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The Elements

While sifting through the rich work of the Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) MA, my selection was guided by artists exploring the elemental in its broadest sense.

Joy Chia-Yu Yeh draws from Taiwanese folklore and Chinese ‘WuXing’ philosophy, to reinterpret the element gold (‘Jin’) and its relationship with modern society. Rieko Whitfield’s tentacular practice decentres Western capitalist individualism, using myth through song and storytelling. This embodied speculation also manifests in Catalina Correa's visual essay, in which the Patagonian landscape unearths intergenerational stories. Lulu Wang, meanwhile, engages with the Chinese cosmology of Yin Yang: her work ‘Yin-mian’ - meaning silver face - is an experimental performance exploring a visual expression of non-human and human emotions. Through Luis Tapia’s ‘Myths of Masters’ video tour, we time travel into historical painting to challenge the narrative hegemony that shapes our cultural subconscious, while River Cao performs an elegy in which loss and grief are methods to explore the power of water, which in the 1998 Yangtze River disaster destroyed his hometown in Southern China. Shinhoo Yhi’s ‘body filming’ dissects the camera’s capacity to ‘preserve and kill’ the liveness of bodyminds and Muzi’s ‘bondage graffiti’ rebalances the dominance and complicity of public sculptures, introducing possibilities for softer power to replace the existing order.

What comes to the fore is a critically speculative, humorous and poignant (beyond) human collectivism, which offers hope as we live through and recover from the global pandemic.

Michelle Williams Gamaker

Michelle Williams Gamaker is an artist working in moving image, often in dialogue with film history, particularly 20th Century Hollywood and British studio films. Through an interrogation of cinema and its artifice, she recasts characters as fictional activists, proposing critical alternatives to colonial and imperialist storytelling in early 20th-century British and Hollywood studio films. Her work has featured in BFI FLARE LGBTQ+ Film Festival (2017) and BFI’s LFF Experimenta programme (2018) and is in the Arts Council Collection, featuring in Women, Power, Protest at BMAG, Birmingham, As Seen on Screen Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and Go On Being So Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, Penzance. Williams Gamaker is joint-winner of Film London’s Jarman Award 2020, with the films touring to LUX Scotland, Nottingham Contemporary, g39, Spike Island, Towner Eastbourne, Whitechapel Gallery and AEMI. She recently completed The Silver Wave commission for RAMM, Exeter and is recipient of the Stuart Croft Moving Image Award 2020 for The Bang Straws (2021) which premieres this autumn. This year she is also undertaking a Decolonising the Archive Research Residency developed by UAL Decolonising Arts Institute.

Dr Michelle Williams Gamaker is a Senior Lecturer in BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths.

Portrait of Michelle Williams Gamaker