LB x a-n Artist Bursaries: Sophy King

Posted on 25 June 2021 by Guest Blogger

LB x a-n Artist Bursaries

As part of a shared commitment to supporting artists across the UK, Liverpool Biennial 2021, a-n The Artists Information Company and Open Culture have joined forces to provide five support and research bursaries of £1500 each for artists over March – June 2021, within the 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial.

The selected artists are Youngsook Choi & Taey Iohe, Grace Collins & William Lang, Sophy King, Daksha Patel, and Rain Wu.

In Focus: Sophy King 

Sophy King has used the bursary to learn to record sound (underwater and above) and to enhance editing skills – through masterclasses and mentorship by industry professionals. This technical development has supported her current work about wild swimming through the pandemic. It has also enabled her to establish contacts, exploring this work’s dissemination.

King’s early career creating public artworks developed, via Landscape Architecture, into a multidisciplinary practice addressing the intersection between human and non-human activity. Her recent MA Fine Art at MMU considered the environmental and cultural implications of peat consumption, ecosystem depletion and the climate crisis. King currently lives and works in Manchester.

Learn more about her practice:

Below King updates us on her bursary research – read on to discover more. 


Where is it that I end and the else begins?

I was awarded the LB x a-n Artists Bursary to develop the technical side of making a film and recording sound. As is quite often the case, concentrating on practical tasks also provides time and space to examine the conceptual framework behind the piece.

During lockdown, like many others, I started open water swimming. This began as exercise and soon became therapeutic as I encountered a community and, through the winter, felt the addictive sensation of cold-water immersion. A few years ago I had bought my daughter a first camera that was virtually unbreakable and waterproof so I began taking this swimming with me to record what I was experiencing. The collection of material is ongoing. Each expedition leads to a feedback loop, as I review the previous footage and sound and decide what to capture on the next swim.

Outdoor swimming changes the relationship with the horizon, now at eyelevel, giving a perception of being more within the landscape, blurring the boundary between the self and the environment. I am both smaller and part of something much larger.

"Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?" Donna Haraway, 1991

I am aware in the water of the transfer of cold through my skin, no longer a barrier but a porous membrane. There is an exchange taking place that brings to mind collaboration, contamination and co-existence. The rain fascinates as it bounces on boundary of the surface before passing through and becoming lake. I notice the breath flowing between myself and the air; gasping from the cold; holding underwater. I recognize light and sound as they interact with the space round them and infiltrate my retinas and eardrums.

Timothy Morton contends that the end of the world has already happened. Our times are precarious, uncertain and disorientating. In becoming, in adapting, do we exist in several different states like a multi-Schrodinger’s cat, with all the possibilities that entails. Where do we sit within the nature-culture continuum?

The artists I am looking at; Feral Practice, Tania Kovats, Laure Prouvost, all seem to imagine multi-species futures and to examine the agency of the non-human world. Pylons and motorways figure alongside trees and waterbirds; the underside of buoys support algae and insects. I land upon notions of permission and trespass in the political and economic relationship with our landscape, No Swimming signs in lakes and reservoirs.

As I continue the process of sifting through my footage and sound files, I am re-experiencing physical sensations; it’s ironic that the thing which grounds me the most is the water, in redefining my position within my wider world.

My first forays into sound are widening my perceptions. There is a distinct equivalence between the surface of the water and the waveform of sound, and the process of editing the sound becomes a surprisingly visual one. The microphone/recorder setup breaks the surface of the water and bridges the gap between out and in, I become aware of the connection of soundwaves within my ear. Speeding up, slowing down this sea of sound and image and layering them like a musical canon. I begin to think about how to score my work and what that would look like.

As I dive deeper into this year’s Biennial I discover resonances with my own work, themes of porosity and exchange. I find our art ecology engaging positively with environmental politics, a collaborative survival policy. I have profitted from the adaptive online response to the pandemic, able to attend more discussions, talks and seminars than in previous years, though able to physically experience less of the artworks.

As part of my bursary I have the invaluable benefit of the support of the Biennial team, particularly Abi Mitchell, Justin O’Shaughnessy and James Maxwell; and ongoing guidance and mentorship from Craig Rihoy, Liza Ryan Carter and Jez Riley French; as well as time and space to gain skills and explore sound and film. 


Find out about the six additional artists in the Bursary Programme via our Liverpool Biennial 2021 portal here.