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Celeste Viv Ly

Celeste Viv Ly (b.1999, Seattle) is a London-based interdisciplinary artist and writer inquiring into biotechnological processes, futurity, speculative mythscience, and intersubjective relations. Ly's practice encompasses time-based, sculptural, and multimedia installations, performance, software, curation, and text. Interweaving worldbuilding, language, organic-synthetic processes, and fictioning in dialogue with diasporic lifeworld and the technoscientific imaginary, their research and practice question and examine the artefacts of spatiotemporal interspaces, non-places, and the entanglement of human and more-than-human agencies in continual processes of becoming. Tracing the registers of harm and synergy on the body, and its Sisyphean cycles that entwine the nonhuman, symbolic, and sacrificial, their work renders how the in-between in peripatetic contexts and the exigent, political nature of risk could be potentialised to destabilise and transform intricate structures of the socio-cultural macrocosms we exist in.

Ly graduated with first class honours in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London and currently experiments with the convergence of art, biotech and material science at Royal College of Art. Born on Coast Salish land (Seattle) and raised in Shanghai and Anishinaabe land (Michigan), Ly's work is catalysed by their nomadic upbringing, an architectural family background, and conundrums reflective of collective issues around precarity, displacement, violence, and agency. Various spaces are indexed and interpolated in their work — abject and surreal, transitory/perpetual, (im)material interspaces.

Ly is the co-founder of the curatorial platform Æon Project and Currents artist collective. They have worked with Pace Gallery and various arts education programmes as a contributing writer, assistant, and educator. They have exhibited and performed internationally at Tate Lates: Beyond Surface // Tactile Presence (Tate Modern, London, UK, 03.2023), Interassemblages ⎏ Nodal Relay (ACUD Galerie, Berlin, DE, 2022), Hybrid Realities (Dyson Gallery, London, UK, 2022), 13festivalen (Konstepidemin, Gothenburg, SE, 2020), Generate! Festival for Electronic and Performance Art (Shedhalle Tübingen, Tübingen, DE, 2019) and so on. Their writings have been previously published in publications such as Pressing Matters and Lungs Project poetry anthology New Landscapes.


Project:

‘59.5594° N, 150.8128° E’ is the sound piece from a sonic sculptural installation taking form at the nexus between two spatiotemporal spaces. Involving the transformation of the material cycle of water and ice, its instrumentation and ‘weaponisation’, the installation expands to the Sisyphean cycle of cataclysms, collective trauma, violence, loss and grief on the larger socio-cultural scale. Developed from the artist’s ongoing research on artefacts and their residual effects as hyperobjects, cryopreservation, freezing as an archival and empirical method, and the 2020 incident during which an 18 year-old Russian driver Sergey Ustinov was frozen to death trying to go from the world’s coldest city Yakutsk to the port of Magadan (the coordinates of Magadan 59.5594° N, 150.8128° E are referred in the title) on the barren, snow-covered lands of Siberia after Google Maps directed him to the Road of Bones that is no longer used. The Road of Bones was built in the Josef Stalin era by political prisoners, where a quarter of a million people died during its construction. In an uncanny parallel of its material process, at moments before the Fukushima nuclear explosion, cooling processes were supposed to be implemented in an attempt to ward off the detonation, but the loss of reactor core cooling resulted from the tsunami flooding led to three nuclear meltdowns, three hydrogen explosions, and the release of radioactive contamination. Water was subsequently extracted to contain the nuclear waste, but the water in use was affected by radiation, and leakage was reported throughout the years in the aftermath of the explosion.


Reflecting upon how the two incidents on drastically different scales are spatiotemporally connected through the medium of water and the technological process of freezing, the installation is triggered by the presence of people, alternating between field recordings at the Fukushima nuclear disaster site, freezing, and the real-time generated sound from temperature transducers attached to the ice sculptural parts produced from the transformation cycle of water, coalescing in an open-ended sonic assemblage. Performative processes of cryofreezing are referenced in the manifestation and manufacturing of tools and ‘weapons’ made of ice through the medium of water, revealing and examining its registers of harm and synergy inscribed upon bodies, while spotlighting water as the universal solvent on both material and symbolic levels. Traversing the interspace between life and death, biotechnological processes, cryopolitics, and abjection, the installation explores the process to rebuild from the ground zero of catastrophe, manifesting a liminal memorial site, a sonic void outside human time.


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