BALEEN by Cea and Vicente Sampaio
In BALEEN, a Poem in Twelve Days, Greek-American poet, Cea, and Portuguese artist, Vincent Sampaio, reflect on queer yearning, illness, and place as a locus of escape, not unlike Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. However, unlike Mann's novella, tragedy is not so certain. Illness doesn't mean death. Yearning doesn't mean loss. Cea's yearning is amorphous and undulant like the water they find respite in. There seems to be no component of the poem that is not also of the sea as they move, reflectively, in and out of one another. "I crush my poem to seashells," Day Five goes, "ocean it out examine the water's wares / & I will get this wrong all rust & ruins / bobbing up from the foam". Art from Sampaio responds to these crushing moments—a broken ionic column, a slippery body melding with water, a clam with teeth tonguing a pearl, one feels as uncannily in a distant memory as much as a ruin. In Cea's world, what is fragmentary is also whole, like synecdoche made literal, the parts not representative of something complete but complete in and of themselves, as if what we fail to recapture in memory makes it any less of one. What's the difference anyway between a memory and a ruin?
Cea is a Greek-American thingmaker raised in Tennessee & housed in Brooklyn. They are a member of the Artist+ Registry at Visual AIDS, where they also work as the Oral History Project Liaison, as well as a member of the collective, What Would An HIV Doula Do? They facilitate creative writing workshops both in & outside of academia, while also volunteering at the LGBT Center Archives in New York City, where they conduct research on queer Greek-American histories as they intersect with HIV. Their work has been performed or exhibited at various venues across NYC & their debut hybrid haunted house print-document, In Still Rooms, was released on March 4th, 2020 via The Operating System. You can find them online at storiesandnoise.com.
Vicente Sampaio is a Portuguese visual artist based in Porto, Portugal, who earned an MFA in Painting in Ghent, Belgium. His practice is rooted in a deeply personal perception of urban landscapes and the visual casualties of human presence, and is informed by his/our relation to a world in which the banal can become a theater of social interconnections. He also dreams of becoming a rockstar, an actor, or a writer with little recognition living in the middle of nowhere.