Earth is a Deadname, 2022
July 7 to September 18, 2022 at Gasworks, London, UK | Solo Exhibition
Full exhibition text: https://www.gasworks.org.uk/exhibitions/earth-is-a-deadname/


Lou Lou Sainsbury, descending notes, 2022. Film written and performed with Raffia Li and Ada M. Patterson. 4K Video, 17:45 min. 

Earth is a Deadname is a newly commissioned constellation of work that seeks to reimagine transgender experience beyond the limiting language of medicalisation, rewriting its histories into a cosmic poetics of trans sensuality, relation and desire.

The exhibition revolves around descending notes (2022), a collaborative performance film that explores transness as a form of dissonance and resonance. It takes inspiration from Donny Hathaway’s heartfelt rendition of A Song for You, whose lyrics are punctuated by a discordant progression of piano notes: “If my words don’t come together, listen to the melody ‘cause my love is in there hiding… I love you in a place where there's no space or time.”

Written and performed in collaboration with artists Ada M. Patterson and Raffia Li, the film is a love story between three “transing beings” whose desire unfolds across time and space, from early Christian mysticism to future alien intimacies, while being grounded in actual experiences of tenderness, solidarity and grief within my friendships and everyday life.


Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?, 2022. Installation view. Stained glass, honey, dried flowers, cigarette butts, debris, steel frames.

Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?, 2022. Detail of installation. Stained glass, honey, dried flowers, cigarette butts,

Accompanying the video is a large-scale stained-glass installation, ‘Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?’, 2022. This work’s fluctuating levels of translucency point towards a transgender gaze while nodding to Torrey Peters’ 2021 novel Detransition, Baby: “People think a trans woman’s deepest desire is to live in her true gender, but actually it is to stand in good lighting.” Each of its panels feature geometric patterns dotted with dried flowers, cigarette butts and miscellaneous debris which are trapped in a thick layer of oozing honey like insects on amber.

The exhibition is punctuated by text-based works taking over the space. Words become flesh on the gallery walls, swelling like religious stigmata. Written in collaboration with Kari Rosenfeld, the poem The Law of Desire is Fascist (2022) is performed by queer elder poet Jo Mariner as a sound work, presented as a B-side to the film in the second gallery, while also reinterpreted as a cosmic landscape of inedible cupcakes which “resist to pass”.


Lou Lou Sainsbury and Kari Rosenfeld, i keep you in my gut i keep you in my throat—are you hungry? i can feel you beating in me i can, 2022. Wax, epoxy resin, clay, soil, spray paint, gummies, quail eggs, apple core, sugar, tree bark, lichen, popcorn, plasticine, make up, jacket, crochet, steel plates.

Lou Lou Sainsbury and Kari Rosenfeld, i keep you in my gut i keep you in my throat—are you hungry? i can feel you beating in me i can, 2022. Wax, epoxy resin, clay, soil, spray paint, gummies, quail eggs, apple core, sugar, tree bark, lichen, popcorn, plasticine, make up, jacket, crochet, steel plates.

Closing the exhibition is an empty bedroom cabinet with the words “to the pain in the womb” handwritten on masking tape. The cabinet features personal gifts, souvenirs and used HRT (hormone replacement therapy) wrappers, which act as a holding place for shared intimacy within a care network of friends, foregrounding trans experience as a collective process of making and unmaking the body, rather than an individual narrative centred on the self.


To the pain in the womb o womb womb womb fleshy womb, 2022. Antique cabinet, masking tape, alien souvenir figurine, cowboy boot lamp, oestradiol wrappers.


To the pain in the womb o womb womb womb fleshy womb, 2022. Antique cabinet, masking tape, alien souvenir figurine, cowboy boot lamp, oestradiol wrappers.

Lou Lou Sainsbury [Nov 30, 2021 at 6:12:27 PM]: just a quick one. whats ya date of birth? im putting u as a witness for my trans form, 2022. Portrait of Lou Lou Sainsbury by Kari Rosenfeld, C-print.

Exhibition documentation by Andy Keate.

Produced and commissioned by Gasworks, with generous support from the Freelands Foundation.