozoa, setting up saltwater tanks with special aeration systems and even importing rocks from Egypt that contain the Goldilocks combinations of minerals and microbes (boredomresearch 2020). How does this attentiveness to simulating natural conditions in the lab translate into the setting you designed for In Search of Chemozoa? Rocks certainly seem an essential presence. 

VI:  When we were doing recces for sites for the environment footage, it was important for us to have that ruggedness with lots of barnacles and holes in the rocks made by boring clams. We liked the idea that the Chemozoa hang out in crevices. The Chemozoa rock that you see in the film exists. It’s quite polished now, because we’ve handled it quite a bit. We used photogrammetry to capture its form in three dimensions.  

PS:  A potential problem arose with the scaling of the rocks in relation to the Chemozoa. We wanted to create something that had screen presence but a maximum cell count of about a thousand cells, so the cells had to be big!  

VI:  But when we spoke to the scientists about scale, they loved it. They said it would be great if you could just go out with a snorkel to see the Placozoa. Scale makes it difficult to study these organisms in their natural environment. As you say, they try to recreate natural conditions as much as possible, but it’s not the same as observing the organism in its habitat.  

 

The language of the documentary 

LS:  Certainly, the artistic license you take with scaling up the Chemozoa’s cells allows us to see microorganisms as part of a broader environmental context. That is where your use of both location shooting for scenes above water and computer simulation for the underwater world comes into play. How did you develop this practice of compositing live action with cinematic use of a game engine? 

PS:  We’re interested in the language of documentary as a familiar language that provides a low resistance way of accessing ideas that are quite hard for a lot of people to really engage with. With a lot of our work, we think broadly about the audiences that we want to engage with. So, we became interested in the language of documentary filmmaking, and there are lots of conventions to follow, such as the establishing shot, where you establish an idea of a location and then you have a journey that takes you from an idea of a place to a particular kind of situation in that place. And it’s in a situation where we can experience a creature and have an introduction really. So, the use of landscape made itself necessary from that perspective in terms of thinking about how we create this presentation and narrative in a way that was accessible yet provided a way we can engage with the science but on our terms rather than how, you know, the scientists were engaging with that subject. So, when scripting the voice-over, which was based on interviews with scientists, we tried not to be too clinical and keep the narrative more poetic, open to interpretation.  

VI:  I think the journey was an important part of the project as well. Every camera angle transports you further in this search. We pan around a rock before we see the Chemozoa, for example. And we even experienced that searching quality when we were working on the project. The computer-generated part was built within a game engine, which the camera moves through, almost like a first-person shooter or first-person perspective anyway with key controls to navigate that space, moving the camera in a filmic way. We spawn the Chemozoa, in that program, selecting how many cells they’re going to have, and then wait for them to do their thing. The environment was set up with certain shots in mind, such as panning around a rock to see the Chemozoa. Sometimes they would disappear from the visible window, though. So, there were weird moments where we felt as though we were out in nature, trying to document these beings. We experienced this chaos even more with previous works, which used very much fixed windows. It’s only recently that we’ve started to do more camerawork where you’re taken on a journey through that world.  

 

Scientific modelling and imagined worlds 

LS:  How much of your work is about creating worlds? And I guess I mean worlds within a permanently polluted world. 

PS:  I feel that they’re all worlds created in a fictional universe. I think that’s how we understand scientific models as well. That the scientific models are in themselves fictions. They’re ways of thinking about a world. And the more and more we immersed ourselves in the worlds of scientists, we got deep into – you know – the processes, and the purposes and with the models that the scientists were creating, we found it increasingly hard to disentangle and to have that clear separation anymore. More and more we felt that the artists – sorry the scientists – the scientists, the scientists, the science-artists were almost… their ability was a creative one, but they were in the business of science. So, they must exploit that creativity in a very particular way. But funnily enough, what they’re doing is they’re creating models, they’re creating their own fictional universes where they can explore and think about the world that they find themselves in and that is a world that has its own problems. And for a lot of these problems, we’re the authors. 

LS:  Yes, and your last point could be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, ‘we’ (read: certain human societies) are the authors of environmental disruption writ large. On the other, we are also the authors of any flaws or assumptions embedded in the knowledge-making processes designed for defining and studying those problems. To what extent were you influenced, especially during your residency at the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, by scientific processes for visualizing, simulating and conceptualizing problems? I imagine it was important to recognize the limitations as well as the strengths of the scientific research you were engaging with, to create a space for artistic inquiry that opens new discussions.  

PS:  One of our older projects, Afterglow (2016), an experimental film about malaria transmission, was one of our first experiences of negotiating that space with the scientists and trying to understand the models that the scientists were creating, why they were creating them, and how they were useful. How is this useful? How does it relate to an idea of truth? And what does truth mean in a scientific context? Is that the same as truth in an artistic context? We wanted to build a model that was robust in the same way their scientific model was robust but offered us something different from the science. Not, for example, extrapolating something that we could then use as an intervention, but if we’re not doing something useful from the point of view of intervening, then what are we doing? So, we were questioning, what are the limitations of a scientific model? What can’t they do? Certainly in those epidemiological models that we were interested in within the limited range that we experienced them, they were all based on creating very reduced, eloquent expressions that avoided the messy entanglement that would make them scientifically useless. Because as soon as the data passes a few levels of complexity, you can’t interpret it, you can’t make a meaningful scientific claim, you can’t say anything with any kind of certainty, or you can’t show the difference between two scenarios. We wanted to capture the truth of the visual complexity of a disease like malaria as it would exist in a landscape if we were able to see that.  

VI:  That’s why the spatial element is so important in that work. And it’s from then on that we’ve been working more spatially. Space can be difficult to convey in science models, as Paul was explaining. Scientists often need to streamline data, so a lot of complexity gets thrown out of the window. But we often look for the mess. When we’re in residence, we do what I’ve started to refer to as ‘lurking’. I’ve said this to a couple of people: “Can we just lurk in your lab for a bit?”. Because, otherwise people formalize it. 

PS:  One of the labs that we were working with for In Search of Chemozoa did a lot of abstract simulations. In a sense, the simulation that we mapped onto the body of the Chemozoa could be unwrapped onto a plane and simplified to look similar in nature to the simulations that the scientists were using as part of their research – to the untrained eye anyway! But then the scientists would map these simulations back onto the world. Scientists go out with their tools, they look at the world and capture something, call it data if you like, they deal with that in a particular way, and it affects the way they think about and understand things. The whole idea being that the model then becomes useful, that you go and apply it back to the world, you can work out how to control or calibrate something that you haven’t controlled or calibrated before. In art, the process kind of gets mapped back to the world in that other people experience the artwork and they take away something that maybe has changed their own experience of the world. But everyone has a unique impression of the work.  

I think that’s the key distinction: the language of science is very precise. If you take all the words in the dictionary, the ones that have a single meaning tend to be the scientific ones. Whereas the ones that have more value in an arts context often mean ten different things and are vague, open to interpretation. It’s that kind of difference between science and art, that science must be shared whilst remaining the same and art is something that is offered freely. We’ve made it on our terms, but you can take it on yours. 

 

 Emergence and empathy  

LS:  You’ve talked about the emergent properties of this world. You input variables into the code such as cell count but ultimately the (eco)system that emerges becomes so complex that the Chemozoa behave in ways you might not have anticipated. In a sense, this process mirrors any creative process, which might have a clear starting point to begin with but then intuition take over. Could you say a little more about the role of empathy in your work? The etymology of empathy is ‘feeling into’ if that helps.  

PS:  If you’re creating an artistic expression of something, you must feel something. So, it’s important that we find the scientists who allow us to understand how they feel about their scientific research. What we’re trying to do is translate the feeling more than the science. We don’t see ourselves as science communicators. 

VI:  We tend to refer to our work as ‘expressions’ because representation or data visualisation is not our goal. I hope that the scientists we work with see how we’ve emotionally engaged with the subject and how the work carries their emotions as well. We want it to be poetic, to create something beautiful.  

PS:  There’s also a lot of melancholy in the works we create. We’re always looking to the beauty of the system, but the melancholy comes from somewhere.  

VI:  I think it’s because we see the fragility in the systems as well. We even experience that through coding the systems, as we said before. You experience fragility when something can easily collapse or become noise. So, when we’re programming something, you see that emergent behaviour and then you kind of experience loss in a way. So that loss comes through, very often it will come through in the sound of our work. When we get to working on the sound, we often bring a very melancholy tone. 

PS:  The sound comes at the end.  We give the work the sound that sounds right for the work and by that time, it’s maybe our experiences of creating the work… we’ve lost control… we’re not really steering it, it’s just kind of happening, I think by that point.  

LS:  The sound seems like a fitting point to end on then! The voice-over harks back to the language of the documentary, yet without the master narrative one might associate with that genre. What were your intentions with the narration? 

BOREDOMRESEARCH [via email] The narration was a way of bringing in all the different angles from the two different labs we collaborated with at Biodesign – both Carlo Maley’s Cancer and Evolution Lab and Athena Aktipis’s Cooperation and Conflict Lab. Primarily, the script narrates the struggle of the small, multi-celled organisms affecting their own chemotherapeutic treatment by feeding on toxic algae but also how they help balance their own environment. The script addresses the importance of health as a holistic part of a wider philosophical awareness of the interrelatedness and symbiosis that is not just confined to looking inside an organism’s body but also how it is subject to the health of the environment outside the body and the value that flows in both directions, i.e., using nature as a point of inspiration in a biomedical context and biomedical insight into health to better understand our connection with nature outside the body.  

We endeavoured to exclude scientific language but instead adopt a suggestive poetic voice to capture some of the rich emotional value that both underlies and motivates the research. Research that informed the narration included text on harmful algae blooms, social feeding behaviour of Placozoa (the organism that inspired the Chemozoa) and cancer cell dynamics.  

 The script was written to be cyclical so the end flows into the start, so that the audience can start viewing the piece at any point.  

We wanted the piece to be performed with weariness and pausing for reflection, to be performed with natural speech, for the narrator to seem wise but without any sense of superiority, to have a touch of melancholy and fragility, at times overcome by a fascination and subtle joy with the curious nature of the world.

To watch In Search of Chemozoa online, click here.

About the artists

boredomresearch is a collaboration between British artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, internationally renowned for exploring an understanding of the natural world through the medium of computational technologies. Becoming intimately aware of the vulnerability of complex systems, including those which support human life on earth, they present a daring new vision for technological innovation, centered on reuniting the presently splintered domains of art, science and society.

Their work considers our strategies for coping in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. Collaborating with world leading scientists the artists are challenging a broader concern over a tendency towards increasingly complex solutions to answer the dilemma of environmental crisis.

www.boredomresearch.net

     

      Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

Investigate and learn: In Search of Chemozoa (learning resources for children)

A close up photo of a dome-like blob which is glowing with pricks of colourful light, glowing like citylights in the night. Electric blue and bright red dots cover the blob's surface, and flame-like spines grown from the surface, which are bright yellow, white and red at the base.
A close up photo of a dome-like blob which is glowing with pricks of colourful light, glowing like citylights in the night. Electric blue and bright red dots cover the blob's surface, and flame-like spines grown from the surface, which are bright yellow, white and red at the base.
boredomresearch, In Search of Chemozoa, 2021 – courtesy of the artists

As part of the exhibition at Aspex Portsmouth, Aspex commissioned two learning resources to enable children to investigate ideas about In Search of Chemozoa. And support questions about the thoughts it might prompt for younger viewers.

Resources can be found on Aspex Portsmouth’s website by clicking here.

Inspired by In Search of Chemozoa by boredomresearch, Molly Rolfe has created an activity for people who have questions. The aim is to help you to talk more confidently about what confuses you. (A learning resource supporting the animation (below) can be found at the link above.)

In Search of Chemozoa was commissioned and funded by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center at the Biodesign Institute (USA) through an award from the National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute, developed in partnership with Aspex Portsmouth (UK) and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

This online exhibition runs in parallel with a 3 channel moving image expression of the work at Aspex Portsmouth, UK – showing until 18 July 21. For details on the exhibition at Aspex click here.

To watch In Search of Chemozoa online, click here.

About the artists

boredomresearch is a collaboration between British artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, internationally renowned for exploring an understanding of the natural world through the medium of computational technologies. Becoming intimately aware of the vulnerability of complex systems, including those which support human life on earth, they present a daring new vision for technological innovation, centered on reuniting the presently splintered domains of art, science and society.

Their work considers our strategies for coping in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. Collaborating with world leading scientists the artists are challenging a broader concern over a tendency towards increasingly complex solutions to answer the dilemma of environmental crisis.

www.boredomresearch.net

      

      Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

 

 

In Search of Chemozoa by boredomresearch – online exhibition

Colourful lights shimmer on a black background, the lights glow out from spines from an unseeable form below. The spines glow red, blue, hot orange and gold.
boredomresearch, In Search of Chemozoa, 2021 (video still) – courtesy of the artists

videoclub presents boredomresearch’s latest work, In Search of Chemozoa, showing online between 30 June and 31 August 2021. See the exhibition now by clicking here.

In Search of Chemozoa, is a new project by boredomresearch (British artist duo Vicky Isley and Paul Smith). The project is based on their residency at Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (USA) and at Aspex Portsmouth, responding to new therapeutic approaches centred on managing rather than curing cancer. Combining computer animation with film from inside laboratories and in natural environments, boredomresearch presents ideas for an alternative cultural understanding of cancer. Informed by interviews with over 20 scientists, the film presents an original view of the relationship between the latest cancer research and developing theories about biomedical and ecological health.

Exhibition dates: 30 June – 31 August 21, online – opening at 11am on 30 June.

In Search of Chemozoa was commissioned and funded by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center at the Biodesign Institute (USA) through an award from the National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute, developed in partnership with Aspex Portsmouth (UK) and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

This online exhibition runs in parallel with a 3 channel moving image expression of the work at Aspex Portsmouth, UK – showing until 18 July 21. For details on the exhibition at Aspex click here.

About the artists

boredomresearch is a collaboration between British artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, internationally renowned for exploring an understanding of the natural world through the medium of computational technologies. Becoming intimately aware of the vulnerability of complex systems, including those which support human life on earth, they present a daring new vision for technological innovation, centered on reuniting the presently splintered domains of art, science and society.

Their work considers our strategies for coping in a world increasingly destabilised by human activity. Collaborating with world leading scientists the artists are challenging a broader concern over a tendency towards increasingly complex solutions to answer the dilemma of environmental crisis.

www.boredomresearch.net

     

      Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

Interview & intro video with artist Seo Hye Lee

Image of 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.

Introduction video by Seo Hye Lee, resident artist on Vital Capacities, June 2021

Transcript for Seo Hye Lee introduction video

Interview with Seo Hye Lee, resident artist on Vital Capacities

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?

My name is Seo Hye Lee and I use the pronouns of she/her. I am a South Korean artist based in Somerset, UK. My practice revolves around the use of illustration, sound and installation – I like to explore the nature of sound and, in particular, the boundaries between listening and hearing. I frequently use my experience as a deaf person with a cochlear implant as a starting point to create my works. Being both a hearing and a deaf person has provided me valuable insight into accessibility in daily life and it has motivated me to challenge the notion of listening.

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?

Seo Hye Lee: It’s really great to be given the opportunity to think about accessibility in terms of art and how one can share the process of documentation in an accessible way. I know that there’s still work to be done to create the perfect way to showcase art in an accessible way for everyone – I would love to learn more about the possibilities and continue to implement what I’ve learned going forward. As a deaf individual, I have come across frustrating experiences such as not being able to enjoy video art because it doesn’t have any subtitles! That would be the first priority for me to ensure that my videos are all subtitled if there’s any dialogue. I would like to experiment with this to see how the use of subtitles can change the perception of the events.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

Seo Hye Lee: I am very excited to test ideas that have been simmering for a while and try to realise them in real life! There isn’t a particular project yet, but I definitely would like to try and expand on what I previously created to showcase my BSL book titled ‘Partial Gestures’, made back in 2019 during Artist Self Publisher’s fair. To present my publication, I recorded subtitles shown on the documentary ‘Sound & Fury’ directed by Josh Aronson. This documentary was interesting as it focused on Deaf families who were debating whether Cochlear Implant was something they should get for their kids and whether this would mean they could fit into hearing society easier. Watching documentaries such as this on YouTube was interesting as it is a platform notorious for having awful subtitles. I intentionally showed partial moments behind the inaccurate subtitles to give the audience the sense of frustration when trying to figure out the context of the film. Hopefully, I can expand this project in new directions and continue my research around the use and language of subtitles.

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?

Seo Hye Lee: In the first week I would like to start with organising the clusters of ideas regarding the language of subtitles and define my core ideas to carry forward. And then aim to broaden my research and experiment with film archives. I would like to look in depth into the history of subtitles and styles of language used. In particular, how subtitles can be used to communicate the context such as music and actions or movement on screen. I look forward to seeing how these weeks will unfold! Overall, I hope that the residency will help me to grow my ideas into an exciting project that will further my own research and practice but also hopefully be enjoyable and interesting for others!

Find out more about Seo Hye Lee’s work on Vital Capacities.

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

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 Lee, Laura 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:

Seo Hye Lee is a Somerset-based South Korean artist who uses the mediums of sound, illustration, and installation to experiment with new forms of narrative, creating playful pieces that challenge the idea of listening. Drawing inspiration from her hearing loss experience, Seo Hye aims to explore the boundaries between hearing and listening; regardless of your hearing skill, one can always listen in a variety of ways.

Laura Lulika is a chronically sick and disabled queer artist, working predominantly with video, sound, writing and performance. Their practice explores themes of care, sexuality, labour, sickness, and performativity in the everyday. Lulika’s work is inspired by that which is available to them when they spend long periods housebound, such as popular and digital culture as well as domestic spaces and local communities. They strive to work in interdependent formats which reflect the care needs of themselves and everyone they work with. Their practice involves the embodiment of unconventional care methods that are playful, inquisitive and which shed the layers of shame that are attached to othered bodies.

Linda Stupart is a South African artist, writer and educator based in Birmingham and is interested in objectification, abjection, science fiction and revenge.  They work predominately in performance; writing; film, video, and, sometimes, sculpture.

Residencies will launch on 1 June – to follow what the artists are up to join the mailing list and follow them on: vitalcapacities.com

June’s residency programme is delivered in partnership with Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), Phoenix and University of Salford Art Collection, with support from Arts Council England.

 

Vital Capacities is an accessible, purpose-built digital residency space, that supports artists’ practice while engaging audiences with their work.

Vital Capacities has been created by videoclub in consultation with artists, digital inclusion specialist Sarah Pickthall and website designer Oli Pyle.

       

Arts Council England funding logo (Lottery)

Vital Capacities – A Train to Utopia Digital Workshop by Tzu-Huan Lin

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.

Join Tzu-Huan Lin on a guided train journey to a virtual landscape created by the artist. At the destination, prepared for Utopia-building, you will take on a character and create your idea of Utopia, using 3D virtual objects inside Mozilla Hubs. Collaborate in creating Utopia with other participants and see what Utopia means to other people.

 

Journey details

Trip time: approximately 1 hour
Conductor: Tzu-Huan Lin
Passenger: You and 7 other Utopians
Three trains are running, pick your slot below. Each train only has 8 seats.

Train time options:
28 May at 11am US (EST) // 4pm UK // 7:30pm India // 11pm Taiwan – BOOK A TICKET
29 May at 11am US (EST) // 4pm UK // 7:30pm India // 11pm Taiwan – BOOK A TICKET
31 May at 11am US (EST) // 4pm UK // 7:30pm India // 11pm Taiwan – BOOK A TICKET

*Please note, you will need a computer that is of fairly decent spec. VR is not required to take part. For more details about Mozilla Hubs and about requirements, check here.

This project is part of the online residency Vital Capacities.
You can find more information about the residency, this project and other artists at: vitalcapacities.com

This project is supported by Arts Council England, British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan) through the Connections through Culture programme.

 

Interview with Tzu Huan Lin, Vital Capacities resident artist

A video still from Tzu Huan Lin’s Let Me Inside You – a horse with 3 heads flies through the sky, 3 disembodied hands holding mobile phones are also in the sky. The sky is blue with white lines flowing through it.
A video still from Tzu Huan Lin’s Let Me Inside You – a horse with 3 heads flies through the sky, 3 disembodied hands holding mobile phones are also in the sky. The sky is blue with white lines flowing through it.
Tzu-Huan Lin, Let Me Inside You (We Are Not Two, We Are One), 2020 (video still)

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?

Hello Jamie,

My name is Tzu-Huan Lin, I am a Taiwanese immigrant artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. I’ve been here in United State for 11 years. I’ve been working on all kind of subjects that’s from my life, such as the different perspective of desire, rule of socialization, the authenticity of art and they all being explored under the frame of internet. I am currently working on immigrants because I felt it’s time and I started to feel there’s something I can talk about. I’ve been working on this idea on and off for the past two years and during the residency, I will keep work on these ideas try to condense these “bubbles” into a more solid-state. Besides my research and work in progress, I will also run a workshop that will allow the audience to participate in my work in progress.

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?

It will be a solid period. As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on and off on this project. Because there’s not enough motivation to push me to spend more time in it, also I was unwilling to work on this subject. It took a while for me to think of myself as an immigrant, I’ve always uncertain about my identity in United State, (So does how people pronounce my name they can’t do it and it’s not clear should I forced them to pronounce correctly). I also like the idea of Stateless, like a lotus floating anywhere but with the roots to grow. Perhaps it is because I am starting to feel eager to leave United State that I have finally put down these past days, and my United States citizen status.

Thus, this opportunity to participate in Vital Capacities gives me time to breathe, in and out, clearly document my art practice.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

This project is called “Point Nemo”, I am expecting to finish my research and the story writing, so I can start to shoot it in June. Also, develop the workshop so this will be a unique workshop that I can keep playing with it in the future. 

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?

Busy, busy, busy, I will try to post as much as possible and the Virtual YouTuber video will also be fun. I don’t know where this will go but I am excited about what I can do and what can be done.

Visit Tzu Huan’s studio space on Vital Capacities to learn more about what he’s working on.

May’s residency programme is delivered in partnership with British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

Vital Capacities is an accessible, purpose-built, online residency space that supports artists’ practice while engaging audiences with their work.

Vital Capacities has been created by videoclub in consultation with artists, digital inclusion specialist, Sarah Pickthall and website designer, Oli Pyle.

Supported by Arts Council England, British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

 

Interview wth Katarzyna Perlak, Vital Capacities resident artist

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.
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 (video still)

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.

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?

It will be opportunity to think through way of presentations that I use in my moving image work, as well as presenting my work online.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

During the residency period I will be developing the production, planning and researching for a new image work, which will re-tell British folklore stories from an Eastern European migrant viewpoint. Apart from learning about producing moving image work in using cinematic tools and way of production, I will research British and Eastern European costumes and masks, which would play an important part of the choreography and visual structure of the work. I am interested in their role as storytelling vehicles, shaped by the intersection of collective memories, personal histories and socio-political visual codes.

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?

I will divide the time between research, which will inform the future scrip formation, and planning out the work necessary to take off the production off the ground, talking to a costume designer, producer and DOP.

Visit Katarzyna’s studio space on Vital Capacities to learn more about what she’s working on.

May’s residency programme is delivered in partnership with British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

Vital Capacities is an accessible, purpose-built, online residency space that supports artists’ practice while engaging audiences with their work.

Vital Capacities has been created by videoclub in consultation with artists, digital inclusion specialist, Sarah Pickthall and website designer, Oli Pyle.

Supported by Arts Council England, British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

 

Interview with Vishal Kumaraswamy, Vital Capacities resident artist

Three digitised figures appear from a digital background. The background waves of digital data, in pink and green, all on a black background. The figures are also waves of data, two are in electric blue and green, the other an off white colour.
Three digitised figures appear from a digital background. The background waves of digital data, in pink and green, all on a black background. The figures are also waves of data, two are in electric blue and green, the other an off white colour.
Vishal Kumaraswamy, Swaayattate, 2020 (video still)

Jamie Wyld (videoclub & Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work?

Vishal Kumaraswamy: Hi, my name is Vishal Kumaraswamy I’m a Bangalore based Artist & Filmmaker. Within my practice, I work across AI, text, video, sound and performance and I look for points of convergence between Caste, Race & Technology. My works a by weaving speculative narratives & counter-mythologies in multiple Indian languages around themes of Artificial Intelligence, Gender & Labour.

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?

VK: Within my practice, I am constantly looking for ways to reduce the multiple layers of accessibility barriers that surround contemporary art. I’m grateful to be part of Vital Capacities where notions of accessibility are considered at the outset and not as an afterthought. I’m hoping to learn about the practical ways in which I can make my works, process and thinking accessible and understand ways to make these considerations empathetically and implement them across the multiple forms I work in.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

VK: For the last 2 years, I’ve been engaged in developing a theoretical and critical framework that draws from social justice principles, critical race theory & anti-caste literature. I’m doing this to investigate if artistic practice can become ‘pedagogical tools’ to communities of colour that are excluded from regular access to critical discourse around contemporary art & technology. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to illustrate how this comes through as I bring in my ongoing experiments with AI based image generation, volumetric filmmaking and sonic narratives.

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?

VK: At the moment I am looking at what kind of conversations are happening around data, technology and AI particularly the perceptive notion of these terms in relation to their technological explanations. I’d like to look into how I can translate some of my thoughts around these concerns while also situating it within the context of racialised and casteised experiences. There are multiple intersectional threads to work through, I’m keen to see which of them I can trace and locate.

Visit Vishal’s studio space on Vital Capacities to learn more about what he’s working on.

May’s residency programme is delivered in partnership with British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

Vital Capacities is an accessible, purpose-built, online residency space that supports artists’ practice while engaging audiences with their work.

Vital Capacities has been created by videoclub in consultation with artists, digital inclusion specialist, Sarah Pickthall and website designer, Oli Pyle.

Supported by Arts Council England, British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

 

 

New international resident artists on Vital Capacities

Artists’ work from top left, clockwise: Katarzyna Perlak, Vishal Kumaraswamy and Tzu Huan Lin

We will be delivering our third residency programme on Vital Capacities – bringing together artists from UK/Poland, India and Taiwan, which will take place throughout May 2021. Artists will be experimenting with ideas, developing new projects and sharing work with audiences. The artists are:

Vishal Kumaraswamy

Vishal Kumaraswamy is a new media artist and filmmaker currently based in Bangalore, India. Working across text, video, sound, performance and creative programming, Vishal engages with notions of digital dissent and activism, the state of consumer access technology in relation to Artificial Intelligence and questions of agency through the lens of caste.

Tzu Huan Lin

Tzu Huan Lin is a moving image artist working with short video, feature film, and animation. His work adapts to connect different stories to address the subject that he experiences in the digital era. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, including mythology, historical events, science theory, pseudo-documentary, and abstract narrative works. Tzu Huan is based between Taipei and New York. His residency is generously supported by the British Council Connection through Culture Grants.

Katarzyna Perlak

Katarzyna Perlak is a London-based visual artist, whose practice employs video, performance, sound, textiles and installation. Perlak’s work is driven by politics and feelings; examines queer subjectivities, migration and potentiality of affect as a tool for registering and archiving both present continuous and past historical moments.

Residencies will launch on 1 May – to follow what the artists are up to join the mailing list and follow them on: vitalcapacities.com

May’s residency programme is delivered in partnership with British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

Vital Capacities is an accessible, purpose-built digital residency space, that supports artists’ practice while engaging audiences with their work.

Vital Capacities has been created by videoclub in consultation with artists, digital inclusion specialist, Sarah Pickthall and website designer, Oli Pyle.

Supported by Arts Council England, British Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).

VisionMix: Loss & Transience 2 – watch films

VisionMix: Loss & Transience 2 film programme

Featuring the following work:

Ranbir Singh KalekaMan with Cockerel, 2004 (5:42 mins)
Ranbir Singh KalekaForest, 2007 (11 mins)
Avijit Mukul KishoreThe Garden of Forgotten Snow, 2017 (30 mins)
MochuWake, 2008 (13:44 mins)
Ranu MukherjeeHome and the World, 2015 (5 mins)
Gigi ScariaNo Parallels, 2010 (6:42 mins)
Gigi ScariaPolitical Realism, 2009 (3:35 mins)

For information about the programme, films and filmmakers, click here.

Ranbir Singh Kaleka – Man with Cockerel, 2004

 

Ranbir Singh Kaleka – Forest, 2007

 

Avijit Mukul Kishore – The Garden of Forgotten Snow, 2017

 

Mochu – Wake, 2008 (15 mins)

 

Ranu Mukherjee – Home and the World, 2015

 

Gigi Scaria – No Parallels, 2010

 

Gigi Scaria – Political Realism, 2009

 

Curated by Lucia Imaz King and Rashmi Sawhney for VisionMix.

Supported by University of Brighton.