I started working on the project for my Leave Your Body residency with Videotage when I was sick with COVID in the first week of April 2022.
I’ve been struggling with falling asleep for more than a year now, and whenever I get sick I secretly hope that falling asleep will become easy, at least for a while – but it never does. So feeling poorly, unable to sleep and very bored, I tried my first build.
It was my first time playing Minecraft, it took me a couple of tries and a couple of random YouTube tutorials to get the hang of the most basic things. The creation mode was fun and calming for me at that moment. It required the perfect levels of engagement and effort for somebody lying sick in bed. I loved doing a bit of math to figure out the scale of what I wanted to do, and then thoroughly enjoyed the repetition of placing a block after block next to each other. Tiny repetitive tasks can be a source of calm to neurodivergent bodies, it drew me in. I was also watching the Warhol Diaries on Netflix at that time, and it made me think about repetition and surfaces and the joy of both.
I don’t know if Videotage had things like disability and dissociation in mind when they named the project “Leave Your Body” but being disabled, we get a lot of reasons to want to leave our bodies (symptoms like pain, fatigue, intrusive throughts, to name a few) so it all really connected for me.
But I do wonder what is the ideology of that escape and does it matter?
Intervention: bedside table
In the LYB realm, I decided to recreate my bedside table but massive like a tall building. The bedside table was nearby, quite pleasant in shape, basically contained my life in it, and maybe by now, bedside tables are an established subject matter in Disability Arts iconography?
Having an oversized piece of furniture that your player character can take shelter in also connects to my recent homelessness scares. I was facing illegal eviction for longer than a month, right until the free legal aid did their job of scaring the landlady into allowing me more time to save up money, find a place and move. The housing market in Brighton right now is very problematic. With a large influx of new residents during and following the pandemic, the prices have sky-rocketed and the standards of rented housing on offer significantly dropped. There is something really comforting in the childlike intentions of building yourself a fort out of pieces of furniture lying around. Maybe it’s a DIY dollhouse of sorts.I also wanted to preserve a piece from my current house, as thankfully I’m finally moving very very soon. Being confined to the house, and often confined to bed, makes the bedside table take on a bigger presence than its modest physical parameters.
My intervention was responding to the structures already placed in Leave Your Body Minecraft realm. I was definitely influenced by the extensive use of glass blocks by Cosmin Costinas [Editor’s Note: Peter Nelson created a glass mega structure in virtual Cattle Depot Artist Village where Costinas modified part of it into a bamboo wall] and others, so I decided to make the bedside table transparent – also in a sort of confessional gesture. But generally I felt the realm needed a queer crip feminist monument to sweaty medicated tired disabled juicy bodies. It needed something more tangibly autobiographical – which connects to my usual diaristic mode of art practice – to neighbour with fantastical structures or recreations of social housing architecture.
I wanted to saturate the bedside table with objects that point to the body (in this case, absent body). You can find my attempts to represent these following objects through cubes:
- A box of tissues (for the tears, snot, or cum, you decide);
- A glass of water (that I disasterously spilled in the game, but more on that later);
- A music speaker (for sensory stimulation);
- A red candle (they say you gotta light a red one for self-love);
- Crystals (they just look like cubes, sorry!);
- A lighter, a rolled up joint, and pieces of grass (self-medication, you know);
- Colourful boxes in the top drawer with a sleeping mask;
- A magic wand (my most proud re-creation) next to a bunch of pills and supplements in the bottom drawer.
So hopefully this inventory clarifies some things.
My building process was rather uneventful and devoid of frustrations until I learnt that you can actually add moving water to your structures in the game. I attempted to fill up my pre-built glass with water but in the process broke a piece of glass and the water started cascading off the bedside table like a waterfall.
I don’t know which tutorial taught me that you get rid of water with lava but I very soon ended up with a lava fountain, that I needed to put off with water again. Fast forward to the chaotic and panicked sponge block implementation and I ended up with this glorious mess:
Say what you want, but this is the most relatable middle-of-the-night experience for me. I’m fixing up the water glass but I might as well leave the mess for now.
~ Further ideas ~
I understand the tension of going against the name and function of different building blocks to represent specific objects outside of the game’s main narrative. “Incorrect” use of materials. So I thought I would write a sort of poem, listing what each items is made of. Now that I see it it’s not super exciting but there is some stuff to work with
- Tissue box
- Glass of water
polished blackstone button
blue glazed terracotta
light gray concrete
block of redstone
smooth quartz block
pink concrete powder
orange concrete powder
block of coal
stripped spruce wood
polished andesite stairs
green glazed terracota
prismarine brick stairs
- Box 1
red sandstone stairs
- Box 2
black glazed terracota
- Box 3
- Sleeping mask
- Magic wand
Bottles and pills
About the Artist
violet/a marchenkova is an arts worker, filmmaker, writer and queer-feminist community organiser with Devil’s Dyke Network based in Brighton. They trained in Art History and Digital Documentary, and have a diaristic first person film practice. vi grew up between Post-Soviet Riga and Moscow’s landscapes in a Russian-speaking family, for the past 8 years they’ve been living in the UK.
Their work is influenced by Disability Arts Movement, Embodied Social Justice practices, and creativity and wisdom of the many friends=teachers around them. They’ve spent the past few years curating and emerging spaces for politicised creative expression.
violet’s film practice consists of auto-ethnographic gestures, experimental approaches to writing, embodied lens-based image-making, and constant tending to their mental health. Their past short film spying (2017) explored issues of national identity, disidentification and bilingualism. Their short film jetlag (2019) explored ecological thinking and autistic shutdowns.