Celebrating Queer Artistic Practices, June Lam Presents Some New Inspiring Collages at the VSSL Studio

Collage has a rich history in queer aesthetics and has been a favoured medium for many queer artists. The act of collage-making mirrors the world-making practices of queer culture, where individuals and communities necessarily have learnt to explode, edit, discard and reassemble societal norms and expectations to create their own forms of identities, communities and aesthetics. In this sense, collage can be seen as a form of resistance to dominant cultural narratives and a way to create new possibilities and futures. June Lam’s use of collage in his work for the FACET programme continues this tradition. June will be exhibiting 25 new and recent collage works, initiated during the COVID-19 Lockdowns.

June Lam, Installation shot, photo by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance, VSSL Studio, 2023

You have your first solo exhibition at London’s Deptford art space VSSL Studio. Could you tell us about the kind of artworks you will be exhibiting in their FACET programme?

My solo exhibition will only be focusing on the collages that I started making during the pandemic and continued until today, and it will be the first time I will be exhibiting them all together as a series. The exhibition features 25 different collages and in addition, two digital prints of collages extracted from my diaries during the processing stage will be on display. The works are exhibited alongside with this thoughtful exhibition text written by Donna Marcus Duke.

Could you share more about the process of making your collages?

The fascination with collage making as a medium stems from its accessibility and the urgency it conveys. Initially, I ventured into creative work through sculpting and assembly techniques, starting around 2012 and continuing until 2019, when circumstances shifted. The lockdown limitations and lack of studio space led me to explore collage, which became a remarkable pivot in my artistic journey.

Around 2019 until 2020, I shifted from sculpture to collage making, driven by the need to communicate my thoughts, emotions, and ideas during a time when accessibility was essential. Working with family images, I found excitement in presenting a series of works that emerged out of necessity. Collage’s power lies in its immediacy; it allows me to communicate across communities, forming a coalition of ideas.

Collage making serves as a medium that encapsulates this sense of urgency. It enables quick expression without the need for extensive resources, materials, or funding. It’s an artistic language that bypasses barriers and facilitates rapid communication of ideas.

June Lam, Squeeze, 2020, VSSL Studio

What fascinates you about collage making as a medium?

What I find captivating about collage as a medium is its ability to encompass everything. To me, it’s like viewing the world as a collage, where even sculptures and writing can be collages as well. Collage making is an extension of my spiritual practice and an evolution of my research as a writer as well..

What truly intrigues me is how collage functions as a way of processing in real time. It allows me to directly translate and portray the workings of my mind that often remain beyond the reach of words. Collage captures those moments of meaning and connection that I’m not always able to articulate verbally.

In a way, creating collages is like flattening time and space. It brings together various spiritualities, meanings, and perspectives, creating gateways between them. This is why it’s important for my different series of work to coexist. While they are united by my artistic perspective, they also share meaningful connections and spiritual heritage. Collage is the perfect medium to achieve this. 

Additionally, your exhibition is offering two workshops as part of its public programme, inviting artists as facilitators. Could you provide more information about these workshops and explain how you decided to include/curate them in your exhibition programme?

I’m going to put in two workshops that directly engage the queer BPOC and trans communities. The initial workshop will focus on translated practices rooted in care and an understanding of spirituality. It acknowledges the diverse spiritual practices within the space, where I’ll share my own practice of honouring gender non-conforming deities. Collaborating with Joy Kinkaid, a performance artist and a filmmaker, with the TRANS DEITY WORKSHOP we aim to explore varied perspectives on spirituality’s role in art.

The second workshop, COLLAGING THROUGH MOVEMENT  also care-driven, delves into collage. Jose Funnell and Pierre, both movement artists and choreographers, will lead this workshop. Their practices, which involve translating cultural and personal expansivity through movement, echo the essence of collage. Their approach resonates with my own, even though I’m not a movement artist I use movement in my practice. This convergence of different methods with cultural connections forms the core of our workshop. I’m curious what will come up when we have an intimate group of people come together and make something without a goal, limitations, just being together in a space with these thoughts in mind. 

These workshops offer practitioners who work similarly to me but from different artistic angles a space to come together and explore. 

Are you currently working on anything other project besides the FACET exhibition?

In addition to the FACET exhibition, I’ve been working on two other exciting projects. One of them is organising the Trans Day of Joy at Somerset House. This incredible event came to life on Sunday August 13 and featured artists such as Tanaka Fuego, Chloe Filani, Jetsün Shenkyong-Ma, D Mortimer, Destiny, Kasra Jalilipour, Minera El Water, Bambi, and June Jones. The event also included DJ sets by Basmati, Mo/Rabz, Jaye Ward, Mizz Q, and Gin, as well as films by Rashaad Newsome, Enantios Dromos Limitrofe Television, Qween & Ceyenne, and Julian Konuk. The Trans Day of Joy was founded by the trans* collective and mutual aid group We Exist, of which I’m also a part. 

Moreover, I’m involved in organising GGI Nights. GGI 끼 is a trans-led club night and rave that was founded in 2021. It’s a platform showcasing the exceptional talent of queer, trans, and nonbinary ESEA artists who are making waves in electronic music, both in London and beyond. Our upcoming event is scheduled for September 29 at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, coinciding with the mid-autumn festival. To stay updated on our upcoming party, you can follow us on ggi.club.

June Lam, Scan 4, VSSL Studio

June Lam (b. 1990) is a community organiser and multidisciplinary artist of Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry, working across performance, dance, sculpture and collage. Trained in MA Sculpture at The Slade, his work centres queer desirability politics, fag effeminacy, and embodied experiences of intergenerational trauma. His performances involve leading meditations, connecting with ancestral parts, and movement inspired by deity practice. Creating intentional community spaces is intrinsic to June’s artistic practice. He co-founded grassroots trans healthcare fund We Exist and founded queer East and South East Asian arts platform GGI끼. These both provide necessary direct action to centre marginalised communities, and address the classism and inaccessibility of traditional arts spaces by working outside of them.

This includes bringing the ethos of community organising into nightlife. GG 끼 emerged from a need for nightlife spaces safe from anti-Asian hate and transphobia, and offers relief from the fetishising gaze. GGI끼 showcases radical live performance, visual arts & DJs with a hard industrial sound, defying stereotypes around ESEA passivity. For We Exist, June produced a group exhibition ‘In Dedication’ at The Koppel Project, featuring 28 trans artists from the UK and beyond. He is on the advisory board and programming team for This Bright Land at Somerset House, and was a judge for Guildhall Futures Fund 2022. June has performed and been exhibited at Site Gallery, Volksbuhne, Performing Borders, Ambika P3, Tate Modern, Ford Foundation, The Koppel Project, and others. June has been featured in E-Flux, Resident Advisor, Gal-Dem, Gay Times, GQ, Hunger, Dazed, Vogue UK, Vogue US, I-D, Tissue, Something Curated and AQNB; and created cover art for the fifth edition of Somesuch Stories, 2021.

More about FACET: https://vssl-studio.org/FACET

June Lam, Portal, 2020 VSSL Studio
June Lam, Copy of Offering to Guanyin, VSSL Studio
June Lam, Installation shot, photo by Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance, VSSL Studio, 2023
June Lam, Copy of Bao Ngoc, VSSL Studio

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