i n   s a r c o p h a g o   v i v u m   a e r i
in sarcophago vivum aeri, Nov 2020 (ongoing), installation view, with Sarcophagum, 2020 (ongoing)
IBC 1000 K 150.50-UN
IBC 1000 K 150.50-UN
Shipping route for water stored in an IBC container from the Southern European coast to London, UK, 2020 (ongoing)

Moving image, sculpture, installation
Nov 2020 (ongoing)

Two-channel video installation, 4K, duration 5'48"
presented in an installation with a series of sculptural objects

by Vivian y. L.
Text from the poem 'complicity_12.3.9.exe'​​​​​​​

(sculpture in the video and part of the installation in sarcophago vivum aeri)
microcrystalline wax, glass wax, wood, glass, 390 litre reverse osmosis filtrated dyed onyx coloured Mediterranean water from the Southern European coast
170 cm by 56 cm by 43 cm
2020 (ongoing)
The transportation of water is temporarily delayed by the global pandemic and the changes in trade policies for export from the EU.


-321 °F
(sculpture part of in sarcophago vivum aeri presented in the installation)
microcrystalline wax, glass wax, dyed onyx coloured water, crystal glass beaded chains, steel chains, stainless steel laboratory scissor jack stand, ABS, silver projectile replicas, double ocular loupe, SLS Nylon PA12, ballistic gelatine
Dimensions variable
Nov 2020 (ongoing)
-321 °F | in sarcophago vivum aeri is a body of work catalysed by the series of events that marks the commencement of the highly mythologised / surreal era of 2010-2200-,  punctuated by several junctures:

I. The cryopreserved head and the subsequent lawsuit against a private cryonics organisation by a Montana man, the son of the late cryogenic scientist whose head has been subjected to the detachment from the esteemed body upon cryopreservation¹

II. The Essex lorry deaths incident on 23 Oct 2019 in which 39 Vietnamese nationals (at first falsely reported as Chinese nationals due to the Asian physical and facial attributes without any official identification) were found frozen to death in the articulated refrigerator lorry they were trafficked in after the freezer had been unknowingly switched on.² After the initial intense waves of shame, it became especially shocking to me because such a horrendous incident has happened in relatively close temporal and geographical proximity to when and where I have been living in. And being a person sharing similar ethnic backgrounds, it has left a seemingly irrational but chilling imprint in my mind: it might have been me, if I had been born into a different family, a different socio-economic background, a different country, etc. / with a different fate. It has remained in my head for around 422 days (and still counting).

The work is in the form of the reflection of the aforementioned intermingling strands of real-life events turned clues that underscore and perhaps have trans-spatiotemporally informed each other. Continuing from the rhetorics of ice/water, the body and its Sisyphean cycle explored in the work M E R ( C / Y ) (2020), -321 °F (the title refers to the approximate temperature that biological constructs susceptible to damage by uncontrolled chemical kinetics are cooled to using liquid nitrogen in cryopreservation) features the condensation from the immaterial to material (or the other way around), from events to the material evidence / vestiges, from the real to the parafictionalised, in a deranged crepuscular speculative homemade laboratory environment by a renegade scientist whose suppositional absence could possibly be explained by the untimely/timely need to relieve oneself / have a call of nature. The lab is perhaps set up to study the objects concocted from a mixture of sci fi canons, rhetorics of weaponry and weaponisation (specifically the silver bullet), its interfacing with neo-cybergothic lores, mythologies, and a kind of desire that underpins the technological sublime, which is in turn underpinning / demystifying / further mystifying the aforementioned strands/clues and the entanglement among them. While narrated with the poem ‘complicity_12.3.9.exe’, the video piece is also recontextualised by the process of filming during which questions of identity became confrontational and unresolved. -321 °F and the two-channel video part of this body of work -321 °F | in sarcophago vivum aeri are preliminary to a (speculative) 3-to-5-year or ongoing commitment to becoming a cryogenic lab assistant and then a cryogenic consultant to a transcontinental syndicate involved in human trafficking so as to ensure the survival of trafficked humans in cryogenic containers via the carefully regulated process of cryopreservation³ or cryosleep, in a sustained gesture of care and empathy that is also legally, politically, and ethically complicit, and complicit due to its inextricability from my own ‘otherness’.

Sarcophagum (2020, ongoing), part of the installation in sarcophago vivum aeri, is a container-process-sculpture, a manifestation of the notion that the sea is in some way a gigantic collective sarcophagus. Composed of the crystallised remains of ceromancy (a form of divination of possible Celtic and Ancient Roman origins), the piece becomes the nexus of interwoven time and potential futures, straddling the transcription of the material-semiotic relation, word play in metaphorical constructs and its ubiquitous, dubious existence in art production, and the in-process inspection of something/sometime/somewhere that is exceptionally grim. The spiritual syntaxes of augury, ceremony, and obsequies embodied in the materiality of white translucent wax and the process of transporting water across the continent (temporarily delayed and recontextualised by the global pandemic and changes in trade policies for export from the EU) coagulate in the middle, as a tribute, a metaphorical resting place beyond time, an inversion of the body of water-vessel relation, and the intensive signification of the notion that has haunted me for more than 422 days.

Informed by sacrality of the liminal space between life, death and beyond, necropolitics, and the continual questioning of my own positionality as a maker, a person with a peripatetic personal and family history heavily imbued with generational diasporic traumas, the work is a reflection of the trajectories and struggle of bodies victimised by ideologies, in transgression, across systems of governance, bodies of water, the surfaces of the dark waters of nation-state promises and collective longing for an ideal 'place', a community and identity in perpetual becoming, all of which aided/prostheticised, sabotaged, and/or eternalised by technologies / the technological / sci fi imaginary. It is a dedication to all the bodies that have been found and lost in the sea and beyond, the diasporic, and ‘us’.


¹Jessa Schroeder, ‘Arizona Cryogenics Firm Sued for $1million by Dead Scientist’s Son’, Mail Online, 10 September 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6149939/Arizona-cryogenics-firm-sued-1million-dead-scientists-son.html; James Gordon, ‘Son’s Legal Fight for Dead Dad’s Frozen Head against Cryogenics Firm’, Mail Online, 19 January 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7903137/Sons-legal-fight-dead-fathers-frozen-head-against-cryogenics-firm-preserving-it.html.

²‘Irish Company Confirms It Leased Trailer Found in Essex’, RTE, 24 October 2019, https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2019/1024/1085287-migrant-deaths/; ‘Essex Lorry Deaths: Bodies of Victims Have All Been Identified’, BBC News, 7 November 2019, sec. Essex, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-essex-50333559.

³Shufaro, Yoel, and Joseph G. Schenker. "Cryopreservation of Human Genetic Material." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1205, no. 1 (2010): 220-24. ‘What Does Cryopreservation Do to Human Bodies?’, BBC News, 18 November 2016, sec. Health, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-38019392.

John Bradford, ‘Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitat For Human Stasis To Mars | NASA’, NASA, 19 July 2013, https://www.nasa.gov/content/torpor-inducing-transfer-habitat-for-human-stasis-to-mars; Loura Hall, ‘Advancing Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars’, NASA, 10 May 2016, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/advancing-torpor-inducing-transfer-habitats-for-human-stasis-to-mars; Nordeen, Claire A, and Sandra L Martin. "Engineering Human Stasis for Long-Duration Spaceflight." Physiology (Bethesda, Md.) 34, no. 2 (2019): 101-111.

Film stills