Laila Majid & Louis Blue Newby - south florida sky (Excerpt)

In the latest work from artists Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby, the swamp emerges as a particularly fertile space for exploring collaboration. south florida sky, a composite video work featuring hand-drawn animation from Alice Bloomfield, GAN animation made in collaboration with Elliot Elder and sound design from Jennifer Walton, was a central work in their most recent show, not yet, which took place at London’s San Mei Gallery earlier this year. Drawing influence from queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz’s essential book Cruising Utopia, in which he models queerness as an inherently future-facing, utopian mode, Majid and Newby find slimy potency in the swamp as a site of relational intensity and exchange, in which everything slithers in and through everything else. “The swamp can really question and challenge the essentialized and stable identity of the individual, which is valued and celebrated more than ever in 2022,” the artists assert. “The swamp as a facilitator of collaboration and the construction of polyphonic artistic voices feels more politically urgent than ever.” Existing, fittingly, in relation to and of the same matter as the curational group art project Most Dismal Swamp, the most recent iteration of which, MUSH, Majid contributed to, the swamp is rendered as both a space and entity, existing across different media, both virtual and devirtualized, into which context, form and discipline are submerged. Within this hybrid space Majid and Newby explore the peripheries of aesthetic and linguistic expression, probing the slippery limits of image, language and sound that is not yet, liminal forms bursting with transformative and transitional potential.

This potential is personified in Swamp Thing, around which south florida sky is situated. Taking the iconic DC comic hero’s legendary characterization by Alan Moore, an eco-superhero and centuries old sentient plant suffused with the consciousness, memories and emotions of a man, Majid and Newby code Swamp Thing as “a vessel for disidentification,” enacting “a queered process of recycling the encoded meaning of a cultural object, and making a new space for the queer or minoritarian subject, one usually peripheral to mainstream narratives.” To this end the entity is represented in counterpoint with itself, initially wrought in the intricate lines of Alice Bloomfield’s stunning animation, in which twists of tree branch and folds of damp rock are captured in sensual curves that threaten to engulf Swamp Thing’s hunched form. As burnt orange swamp flowers blossom from its’ veins, garbled voices sound in polyphony, the voice of Swamp Thing and the voices of the swamp projected as symbiotes of the same organism. This speech, inspired by the visceral subjectivity of New Narrative literature and adapted from found phrases by Majid and Newby, lends lyrical physicality and sensuousness to Bloomfield’s representation of the character, her illustration itself a reworking of a panel from the Swamp Thing comics, an artistic corruption in which the still image is injected with renewed expression, made animate in the primordial ooze of the swamp. From the painstaking lines of Bloomfield’s animation we are confronted with the synthetic blur of Elliot Elder’s GAN animation, the result of a neural network glutted with hundreds of images of various versions of Swamp Thing across different media, as well as swamps, slime molds and mycelium.

For more information about Laila Majid and her work you can visit her website and follow her on Instagram. For more information about Louis Blue Newby and his work you can follow him on Instagram. They are currently represented by Xxijra Hii gallery.


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