Marcin Gawin: Image courtesy of the artist. 2022.

FACET is an innovative nine-month project, presented by VSSL Studio in partnership with Arts Council England, designed to centre and elevate queer people and art. From May 2023 to January 2024, VSSL Studio will collaborate with five contemporary visual artists to co-produce a series of five exhibitions, exploring the ever-evolving and myriad spectrum of contemporary queer expression. Featuring exhibitions from: Alicia Radage + Benjamin Sebastian, June Lam, Rocio Boliver and Marcin Gawin - as well as a dynamic group exhibition. Each showcase will offer an immersive experience that celebrates queer culture through an expansive range of mediums.

Scroll down to find more information.

HERMAPHROGENESIS
Marcin Gawin

JANUARY 2024


“The Body operates in the cultural narrative that requires it to be stable and often relegates it as subservient to the mind. 'Face to the Seventh' is an inquiry into the correlation and the organisation of fixed systems, like the organisational fixations of the facial and organ systems. The presets in the installation are composed of the rearranged human viscera - with the exception of sexual organs - foregrounding parts that are a common denominator between all human organisms.”


Launch Event:
5-9pm, Friday the 12th of January 2024
RSVP Here

Exhibition Opening Hours:
12-5pm, Thursday to Sunday - 11th to 28th of January 2024


Curatorial Interventions: Dr Erinma Ochu in conversation with Marcin Gawin
6:30-8:30 pm, Friday 26th of January 2024
RSVP Here  

FACET Expanded: On Hermaphrogenesis & Centering Queer Art
6:00-7:30 pm, Friday 16th of February 2024
As part of LGBTQAI+ History Month 2024 in Lewisham, VSSL Studio is hosting a talk to explain their recent 9-month programme, FACET.
RSVP Here  



Hermaphrogenesis: Organs as Ruins of the Posthuman Body

By [M] Dudeck

Long ago, in Ancient Rome, the organs and entrails of sacrificed animals were decoded and interpreted by those tasked with defining the limits of reality. This ancient divination technique— called haruspicy – was performed by a trained priest – called a haruspex – who ritually consulted the liver, lungs, and heart of skinned beasts to discern the will of the gods.

Interdisciplinary artist Marcin Gawin performs a hybrid form of haruspicy in their new installation Hermaphrogenesis, remixing occult divination techniques with queer aesthetics in new forms of media. Here, the artist is interested in the body as a metaphor for the mutability of fixed systems. They hack biology by skinning the sciences, exposing the heteropatriarchal and anthropocentric institutionalization of bodies, both inner and outer, as a cyberpunk/witch haruspex. They etch, sculpt, diagram, exegete, cast, photograph, and manipulate a trinity of hand-crafted silicone organs, leaving us to decipher the will of the queer gods the artist has invoked on our behalf.

Gawin’s neo-goth, psychedelic laboratory/chapel circumnavigates the artist’s ongoing interest in re-imagining biology – and the body – as material for queer potentiality. They are transposing symbols from the sciences and religion into transmedial sigils, inviting the audience into an immersive hallucination, transposing organs into ruins for the posthuman body. A series of five illustrated iconographies, which the artist has titled ‘The large Head was split into five each’ – presents hyper-stylized illuminations of a brain stem spliced and flayed open in an illustrative style evoking anime, mediaeval iconography and early 90s internet art. These icons are illuminated with lightboxes and, suspended from the ceiling using chains and meat hooks, binding the aesthetic of BDSM with ceremonial magick.

A trinity of hand-crafted silicone organs– lungs, intestine, stomach – are re-arranged by the artist into mutant formations, evoking floral still-life drawings and inverted rorschach ink splots. The artist presents us again and again with the otherness of our interiority – exposing the influence of anatomical drawings in aiding the imagination to visualize that which we ourselves cannot see (our chthonic interiority.) By making the internal alien, and making that alienness mutable, Gawin creates a ceremony for us to absorb and embody their thesis: mutability and metamorphosis, nothing fixed, nothing set; forms at the mercy of endless reconstruction; queer Magick as the art of redefining reality:

One internal organ at a time.


At the centre of the installation is enshrined Gawin’s arcane Codex; an anatomical atlas turned punk grimoire titled “Face to the Seventh.” This textbook is annotated with biomorphic hieroglyphics and neo-mediaeval illuminations. It’s almost written in tongues, difficult to decipher but the artist appears to be inviting us to read it aloud as a devout priest might incant their sacred text in the temple. The blacked-out words echo redacted government statements that bridge the occultic with biopower and hint at the anarchist imperative to abolish the state (which still governs many of our internal organs).

The term hermaphrodite emerges from an ancient Greek myth, describing the proto-trans son/daughter of Hermes (the patron saint of alchemy) and Aphrodite (the goddess of lust, love, pleasure, and beauty), uniting male and female characteristics into a single unified organism. Genesis descends from the Greek describing origin, creation and generation. Hermaphro-Genesis is Gawin’s origin myth which the audience must read through the organs and entrails of their posthuman body. The organs at the nucleus of this exegesis perform as skinned internal landscapes, a micro-interiority ripped open, exposed and remythologized as queer talismans for the future. Hermaphrogenesis as a posthuman temple, sanctifies pareidolia (the process of perceiving meaningful images in ambiguous visual patterns) and elevates it to a metaphor for queerness.

CREDITS
Exhibition Text: [M] Dudeck
Sound and Composition: Nik Rawlings
Welding and Fabrication: Ash
Woodwork and Finishing: Pearl Sharp



SPECIAL THANKS:
Anna Gawin, Aleksandra Gawin, Beau Palmer, Calum Holden, Dana Holdampf, Daniel Gibbs, Jacek Gawin, Jahna, Jessica DeLeyza, Kuba Jablonowski, Lise Herman, Michal Czyz, Pat Janus, Pat Pinkowska, Pearl Sharp, Sacha Korsec, and VSSL Studio Team

ABOUT MARCIN:
Marcin Gawin is an interdisciplinary artist from Poland, based in Bristol, whose work encompasses image construction, installation, and live art. His fascination with the human body and its’ potential for transformation is evident in his practice, which explores the bodys function in mundane practicality, as well as in speculative and occult realities.

In 2019, Marcin completed Marina Abramovic’s Cleaning the House training in durational performance, further developing his expertise in this area. He also honed his skills in The Sunday Skool for Misfits, Experimenters, and Dissenters, where he studied under Martin O’Brien, Shabnam Shabazi, and Joseph Morgan Schofield in 2021.

Currently, Marcin is pursuing an MA in Virtual and Extended Realities at the University of the West of England, where he is researching the concept of embodied cognition in virtual environments and utilizing immersion as an artistic strategy.

Marcin's work has been presented at various locations, including the Palace International Film Festival in Bristol, Modern Art Oxford, Terytoria Festiwal in Poland, and Oxford Brookes University. His solo and participatory work is sure to leave a lasting impression. 

@mrcn.gwn


-> Read more about the complete FACET programme HERE

Frutas Maduras: Rocío Boliver 

NOVEMBER 2023




Boliver confronts the absurdity of society's narrow beauty standards and the consequent marginalization of aging women. The works offer an empowering message to women, urging them to embrace their sexuality and bodies unapologetically.”


Launch Event:
RSVP Here
6-9 pm | Friday | 10th of November, 2023. 
During the launch event the exhibition will be activated
by a live performance (rsvp essential) from:
Rocío Boliver and her collaborators Karolina Bazydlo and Bartlomiej Gudejko.

Exhibition Opening Hours:
12-5pm, Thursday to Sunday - 10th to 26th of November 2023


Curatorial Interventions:
Rocío Boliver: an intimate, physical workshop
12-6pm, Saturday the 18th of November at VSSL Studio
More information (including on how to apply) here



FRUTAS MADURAS: Rocío Boliver (collaborating with Bartlomiej Gudejko & Karolina Bazydlo) installation photography by Marco Berardi.


FRUTAS MADURAS: Rocío Boliver (collaborating with Bartlomiej Gudejko & Karolina Bazydlo) installation photography by Marco Berardi.


Boliver's collaboration with photographer Karolina Bazydlo and collaborator Bartlomiej Gudejko (Rocio’s lover at the time) for the FACET program is a bold challenge to the invisibility of the aging female form and female sexuality. The photographic series of twelve images centers the aging female body within the realm of sexual pleasure, desire, and erotic play. The artist has reimagined the conventional 'pin up' calendar idea and created exquisite portrayals of womanly autonomy and female sexuality.



Boliver's collaboration with photographer Karolina Bazydlo and collaborator Bartlomiej Gudejko (Rocio’s lover at the time) for the FACET program is a bold challenge to the invisibility of the aging female form and female sexuality. The photographic series of twelve images centers the aging female body within the realm of sexual pleasure, desire, and erotic play. The artist has reimagined the conventional 'pin up' calendar idea and created exquisite portrayals of womanly autonomy and female sexuality.

Through these images, Boliver confronts the absurdity of society's narrow beauty standards and the consequent marginalization of aging women. The works offer an empowering message to women, urging them to embrace their sexuality and bodies unapologetically. The images are both playful and poignant, creating a space for the celebration of women's bodies and sexuality.

The images are aesthetically stunning as well as tongue in cheek, while also holding a political charge. Boliver's work succeeds in highlighting the beauty of aging women while encouraging viewers to recognize and celebrate female sexuality, autonomy, pleasure and the power that this holds.


ABOUT ROCÍO:
Rocío Boliver, known as La Congelada de Uva, is an iconic figure in underground performance art in Mexico and is internationally renowned. For over thirty years, her work has confronted the ideological grid that shapes women's lives, challenging ageism and capitalism's impact on women in the stage of life between menopause and old age. Boliver's performances aim to demystify the horror of old age by creating her own deranged aesthetic and moral solutions for the "problem of age." Her work critiques the repression of women and exposes the broken society based on looks and how old age became a synonymous of insult.

Boliver's performances have been presented in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and she has participated in important performance festivals globally. She is a grantee of the National System of Creators of Mexico and has also taken part in many alternative forums. Boliver's aesthetic is grotesque, and her performances disrupt accepted reality, revealing the most authentic truth when facing the inability to react.


www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/rocio-boliver-collection

-> Read more about the complete FACET programme HERE

FACET Group Exhibition

OCTOBER 2023




ROCIO BOLIVER - ALICIA RADAGE - BENJAMIN SEBASTIAN - MARCIN GAWIN - JUNE LAM


“The exhibition serves as a window into the non-homogeneity of expanded queer communities, allowing for multifaceted readings of contemporary queer experiences.”


Launch Event:
6-9pm, Friday the 6th of October 2023

Exhibition Opening Hours:
12-5pm, Thursday to Sunday - 5th to 29th of October 2023


Curatorial Interventions:
VSSL have partnered with Ugly DuckQueer Art Projects and took part in Pretty Doomed with opening performances by Alicia Radage and Benjamin Sebastian

-> Read Francis Whorrall-Campbell’s commissioned responsive, experimental text HERE

-> Read Iris Colomb’s commissioned responsive texts of Pretty Doomed‘s opening performances for Benjamin Sebastian HERE and Alicia Radage HERE 

B.Sebastian - Video: Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.
A.Radage - Video: Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.

The FACET programme's group exhibition unites the participating lead artists from the programme's multiple exhibitions, offering a unique and diverse range of artistic practices. The exhibition serves as a window into the non-homogeneity of expanded queer communities, allowing for multifaceted readings of contemporary queer experiences.

Through a variety of mediums such as performance (to camera), sculpture, video, photography, and installation, the group exhibition showcases different perspectives on contemporary queer experiences - connecting the various exhibitions and artists in the FACET programme - while highlighting the diversity of queer artistic practice.

FACET Group Exhibition launch event documentation - Video: Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.

Overall, the group exhibition offers a comprehensive and captivating look into the breadth of artistic approaches explored in the FACET programme, showcasing the unique perspectives of each participating artist and the interconnectedness of the expanded queer experience.

More information about each participating artist can be found via their respective FACET exhibition pages through the links provided below.


Installation photos by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.
Installation photos by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.
Installation photos by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.
Installation photos by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.

June Lam

AUGUST 2023




“...collage can be seen as a form of resistance to dominant cultural narratives and a way to create new possibilities and futures. June Lam's use of collage in his work for the FACET programme continues this tradition.”


Launch Event:
6-9pm, Friday the 11th of August 2023
RSVP Here

Exhibition Opening Hours:
12-5pm, Thursday to Sunday - 10th to 27th of August 2023


Curatorial Interventions:
June will be curating two workshops through invitation to members of his communities:

TRANS DEITY PRACTICE
(Moderated by Joy Kinkaid and June Lam - taking place on the 15th of August, between 11:00 - 14:30)

COLLAGING THROUGH MOVEMENT
(Moderated by Jose Funnell, Pierre and June Lam - taking place on the 28th of August, between 11:00 - 14:30).


-> Read Donna Marcus Duke’s commissioned exhibition text HERE


installation images by Marco Berardi 
installation images by Marco Berardi

video courtesy of Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance.

Collage has a rich history in queer aesthetics and has been a favoured medium for many queer artists. The act of collage-making mirrors the world-making practices of queer culture, where individuals and communities necessarily have learnt to explode, edit, discard and reassemble societal norms and expectations to create their own forms of identities, communities and aesthetics. In this sense, collage can be seen as a form of resistance to dominant cultural narratives and a way to create new possibilities and futures. June Lam's use of collage in his work for the FACET programme continues this tradition. June will be exhibiting 25 new and recent collage works, initiated during the COVID-19 Lockdowns.


installation images by Marco Berardi 



installation images by Marco Berardi



Limited edition (30/30) prints available at VSSL Studio



Limited edition (30/30) prints available at VSSL Studio


ABOUT JUNE:
June Lam (b. 1990) is a community organiser and multidisciplinary artist of Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry, working across performance, dance, sculpture and collage. Trained in MA Sculpture at The Slade, his work centres queer desirability politics, fag effeminacy, and embodied experiences of intergenerational trauma. His performances involve leading meditations, connecting with ancestral parts, and movement inspired by deity practice. Creating intentional community spaces is intrinsic to June's artistic practice. He co-founded grassroots trans healthcare fund We Exist and founded queer East and South East Asian arts platform GGI끼. These both provide necessary direct action to centre marginalised communities, and address the classism and inaccessibility of traditional arts spaces by working outside of them.

This includes bringing the ethos of community organising into nightlife. GG 끼 emerged from a need for nightlife spaces safe from anti-Asian hate and transphobia, and offers relief from the fetishising gaze. GGI끼 showcases radical live performance, visual arts & DJs with a hard industrial sound, defying stereotypes around ESEA passivity. For We Exist, June produced group exhibition ‘In Dedication’ at The Koppel Project, featuring 28 trans artists from the UK and beyond. He is on the advisory board and programming team for This Bright Land at Somerset House, and was a judge for Guildhall Futures Fund 2022. June has performed and been exhibited at Site Gallery, Volksbuhne, Performing Borders, Ambika P3, Tate Modern, Ford Foundation, The Koppel Project, and others. June has been featured in E-Flux, Resident Advisor, Gal-Dem, Gay Times, GQ, Hunger, Dazed, Vogue UK, Vogue US, I-D, Tissue, Something Curated and AQNB; and created cover art for the fifth edition of Somesuch Stories, 2021.

@assignedfagatbirth

-> Read more about the complete FACET programme HERE




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