Self does not understand

4 Jul 2019

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Free entry

Cubitt Gallery

London, United Kingdom


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Taking Serena Lee’s exhibition Second Tongues as a starting proposition, Canadian curator Erik Martinson has been invited to programme an evening of artist's film and readings.


Taking Serena Lee’s Second Tongues proposition Canadian curator Erik Martinson has been invited to programme an evening of film and readings. Self does not understand derives its title from a phrase spoken by the character Warlock in the 1980’s comic The New Mutants. Warlock is an alien with the power to meta-morph into any shape or form, though he has a difficult time understanding our world, needing to constantly learn about how humans communicate with each other. He identifies as ‘Self’ and his teammates are his ‘Self-friends’. One teammate in particular called Doug Ramsey, codenamed Cypher, has the mutant power to innately learn and understand languages rapidly, whether they are human, machinic, or alien in nature. These two characters’ lives are intertwined, from first encounter of communicating through patterned light, in the vein of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to a complicated mutually symbiotic relationship. Through tragedy Warlock must come to terms with death, something his kind experiences and understands in some fundamentally different ways, prompting this programme’s title. 

Self does not understand considers tiny translations between: ‘self’ and ‘self’, ‘self’ and ‘other self’, ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘other’ and ‘other’, and various permutations or these arbitrary structures. When fluency and comprehension are closely examined, the solid ground they present is quickly revealed as ongoing, fragile calculations. Like a decimal place rounded-up, they are an approximation, even within the same language set. Fluency and comprehension are made up of so many encounters, of so many oscillations between understanding and not, until one seems to win out.

The event features a selection of readings and artists' moving image. Artists presented include: Stephanie Comilang, Jessa Mockridge, Lana Lin, Shanzhai Lyric (a project of Display Distribute carried out by Ming Lin and Alexandra Tatarsky), Anastasia Sosunova, with a guest appearance by Vrillon.


Q!hosa, afterword from Exercises: xhosa textbook fiction (unpublished), Jessa Mockridge, 2015, 15:00 (Live Reading)

The Endless Garment, Shanzhai Lyric, 2016 - ongoing, 15:00 (Group Reading)

The 1977 Southern Television Alien Broadcast Interruption, NowYouKnow (Youtube), 2017, 8:47 (excerpt)

Demikhov Dog, Anastasia Sosunova, 2017, 7:24                                                              

Stranger Baby, Lana Lin, 1995, 13:54

Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come To Me, Paradise), Stephanie Comilang, 2016, 25:46

Supported by Canada House, Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Council England and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.


Louise Shelley

Erik Martinson

Exhibiting artists

Serena Lee

Jessa Mockridge

Lana Lin

Clemence Seilles

Anastasia Sosunova

Stephanie Comilang

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