Ed Burrell

Working with family archival material produced from 1940-83 when my paternal grandfather was stationed with the British military intelligence service in Libya, Malta and Cyprus, I am trying to understand the ways that violence underlines the imperial family unit and how my white, transmasculine, often sick body has been formed and categorised, benefited and suffered at the hands of these structures. In reading the archival material, including digitized cinefilm, against itself, I am trying to begin to form a way of living that can be both future looking and ongoingly healing whilst enfolding into itself and slowly metabolising the ongoing violences embedded in the ways I have been taught to love. Important touchstones have been Nicholas Mirzoeff’s White Sight and Michelle Murphy’s Alterlife.

Having made a drastic shift from a visual language deeply informed by minimalism in the last year of my degree, I am moving toward forming a language that ongoingly learns to handle these histories challengingly and with complexity, no longer trusting an institutionally accepted language to be able to do this. Michelle Murphy’s understanding of alterlife has become important in the way I approach this enquiry. She describes alterlife as “the struggle to exist again but differently when already in conflicted, and deadly conditions, a state of already having been altered, of already being in the aftermath, and yet persisting.” It is “... a project aimed at summoning new forms of humanity, not preserving the human that histories of deep violence have created,” and asks “which structures have to end to make room for liveable ways of being together.” 

Mirzoeff’s White Sight outlines the ways in which sculpture and monuments enforce whiteness through spatialisation, putting words to my instinctive shift away from minimalism’s monumentalism. The camera is an enduring tool of racialised violence, historically intertwining with medicalisation of queerness. This has been important in understanding how this inherited footage can be ostensibly loving and yet necessarily underscored by sublimated violence.

I am trying to weave this into the material existence of my work by intervening on inherited objects and footage, embodying my attempts to live in the aftermath and begin to string out a new way of living, beginning by re-reading and re-seeing inherited material as a metonym for colonial home-making structures.

Camberwell UAL 2019-2020
Slade School of Fine Art 2020-2024