Our Artist of the Month feature is a little different this month. In a change from our usual format we’ve created a podcast interview with melissandre varin as part of our Live Out Loud series. Our Programme Producer Harlan Whittingham talks to melissandre about a range of topics including collaboration, parenting, identity formation and the problematic whiteness of cultural and educational institutions. Live Out Loud is introduced by our Social Producer Lucy Wright.
a living space, 2020
jarred autoethnography of lockdown #1
'my favourite meal' a raw de-composition of my Caribbean heritages
'decolonising the womb' recipe: plantain, avocado, mango, plastic and teats
'hybridising identities' a poem written by melissandre varin in 2019
'hairy rituals' a poem written by melissandre varin in 2020
'eating the (m)other' documentation of past-performance
textures of Black, 2020.
an interrupted (by lockdown #2) collaborative intervention with textures of Black in a white cube.
The provocation invited gallery visitors to take up, hold, and transform space in a political way. Stereotypes attached to the purity of white and the ugly black were used to break binaries and reconsider practices of policing and polishing within arts spaces. Those historically excluded from arts spaces are also those that are policed and dominated the most namely Black and Global majority beings, beings with disability, children and babies. Beings self-identifying this way joined the movement.
'This space was not made for us
a message left in black on one of the 4 white walls of the Artspace Arcadia City Gallery in Coventry.
a swing braided with Black synthetic hair
melissandre varin, roots/routes, 2020. Photographed by Mandip Singh Seehra LRPS
Handle/with care, prendre/ avec soin, 2020.
melissandre varin and Jérémie Priam
Duration: 08.29 followed by conversation with artists
warnings: nudity, suffocation image, banana chewing noises
Presenting the Caribbean banana trade as a site of desire and displacement, melissandre and Jeremie’s audio-visual assemblage spans 4,000 miles. On Martinique, Jeremie’s aunt Lilianne shares her knowledge of growing organic bananas. On the island, toxic pesticides sprayed on banana crops have contaminated the landscape and poisoned the local population. In the garden of Foleshill Community Centre, Coventry, melissandre compost uneaten bananas. Symbolic of both sick food systems and dislocated beings, the bruised exotic fruit leaves an unsettling taste in the mouth.
melissandre varin and Jérémie Priam, Handle/with care, prendre/avec soin, 2020.
of flour and Earth 1/3, 2020.
of flour and Earth is a performance articulating afrofeminism and maintenance arts.
melissandre varin and Eole 15mo, of flour and Earth 1/3, 2020.
out of order please do not use, 2020.
This assemblage is made out of uncut moving images. I filmed myself for the last time over a morning in the white-led department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick.
I make myself vulnerable in this video as I share intimate moments of isolation and silence that means everything about my almost 2 years as a PhD student based at the university of Luxembourg for a year and at the university of Warwick from October 2019.
I was the only Black (non-binary unpaid) PhD student (with caring responsibilities) at the time both of the audio-visual recording and of the online sharing.
I received little but disinterest in the alternative forms of producing and disseminating knowledge which I came to this institution to develop. I had enough of white supremacist patriarchal discredit of my work and of my presence in this white space. I have not received a single line from this department that I did not fish for following Black Lives Matter movements. Except from the single anti-racist professor that supervised me. I checked on myself, rather than waiting for this department to do so - and actually NO I HAVE NOT BEEN AND I AM NOT OK.
Institutional gendered racism is not something that should be dealt with in close rooms by white people for white people to secure their positions of power. The university as an institution needs to pay Black beings for their labour, need to reevaluate values assigned to pluriversal forms of knowledge and knowledge content. The university needs to be kind, to care, and to stop performing white survival.
As of today 22/06/2020 11:48 - I withdraw my energies from this violent space that made me suffocate.
The title is my advice for Black students interested about joining this department.
*I speak from my experiences in this institution but for more than myself. I started my PhD as a self-funded student and never managed (because the system...) to have time nor suitable opportunities to be paid for my labour.
melissandre varin, out of order please do not use, 2020.
Mandip Singh Seehra LRPS