Interview with VISUAL CONSTRUCT – Ritual Cleansing Experimental Art Zine
BLACK DISCOURSE is a multidisciplinary studio and oral tradition incubator, curating from the global black experience.
We connect black conversation to the world, through experiential design and media production.
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Who: Visual Construct
Where: Liverpool, UK
When: Available online here
The Visual Stress Collective is an art collective based in Liverpool, UK structured around an Urban Dance Ritual called Urban Vimbuza, an adaptation of a traditional Zambian ceremony. Visual Construct is an experimental art project bringing The Visual Stress Collective’s practice back to life through zine art and archiving.
Black Discourse interviewed a Visual Construct member (who elected to remain anonymous for the sake of the collective voice), to learn more about the experimental art project's passion for archiving and collecting artifacts through the details of a zine format.
Z: What is the official title of the zine and it’s historical significance?
VC: The title is “Document 0.5”, an exploration into the archives of Liverpool based art collective Visual Stress and the existential purpose of their works. Through enacting large-scale rituals led by Urban Vimbuza, Visual Stress attempts to heal the sickness of the mind for the people of the city, and the psycho-geographies of sinister histories fuelled by profit before human life mentality.
Z: What was the impetus?
VC: Visual Construct started as a directionless vehicle to organise and manifest thoughts, ideas and conversations, but slowly formed a rough outline of an artistic research practice. A rough ethos or 'workshop rules' emerged - Observe, Explore, Document - as much as it involves different modes of storytelling, it encompasses discovery, experimentation, and archival practices.
Document 0.5 developed in March 2020 as a convergence of multiple shelved ideas that surfaced during the gradual slowing of the pandemic. Lockdown presented an opportunity for rest, but not in the sense of relaxation.
Instead, a rest is similar to the context in music, whereby it is an integral property of rhythm as a whole, a break in exertion that allows the performer(s) to prepare for the next movement, all the time maintaining communication to those observing. The numbering '0.5' signifies this movement, and the artefacts produced are the manifestation of a rhythmic rest - preparations for what is to come.
Z: What is the focus of this Zine?
VC: Document 0.5 explores "Art as Medicine: for those in need of treatment or therapy", a line taken from the Liverpool based art collective Visual Stress, used as a rubric for the discourse regarding some basic principles of art's intrinsic medicinal values. Specifically, utilising Visual Stress' 'Urban Vimbuza', as a lens, a modern adaptation of the traditional Zambian dance ritual Vimbuza.
Following this line of thought, the essay features a written meditation, discussing several nuances of art's therapeutic applications searching for spiritual grounding and pragmatic motion towards the future. The concept of Ritual Cleansing hangs as a lasting thought, the movements of physical, psychological and spiritual clearing before and after motions, a rhythmical, inter/intra-communicative tool for fortitude and preparation.
The intention of this essay, and Document 0.5 as a whole, is not an extensive examination of the title, but the first of Visual Construct's contributions to the broader discourse of art and its existential functionality.
Although not explicitly stated (and not the intentional focus), the content and conversation are primarily preoccupied with the phenomenology of Black and traditional African art, but is concerned with how it affects and positions itself within the multicultural society of modern urban living.
The subjects of colonialism, historicity and extensive empirical delineations are all obvious tangents, but, Document 0.5 holds to its intentionality - rest.
Z: Is this part of a series?
VC: Yes, but not necessarily in a linear way. The subject(s) of "Art as Medicine", and the intentionality/functionality of art in general, is an area Visual Construct is preoccupied with. So naturally, the projects following will align with Document 0.5 in various forms, expanding concepts and revealing nuances. There is an end goal (if there is such a thing), but without building internal walls to limit the direction and reach of Visual Construct, an element of chance and the unknown will always inform what is next.
Z: What and who is being featured?
VC: This zine contains the original writings, images and photographs of Visual Stress, alongside a timeline of their documented performances. This is followed by a description of Urban Vimbuza and its history, before closing with the essay "Art as Medicine". The accompanying soundtrack is constructed to be played while reading the zine, paralleling the energies and rhythms of the text and providing context for the content.
Z: What are the materials used to build the zine? What is the relationship between the binding, materials and the meaning of the zine?
VC: The zine construction was a process of experimentation and discovering the balance between materials to represent Visual Stress's ethos and embody the stillness of Document 0.5.
Visual Stress emerged within the 1980s when Liverpool (like countless others) had to persevere Thatcher's reign of predatory capitalism, so the materials and processes used, including photocopiers, stencils etc., reflected the anarchist DIY approach to opposing governance.
The choice to use 80gsm copy paper and a Japanese hand binding technique was intended to reflect this, presenting the zine as an object to be used and engaged with.
The assembly of Document 0.5 embodies nuances of ritualistic purposes. Beginning with the front cover, the absence of graphic design annunciates the materials and visible hand construction. The panel at the centre of the Kuziki Kozo Washi paper is fabricated to represent the sweeping of the grounds before rituals. Intended for the reader to scratch the panel to reveal the warhorn, Visual Stress' adaptation of the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol 'Ako-ben' before dusting the debris from the cover.
The tracing paper inserts throughout symbolise time and perspective, positioning the artworks in context of the text and within the space of the reader. The zine is shipped in an anti-static zip bag, usually used for computer components, utilised here to protect the physical and existential elements of the zine from external interferences.
Z: How can people purchase the zine?
VC: You can purchase it here. It is also available for trade, email email@example.com or message @visualconstruct___ via Instagram.
Zone out to The Ritual Cleaning playlist by Visual Construct.
More about the zine:
An exploration into the archives of Liverpool based art collective Visual Stress and the existential purpose of their works. Through enacting large-scale rituals led by Urban Vimbuza, Visual Stress attempts to heal the sickness of the mind for the people of the city, and the psycho-geographies of sinister histories fuelled by profit before human life mentality. Following this line of thought, the phrase “Art as Medicine: For those in need of therapy or treatment" essay features as the rubric for a written meditation, searching for spiritual grounding and pragmatic motion towards the future. The concept of Ritual Cleansing hangs as a lasting thought, a rhythmical, inter/intra-communicative tool for fortitude and preparation.
Document 0.5’s assembly embodies nuances of ritualistic purposes; its hand construction represents the DIY ethos of Visual Stress, its Japanese-inspired binding technique portrays the stillness of motion and craft. The featured vellum paper inserts throughout symbolise time and perspective, with the front cover allowing individual commitment to engage. Document 0.5 is the first instalment in a series of artefacts and resources designed to be used, adapted and expanded within life and the discourse of cultural warfare.
Visual Construct is a vehicle for research and documentation, preoccupied with exploring the cultural and artistic worlds to output works contributing and challenging the discourses of knowledge formation and cultural sustainability..